Waverley’s housing targets in doubt? And… where you can’t build in Farnham.

What does SANG mean:

Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace | SURREY HEATH

Map of where you can’t build in Farnham – Build Nothing 0-400m
Provide mitigation and SANG 400 – 5K with 2KM circular dog walks.
(The idea is to prevent dog walkers from trampling the nests of rare ground nesting birds in the 4 months they are breeding)

Or…SPOT THE SANG!24879844_10155918360541613_2940788916913330835_o.jpg

The Farnham Herald, Thursday 7th December 2017 – Vol. 128 No. 22

WAVERLEY planning officers have apparently flouted the advice of Natural England by continuing to press for an immediate increase in Farnham’s housing target despite concerns over the possible impact on the rare heathland surrounding the town.

Responding to a consultation on proposed modifications to part one of Waverley’s draft Local Plan in October, Natural England slated the amendments as “not legally compliant” and in particular criticised Waverley’s proposal to add a further 450 houses to the 2,780 already allocated for Farnham over the plan’s lifespan.

According to the government’s environment watchdog, adequate Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) has not been identified in the Waverley Local Plan to deter new homeowners from the Thames Basin and Wealden heaths Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and Waverley’s planning blueprint therefore “does not meet all of the tests of soundness”.

This was raised by inspector Jonathan Bore in a series of questions to Waverley last month, asking how Waverley can ensure the 450 extra houses allocated for Farnham can be built in light of Natural England’s objection ?

However, in a 45-page response to the inspector this week, Waverley stuck to its original position that “sufficient suitable SANG sites will come forward”, without offering any evidence of possible SANG sites in the pipeline, and concluded dismissively that “the housing requirement in Farnham will not be delayed by a lack of SANG”.

SPAs are an international planning designation requiring EU member states to safeguard the habitats of migratory birds and certain particularly threatened birds. Farnham and its surrounding countryside is protected by two SPAs – the Thames Basins Heaths and Wealdon Heath SPAs.

The most significant of these, the Thames Basin Heaths SPA, covers an area of more than 8,000 hectares, connecting heathlands across Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey supporting important breeding bird populations such as the Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark.

W W comment: Do you remember when a Cranleigh councillor suggested the Dartford Warbler might soon be moving north due to climate change!

About 80 hectares of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA is within Waverley to the north of Farnham. However, a buffer zone restricting development within 5km of the SPA affects most of Farnham.

Waverley’s SPA avoidance strategy, as approved by Natural England, aims to offset the impact of new development on the SPAs by providing Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace – in Waverley’s case by improving access to Farnham Park.

However, as the only SANG currently identified in the borough, Farnham Park’s capacity to offset new housing is rapidly diminishing and unless Waverley can find new SANG in the area, the council has admitted that Farnham’s housing target is unachievable.

Out of a total housing requirement of 2,780 in Farnham, 1,366 homes are yet to come forward over the remainder of the plan period (2013 to 2032). But the latest calculations show that there is SANG capacity for just 890 to 1,069 dwellings at Farnham Park, leaving a large potential shortfall.

Waverley has made approaches to several landowners in a bid to source new SANG and meet local housing demand, including owners of the former Farnham Quarry, now known locally as the Tice’s Meadow nature reserve, Hanson.

However, none are yet guaranteed and Natural England has dismissed the quarry as a possible SANG, commenting that it is already under a Section 106 agreement for Hanson to manage this area until 2030 for nature conservation and cannot meet all of the ‘must have’ SANG criteria.

The latest row concerning Waverley’s ill-fated attempts to update its Local Plan comes just a week after it was revealed the borough council faces an imminent threat of being placed in ‘special measures’ by Whitehall civil servants for losing too many major planning appeals.

Waverley has left itself vulnerable to appeals after proposing an early review of the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan, the borough’s only up-to-date planning blueprint, just weeks after its adoption in August.

And council officers now fear the number of major planning applications refused but allowed at appeal could soon exceed the 10 per cent threshold allowed by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

To combat this, Waverley’s executive last week agreed to more training workshops for councillors and officers to avoid “unnecessary” refusals.

But addressing the state of affairs at Tuesday’s meeting of the full council, opposition Farnham Residents councillor Andy MacLeod, blamed the broken planning system – not a lack of training – for the latest threat to the borough.

He said: “I’ve attended many appeals concerning Farnham, and you’d think you were attending a criminal trial with Waverley Borough Council and Farnham Town Council in the dock, and the developers as the prosecutors.

“Members of the public who have come along have been totally astonished. They thought they were coming along to hear about the merits or demerits of the application, but it turns out they were there to hear about all the deficiencies of Waverley Borough Council.

“The Government keeps talking about the broken housing system, but in my opinion they are the ones who have broken it. They’ve created an imbalance in the system very much in favour of developers, and until they redress that balance we will always be in danger of losing appeals.”

Farnham Town Council is meeting with its Waverley colleagues on a monthly basis to discuss the proposed Local Plan modifications, but is yet to announce any significant concessions. The examination of Waverley’s Local Plan continues.

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