Unlike Waverley Web’s view from the rafters of The High Court of Justices – here’s…
AN OPPOSITION COUNCILLORS VIEW OF POW / CPRE VS WAVERLEY ET AL’s Judicial Review.
Waverley Councillor Paul Follows said. “Something I am keen to do is try to bring some of these detailed but important subjects (that are often kept behind closed doors and not really discussed in public) into the open a bit more (so people are aware and can engage with them).”
I spent two days this week in the High Court observing Waverley and others (including Dunsfold Aerodrome Limited – (DAL) and the Secretary of State for Local Government and Housing) defending themselves against the challenges of CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) and POW (Protect our Waverley).
In the gallery were a number of interested parties, but in terms of Councillors, the Conservative Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council were present for both days – plus me representing the Opposition at Waverley.
I urge anyone associated with the groups involved to correct me if I have misunderstood or misrepresented the arguments they presented. I may be guilty of over-simplifying things and I am not speaking on behalf of any of the groups involved – or even Waverley (as I am an Opposition councillor).
There is also A LOT of emotive history on this controversial issue – which as a new (ish) councillor I have not been involved, and probably I am unaware of some of the issues – so I will attempt to present this as a neutral account so far as I can.
on one ‘side,’ you have POW and CPRE.
POW is challenging the very existence of the Dunsfold site allocation of (2600)homes, 1,800 of which are consented, on a brownfield aerodrome, both included in the Local Plan). Their argument seemed to be based on a combination of the assessment of housing need and general issues about the site itself and the impact it would have.
CPRE seem to be arguing that the Local Plan (as currently passed) which includes the major modifications required by the Planning Inspector (Jonathon Bore) is subject to challenge because of the inclusion of part of Woking’s ‘unmet housing need.’ The basis, of which, they argue – is questionable and claim it was arbitrarily applied 50/50 to Waverley and to Guildford.
This increased the numbers that Waverley has to provide per year in the local plan and to meet that new number Waverley has added two new sites to the plan (both of which require their removal from Green Belt. One of which is in my Godalming ward). They also challenged the evidence base regarding housing need – a subject I am interested in.
…And on the other ‘side’ – Waverley’s lawyer + the lawyers representing (DAL) and the secretary of state was defending a combination of some or all of the above.
MY VIEW FROM THE GALLERY
I believe POW struggled to make its case to support its argument. Some of which couldn’t be made without rehashing the (already concluded and failed) Judicial Review (JR) of the Dunsfold application and decision. So it relied on housing numbers and Woking’s unmet need. From what I can see, up to 2600 houses were allocated in the local plan prior to the inspectors’ modifications – and the only change afterwards was the dropping of the words ‘up to’. I believe the planning application already allowed 2600 at this point anyway.
CPRE however made (…eventually…I’m afraid their case took their counsel some time to deliver) a more persuasive argument about the input from the Inspector.
in part because Its argument is not a million miles away from the arguments that I made at the local plan vote back at the start of the year (and in part why I didn’t vote for the plan). As I did – they take issue with the idea of taking the ‘unmet need’ from Woking – and they take issue with both the concept of why Waverley should take it AND how it was calculated. There is no way I can adequately or concisely go into the detail of their argument on the calculations (it took the best part of half a day for it to be put across).
The critical point here though is that CPRE were not wholly reliant upon Dunsfold to demonstrate changes and harm from the modifications to the local plan – the Green Belt sites in Binscombe and Aarons Hill were totally new and only added by the Inspector and as a direct result of the changes). To put it simply – they argue the inspector made an error with Woking’s unmet need and the evidence base for housing need – therefore leading to a local plan that is unsound.
THE RESPONSE AND WHAT COULD HAPPEN
Waverley and others sought to refute these points. On the Dunsfold matter – if the site were taken out of the local plan, as POW want – the housing numbers in the plan would still exist. Whatever the merits or demerits of that application – sites for 2600 houses would need to then be found in the Borough. It is such a strategic plank of the local plan – the consequences would be severe.
I want to understand from these groups the nature of their objections – and I hope you contact me and give me an idea. Certainly, I am aware of the transport issues – but I would love to know more and some of the history. But I do understand the potential consequences to everywhere else if Dunsfold is removed from the plan?
With regards to CPRE. The court discussed possible methods for which ‘relief’ could be offered (what could be done) if the CPRE arguments were substantiated. This could involve the court directing the numbers to be changed, sites being removed – or even the outright quashing of the local plan entirely. I think these outcomes though are ultimately quite unlikely.
It is yet to be determined (the judge will not actually rule for some time) if those arguments will be upheld and if Waverley should or should not have defended some of this. We know £300k was allocated for the defence.
Happy to answer any questions – if you got this far – thank you for reading!