Has the defence of Waverley’s Neighbourhood Plans begun?

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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%.

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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.

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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.

https://youtu.be/ob4kZNeR__M

 

11 thoughts on “Has the defence of Waverley’s Neighbourhood Plans begun?

  1. A good summary of a good evening. I think there has been a step change in the attitude of the JPC to Neighbourhood plans.

    The current JPC has a number of double hatted councillors too and currently includes the leaders of Farnham TC, Godalming TC and Cranleigh PC as members of the committee.

    I have requested to be notified immediately if these two decisions are appealed because I feel we need to show that Waverley will stick up for these plans – and if the planning inspectorate puts the same value in the plans that we do.

  2. It was most certainly a very interesting evening – and how great to see everyone working together.

    We too look forward to what comes next? If appeals follow, as surely as night follows day, we shall await to see what value an Inspector puts on Neighbourhood Plans. If he ignores them – then we might just as well bin the ballot box altogether and let the Government rule the roost – They can then occupy the roosts vacated by the Farnham Blightwell’s bats, the Badshot Lea Bats and the Catteshall Lane Bats…and … all the other enangered species that have long gone.

    • The members clearly had their reasons for rejecting the recommendations but there is, I think, a much larger storm gathering on the horizon. The NPs must be in compliance with the adopted Local Plan and, in turn, for the Local Plan to be valid, Waverley planners must be able to demonstrate that there is a 5 year housing supply. However valid the concerns of the members may be, every refused application increases this risk of almost complete removal of any local planning control. Would the deputy leader reassure residents that on his watch Waverley will continue to have a 5 year housing supply as per the terms of the Local Plan and therefore retain control of planning and so avoid being put into “special measures”.

  3. Well there we were believing, confirmed many hundreds of times over by officers, that Waverley has a 5-year housing land supply.

    So what exactly are you suggesting “Watching Waverley?” That the borough doesn’t have the necessary land-supply? If so, why are we being told the opposite?

    And if special measures are looming then by refusing badly thought-out applications, in the interest of our residents, should we enter the realm of planning by fear? Because if so, then let’s all ditch the ballot box and bu**er off somewhere and let the men in grey coats take over completely. After all, they are well on their way to doing so now. Ask the people living in Farnham, Badshot Lea and all the eastern village of Waverley.

    Or of course, just approve everything! If it doesn’t move – build on it and to hell with the consequences.

  4. I was just pointing out that using the Neightbourhood plans to defend against unsuitable planning applications requires an adopted local plan and this in turn relies on having a 5 year housing supply. I then asked if the deputy leader would reassure residents that Waverley has this, and therefore will not loose local control of planning matters under the present administration.

      • Thank you for looking into this. It is absolutely critical to maintain the effectiveness and validity of both the Local Plan and the Neighborhood plans and also, a prerequisite for the adoption of LPP2. Will you post after the meeting on the 30th Oct to update residents ?

    • Cllr Paul Follows – Any update on this. Do Waverley have a 5 year housing supply ? Are you in a position to reassure residents that your administration will not lose local control of planning matters.

  5. As you say the validity of the Local Plan and Neighbourhood plans are vital prerequisite for LPP2. We will certainly be posting after the meeting on 30th October you may rest assured.

  6. What is the 5 year housing plan for, social housing or high end market houses which no one young or not will be able to afford. The developers do not want to build social housing, there is no big profit in it for them. This was demonstrated in Cranleigh when Berkley Homes was given on appeal with condition to build affordable house first, then ignoring that WBC gave them permission to build the million plus houses instead. There was only 1300 appx social housing built in all last year, so I ask again will this 5 year plan build social and affordable housing?

  7. Sadly we cannot answer your questions. Suffice to say over here in Farnham developers have already sought, and achieved, reductions in their “affordable/social housing” numbers between the outline approval and when the detailed applications are considered. This has sometimes been achieved on appeal!! Which of course makes a complete nonsense of the local planning process!

    Over there in your area of Cranleigh we know the site you mention for Berkeley Homes and we also know that in the lst phase of the Knowle Park Initiative all the affordable homes have been struck out, and the developer says these will be included in the 2nd Phase! Surprise, surprise, wonder when they will appear?

    We understand there will be 500 included in the Dunsfold development’s first phase – so let’s wait and see if these are achieved?

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