Tim House, who with his wife Isobel has issued one of three writs against Waverley Borough Council Local Plan claim that they have not been motivated by NIMBYism but because Waverley has refused to acknowledge the enforceability of a covenant on a Milford site earmarked for development in the plan.
The Local Plan was examined by inspector Jonathan Bore and pronounced sound in February, subject to some modifications, including an uplift in the number of homes required to be built in the borough each year from 519 to 590. The new figure takes account of the fact that Waverley has been told to take some of Woking’s allocation after its Local Plan showed a shortfall.
Mr and Mrs House live in Station Lane, adjacent to Milford Golf Course, part of which has been removed from the Green Belt and designated as suitable for development. Now housebuilder Stretton Milford Ltd has leafleted householders in the vicinity asking their opinions on proposed designs for the 180 homes it hopes to build. No formal planning application has yet been submitted, but the change in designation of the land will make the granting of planning permission much more likely.
But Mr House says the land is protected by a covenant dating back to 1929 that Waverley is refusing to acknowledge, which restricts development on either side of the boundary between the two properties.
“Our main objection is that there is a covenant over our property and the golf course, “This limits any development by us, or by the owners of the golf course. Our gripe is that when Waverley called in sites for developers it should have been disclosed. It doesn’t state no development: it just says that any development is to be limited to a certain style and a certain density.”
Mr House, a lawyer, says that repeated attempts to get Waverley to acknowledge the enforceability of the covenant had been stonewalled. The covenant on the land was put in place when the couple’s home was built in 1929.
Mr and Mrs House were among three parties lambasted by Waverley Borough Council Leader Julia Potts recently in a statement which accused the Houses, the Surrey branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and local pressure group Protect Our Waverley, of ‘bullying’ behaviour in bringing the legal challenges.
Read her comments here: Potts lambasts the challengers of Waverley’s Local Plan as “despicable.”
“I am appalled that we have to spend money on legal expenses again, when we could be spending it on services – £200k at a time when as a council we face enormous financial challenges and are doing our utmost to deliver and protect key frontline services for our residents and many of our most vulnerable members of the community,” she said.
“The adopted Local Plan is Waverley’s lawfully adopted framework for development and planning decisions. The plan will continue to be our guide for all future development in the borough despite these challenges and will be our guide for the life of the plan, as I am confident that we will successfully defend the plan against all three challenges.
“This council will instruct the court that we will pursue full reimbursement of all legal costs we incur and will not accept anything less. These campaigning pressure groups must understand that this irresponsible abuse of public money will not be tolerated by Waverley Borough Council and its residents.”
Mr House says: “Her statement seems to be directed to ‘these campaigning pressure group’”. That is not us. We aren’t bullying WBC or any residents. We aren’t trying to overturn the whole plan, we just have a specific challenge to one site (Milford Golf Course). The bullies here are WBC. They are riding roughshod over legal rights and ignoring the wishes of Witley and Milford Parish Council about where development in Milford should take place. They have forced the Neighbourhood Plan Committee to withdraw from site selection in Witley and Milford. They have turned a blind eye to the independent survey of local residents which favoured alternative sites.
“The simple fact is that the land proposed for development at Milford Golf Course, which no local residents favour as a preferred site, cannot be developed for large-scale housing because there is a legal restriction on it. Julia Potts’ frustration is that her council apparently did not spend £6 carrying out a Land Registry search in 2014 to check that very basic fact and Crown Golf, who proposed the site, seem to have conveniently overlooked it too. Taxpayers’ money and ours is being wasted correcting that non-disclosure.”
The Surrey branch of the CPRE claims the Local Plan is “not sound”.
Protect Our Waverley (POW) lodged its challenge in the High Court on March 29th.
Bob Lees, Chairman of Protect Our Waverley, said: “It is most regrettable that POW, along with others, is having to challenge the unwarranted imposition by Inspector Bore of an unsustainable increase in housing to be built over the next 15 years. Common sense tells us that people who want to live in Woking do not want to live in rural Waverley. So why should Waverley have been forced to accept 21% more new homes purely on the basis of Woking’s ‘unmet need’? This challenge to Inspector Bore should properly have been made by Waverley Borough Council itself, at the time of the Public Examination, but they stayed silent despite having themselves challenged Woking earlier in the year. Had they done so then the extra houses wouldn’t now be required and neither would the challenges by POW and others.”