Waverley’s senior planning committee threw out two planning applications last night – both against officers’ advice. Is it now hell-bent on defending the Neighbourhood Plans (NP’s) of every town and village in the borough?
Wednesday was an extremely positive night for ‘YW’s Joint Planning Committee.
To a man and woman they stood up with members of the public to defend existing and emerging Neighbourhood Plans* against the advice of officers.
* Grassroots Plans that shape their communities and that have taken years to produce. These truly local documents underpin Waverley’s Local Plan.
It was during the consideration of two completely separate planning applications –
- One for 50 homes on Green Lane Farm, Badshot Lea.
- Another for the reserved matters for 100 homes in Catteshall Lane, Godalming.
– that Waverley councillor, regardless of party, stood together to lambast recommendations to approve schemes, they claimed, made a complete mockery of every single town and parish Neighbourhood Plan.
One councillor after another asked what was the point of years of tireless commitment to the preparation of The Farnham NP and Badshot Lea NP’s? The application before them was (a) not included and (b) was against a policy of protecting the important strategic gap between Farnham and Aldershot.
Officers had based their advice on an Inspector’s decision to allow 43 homes on a site, on the opposite side of Green Lane. (A scheme which an Inspector recently allowed an appeal to drop the affordable element from 42% down to 30%.
The outline scheme for 50 homes was a “windfall site,” of which 145 windfall homes were allocated, borough-wide in the Local Plan.
A figure, queried by |Cllr Paul Follows, who asked? How many “windfalls” had already been allowed? Unable to answer, Interim Chief Planning Officer Chris French apologised saying members would be provided with this information.
Cliff Watts of the Badshot Lea Residents’ Assoc claimed as the scheme was not included in the BL’s NP, – a plan which Cllr Carole Cockburn described as one of the best and most collaborative – why should it now be trashed to the delight of every developer in the area?
The recommendation made nonsense of the NP carrying any weight. This was not a “preferred site.” To say it is a “windfall site” was a serious error. It sets a dangerous precedent that would enable every speculative application in future to see itself as windfall development including the field next to this, or next to Folly Hill.
He slammed the officers’ update sheet which claimed their recommendation did not conflict with the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan when 311 homes in the village were allowed on four sites, when windfall sites in Farnham had been identified.
Objection followed from Farnham Town Council. Who claimed the recommendation to approve flew in the face of the Localism Act and a whole string of planning policies which were reeled off in quick succession. She highlighted the road dangers to pedestrians and vehicles alike saying county highways had produced an unprecedented 13 pages of comments.
If Waverley is serious about its Neighbourhood Plans this must be REJECTED
Councillors from around the borough unanimously agreed – though a few remained silent!
Ward Cllr Mark Merryweather accused officers of “cherrypicking” the appeals referred to in their report.
Cllr Daniel Hunt said, that everyone. the town council, residents, and I won’t support it. In a letter, Waverley’s CEO Tom Horwood had underlined the council’s support for Neighbourhood Plans. Yet, if this is allowed, it will make a nonsense of the examination of the Farnham LP due on October 1.
The future of Farnham’s NP is to be debated at a public hearing next Tuesday. An examiner will gather evidence from local representatives, developers and interested parties to determine whether the revised plan meets all legal and procedural requirements. The Plan was reviewed after its adoption in 2017 following the setting of new housing targets by Waverley including proposed sites for an additional 450 homes. The hearing will be held from 10am-4pm at Farnham Town Council, South St and is open to the public.
Farnham’s Carole Cockburn who masterminded the Farnham LP said residents had spent “years and oodles of money” preparing it, and Badshot Lea’s contribution had been “exemplary and there was no better example of residents’ co-operation” And a valuable green lung should not be sacrificed.
Godalming’s Cllr Paul Follows said, on one hand, communities were being asked to select suitable sites for development after being told it would protect them, and could then be ignored.
Councillors asked officers repeatedly – “What are Neighbourhood Plans for?”
In addition to criticising the applicant’s environmental report, Cranleigh Cllr Liz Townsend said:
“We seem to be riding rough-shod over Neighbourhood Plans, plans that are hard to do, I have done one myself.
It is very, very difficult to be saying, on one hand, you can influence development in your area, and then, on the other hand, we (Waverley) will decide on your behalf. She also said after the council’s Declaration of A Climate Emergency, it was high time councillors received proper direction on how it intends to protect endangered species and the environment.
After lengthy debate, during which many of the arguments made against the Farnham development were then repeated on the detailed plans for Woodside Park, Catteshall Lane ( REFUSED – the subject of a separate post) the Farnham application was REFUSED.
WW will wait and see if the word ‘Localism’ means one jot to the Planning Inspectorate, or if, as we guess, it just pays lip service to the widely abused term.
*A neighbourhood plan is a community-led framework for guiding future development and growth of a local area. Neighbourhood planning is a relatively new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work.
The process for developing a neighbourhood plan can be a lengthy one.
If you want to hear the debate on both applications: Click here.