Waverley Web wasn’t at the High Court when Protect our Little Corner (POW) and the Campaign to Protect SOME PARTS of Rural England’s (CPRE) made their case before Mr Justice Lewis for a Judicial Review. They were challenging bot Waverley’s Local Plan and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s approval of the Dunsfold Aerodrome planning application. However, it didn’t matter a jot because the Burys leaks like a colander and the POW jungle drums were beating before Peppa Pig and her piglets had boarded the 17:04 from Waterloo!
In recent days, the Waverley rumour mill has been in overdrive and our Editor’s inbox at email@example.com groaned under the weight of messages from those desperate to off-load so it hasn’t been difficult to get the low down on what went on.
That said, we can’t claim to be eye witnesses, so if anyone present spots any errors, please don’t hesitate to put us right and we’ll be happy to print a correction. We just can’t spin enough webs these days!!
Apparently, despite its imposing exterior, the deeper into the bowels of the court building they delved the dingier it became. Court Room 76 was a sad little place with plastic chairs and empty bookshelves. Clearly the great Dunsfold Divide – as it is now called – doesn’t rate very highly on the High Court’s importance-o-meter.
The usual suspects assembled: CPRE’s barrister channelling Fiona Shackleton, without the designer labels and perfectly coiffed hair. Dunsfold’s Alan Gone-to-Ground skulked around, standing in for Alfold’s Nick Pidgeon and Hascombe’s Charles Orange – whom regular readers will recall, haven’t been spotted in public since it was revealed that they are both backyard developers – not their own, you understand, just everyone elses!
POW’s Sarah Sullivan, of – (‘I’ve got permission to live in a converted cow shed so sod the rest of you!’) sat with Chris Britten in the cheap seats, not in the comfy ones alongside the BIG BOYS, Bob Lies, and CPRE/POW’s legal team.
Waverley’s ‘Gone to Potts’ caused a bit of a frisson after wafting in wearing fishnet stockings! La Potts was in femme fatale mode; presumably, if all else failed, hoping to seduce the Judge … but we digress. You’re not interested in the dramatis personae, you want to know the outcome of the Battle of the Bumble Bee (a reference to Bob Lies’ socks)!
Cutting to the chase (SPOILER ALERT!) the judge, dismissed the majority of POW and CPRE’s challenges, namely that both the Council and Jonathan Bore, the Local Plan Inspector, had failed to consider environmental constraints when calculating the borough’s housing need insisting that both parties had correctly followed NPPF guidelines.
However, he agreed that it was unclear just how the Inspector had calculated Woking’s unmet housing need. This was relevant because the Inspector had said Waverley must meet 50% of that borough’s unmet need. Even the barristers (all five(!) of them, so we’re told, couldn’t agree amongst themselves how the Inspector had done his sums and come up with 83 homes per year. Yep, that it folks, that’s what all the fuss boiled down to – 83 homes a year
Call us naive but wouldn’t the simplest, cheapest solution have been to ask the Inspector? Apparently not!
Why not? Your guess is as good as ours! So, now POW and CPRE get to waste another two days of the High Court’s time and shed-loads of Waverley Tax Payer’s dosh arguing over a technicality. Couldn’t someone have phoned Mr. Bore? How difficult can it be in this media-savvy age to ring the Inspector, or via Skype? Our Editor’s five year old could have managed it!
It’s not often that the Waverley Web sympathises with Waverley Council, but, seriously, how could it be expected to know that POW, casting around for any excuse to upset the Local Plan, would question the Inspector’s basic arithmetic skills?
Poor old Potts, after spending hundreds of thousands of pounds and as many man-hours, believed she had achieved something no other Leader, and Head of Planning, had achieved in living memory: an adopted Local Plan!
After taking a pragmatic approach and accepting the Inspector’s amendments the whole plan is now in jeopardy because objectors decided they don’t want development on their doorstep. They’re quite happy for hundreds of homes to be built elsewhere in the borough but the largest brownfield site in Waverley – must remain sacrosanct because Peppa and the piglets don’t want anyone else rolling around their rural sty.
As they crowed of their SUCCESS, POW omitted to mention in its Press Release their various aforementioned failures.
- The Judge dismissed claims that the Local Plan Inspector had completely failed to consider environmental constraints and confirmed that there was no argument that both Waverley and the Inspector had applied the correct approach as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.
- He also dismissed two of POW’s challenges to the Secretary of State’s decision to grant planning permission at Dunsfold Park for failing to have due regard for ancient woodland and some key parts of the revised NPPF.
However, POW succeeded in scoring two goals, and no-one, us included, should ignore that this could be enough to bring down the Local Plan, putting the entire borough at risk of a developers’ free-for-all. Now, Farnham, Haslemere, and Godalming and the eastern towns and villages could be under siege!!
So, back at the sty, will POW reach for the begging bowl – again! – repeating the immortal words of Oliver Twist, ‘Please, Sir, I want some more’.
However, beware POW, Waverley’s walls are ringing with the news that the other challenge to Waverley’s local plan brought by Milford’s aptly named Mr. and Mrs. House, was thrown out and the Council is likely be awarded costs!
For those who don’t want Waverley digging any deeper into tax-payer pockets to fund POW’s endless, feckless, vexatious litigation to protect their little corner of the borough, let’s hope POW’s request for a cost cap, under the Aarhus Convention, fails. They and their barrister – ( concerned no doubt, for his own fees!) were disappointed at the judges refusal to rule on costs because the nincompoops hadn’t completed the forms correctly! Nothing to do with not understanding the way to do it, you understand, but everything to do with not wanting to reveal the identity of their wealthy backers!
We have only had one comment from a Waverley councillor. Others just wanted to know what the judge’s decision was!! But here’s a comment from Councillor Paul Follows whose Godalming Ward could be badly affected by this decision.
I asked Julia P, in public @ the last 2 full councils when they asked for more money to fight this, what were the consequences to the local plan as a whole if the JR’s were successful (because obviously, it impacts the Green Belt status of a big chunk of my ward, and elsewhere in Godalming).
Positive or negative – it has consequences and I wanted to know what those were. Is the whole plan undermined, or just parts? I got blank looks basically and no formal response.
I would like to remind people that I was one of the very few councillors not to vote for the local plan at its main vote (I abstained), and one of the main reasons I didn’t vote for it was because I was concerned it was vulnerable to a JR challenge and that shed loads of public cash would likely be chucked at its defence…which turns out to be the case. The video detailing some my reasons for abstaining is still on my Facebook page.