HERE WE GO AGAIN …
POW’s back in town again
and CPRE’s got their back again
One more time
Here we go again
The Judge will listen again
We’ll be their fools again
One more time
We’ve been there before
And they’ll try it on again
But any fool knows
That there’s no way to win
Here we go again
They’ll break the bank again …
There they were again – the same tired old faces – fronting The Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) and Protect Our Waverley (POW) – beating their perpetual drum to stop the Borough of Waverley taking some – only some, mind – of Woking’s unmet housing need. Housing need that they claim is no longer required or wanted because the needs of the town have disappeared skywards!
All the regular Rumpoles piled into Room 71 (not Room 101!) to urge a panel of judges to remove 83 homes per annum from Waverley’s housing numbers, that were imposed on it by Government Inspector Jonathon Bore. If CPRE and POW succeed in their long-running battle, they could throw a hand-grenade into the Department of Communities and Local Government’s Inspectorate.
Er, why? we hear you ask in justifiable puzzlement.
Because both Mr Bore and a previous High Court Judge will have been found to have erred in law in how they applied Woking’s unmet need to Waverley. And the Inspector will have been found to have acted illegally by not adhering to the policy and guidance rules within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) when dealing with Part One of Waverley’s Local Plan.
And, if the Court of Appeal decides that they did err, it will remit the decision back to an Inspector and the whole process will begin all over again! Here we go again …
Here’s an example of just how Woking Borough Council intends to meet the housing need of its townsfolk:
Lawyers acting for the appellants – some of whom have been schlepping around the district, yet again, begging bowl in hand, whining for yet more money to continue to fight the so-called good fight – accused the Inspector of failing to seek up-to-date figures for both Woking’s unmet housing need and supply, saying his actions were both irrational and not adequately reasoned. They argued they had no wish to quash the Local Plan, but asked the panel of Judges to simply remove 83 homes per annum – a total of 2,400 over the plan period.
Although at times it appeared that the complexities of the housing numbers that the three local authorities were required to meet in Guildford, Waverley and Woking were under review, the Judges warned that this was not the issue before them! Their narrow remit was to decide whether the Inspector’s decision had been legally flawed when imposing some of Woking’s unmet need on the borough of Waverley.
Counsel for the appellants claimed there was a ‘clear legal flaw’ by the Inspector, who had not attempted to acquaint himself with robust figures for Woking’s unmet housing need or its supply coming forward. He should not have imposed a higher number of homes on the mainly rural borough of Waverley – a figure that had necessitated an uplift in homes for Waverley’s small rural villages.
Waverley’s new Deputy Leader, Paul Follows, heroically sat throughout the hearing as the three judges asked the appellants’ barrister why he believed the Inspector had acted illegally? Where was the Leader we wonder?
‘Are you saying the Inspector did not do what the NPPF says he must do?’
He responded with a resounding Yes! “There was up-to-date and relevant information regarding Woking that the Inspector should have had regard to. If he had taken account of that he almost certainly would have refused Woking’s unmet need.”
Said the Judge: “But an Inspector does the best he or she can,” but Counsel maintained the Inspector had not done the best he could based on the material before him and “applying 50% of Woking’s unmet need to Waverley was perverse and irrational.”
One judge asked if the appellants wanted the Local Plan quashed and sent back to the Secretary of State to re-determine? But Counsel for CPRE/POW said they wanted Woking’s unmet need removed from a borough which boasted 92% of its countryside in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Great Landscape Value and 60% Green Belt and reducing its housing figures from 11,200 to 7,500 was “significant.”
Unsurprisingly, the hearing ended without a decision being made – that is for a later date. In the event that the judges, in their wisdom, don’t find in favour of CPRE and POW’s argument no doubt the next stop on the POW gravy-train – which is being funded, at vast expense, by Tax Payers – will be another room in another Court …
All aboard! All aboard! Don’t miss the train, boat or plane!
Meanwhile, the concrete mixers are on manoeuvres!