A month is a long time in politics.

But a month during a pandemic could be very much longer?

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Boris Johnson’s “smash the system” approach to public policy was poised to reach every street, town, village and field in the country soon, very soon. That is until the Covid-19 Virus hit the UK – It has hit the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health – and even Dominic Cummings the PM’s Special Adviser.

However, be warned, the Government is preparing to dynamite development controls and unleash market forces on our physical world, moving power from councils to developers and inflicting great harm on the built and natural environments.

Remember these names: Dominic Cummings; Andrew Sabinsky and Jack Airey – all of whom may have a lasting impact on our lives, when our present virus contagian is over.

Or maybe, just maybe, we will all take stock of how we do things in future?

 Jack Airey is leading the charge to stip local councils of meaningful control over local developent. He spells it out in his manifesto: ‘Rethinking the planning system for the 21st century.’

Airey is undoubtedly right that the planning system is not fit for modern times. Fertile countryside is being gobbled up for ugly sprawling, car depedent, amenity-free housing developments in areas like Waverley where the infrastrucutre is either poor or non-existent.

You only have to look out of your car window to reveal how much of our countryside is being gobbled up by identikit, soulless, mediocre housing designed around cars. Earlier this month, the housing minister, Kit Malthouse, predicted that many of the boxes being thrown up on the outskirts of towns would soon be ripped down and bulldozed as unsuitable.  

 Poorly planned building is exacerbating the menace of floods. Too few new buildings minimise their carbon footprint and developers constantly dodge their obligations to build social housing.

Let’s face it we have numerous examples of that here in ‘Your Waverley,’ and no doubt when life gets back to normal, if it ever gets back to normal, developers will be bleating to our planners that their sites are not viable if they are forced to provide the social housing they promised. Some developers are already flogging off their un-sold properties to the borough council.

There are too few homes. Planning decisions can take too long and the rationale can be opaque. But junking democratic accountability and putting developers in charge is not the answer. Neither is the answer to allow Government Inspectors to overthrow local democracy with gay abandon, often for the most spurious of reasons.

But as councils have repeatedly demonstrated, it is developers who are holding back housebuilding, rather than the planning system. Figures released by the Local Government Association earlier this year revealed that 2.6m units have been granted planning permission by councils since 2009-10 – but only 1.5m have been completed. Even allowing for the inevitable lag between permission and building, that is a poor hit rate.

The number of planning permissions granted for new homes has almost doubled since 2012-13, with councils approving 9 in 10 applications.

As the LGA says, councils need powers to step in where sites are left dormant, while they have an essential role to play as builders of affordable, sustainable high quslity homes. 




8 thoughts on “A month is a long time in politics.”

  1. Why does Waverley allow most of the needed new homes to be in the furthest part of the Borough away from Farnham ? How much dominance do councillors from Farnham and nearby have?

    1. Why indeed? Certainly until the May 2018 local elections Farnham councillors certainly dominated the council, but despite this they resolutely refused to allow development on the borough’s largest brownfield site? In fact Tory councillors promised that development would go ahead over their dead bodies. Time has shown, it is finally about to be built over some of their dead bodies. A vastly different mindset exists among the new Farnham councillors, however it is the Government Inspectors who often make decisions. Regardless of Neighbourhood Plans.

      It is our view here at the Waverley Web that due to the former administration’s determination not to include the largest brown field site in the borough for so long – over 10 years has passed, the end result is the worst of both worlds for the eastern villages. Cranleigh is growing exponentially, Ewhurst, Alfold and the other villages with no environmental protection, are growing as we speak. However, there are large tracts of countryside here around Farnham that are also going under concrete. But sites are limited due to the proximity of its Special Protection Areas (SPA’s).

  2. Firstly, Government should give Planning Authorities the power to determine deadlines for developers to build the houses they apply for instead of them being allowed to sit back and not build. Perhaps paying Council Tax on the land might encourage them to build faster?
    Secondly, Waverley’s joint planning committee represents the whole borough when determining applications. Farnham is certainly playing its part with developments such as Brightwells and Woolmead (both embroiled in a certain amount of controversy) not forgetting Coxbridge which will be hitting the headlines some time soon I expect.

    1. Absolutely right – it is up to the Government to use its powers to force developers to build out their consented schemes – or pay a price. It is quite simple, they are all waiting for demand, thereby their profits to improve.

      No doubt we will all watch this spce and see what the future holds!?

  3. I’ve just watched Robert Jenrick, Housing and Communities Minister, defending the Government’s record on Coronavirus testing for NHS staff. By basically lying through his teeth about the chemical availability for the tests. God help us if he’s in charge of Housing!

  4. Yes, as the WW is now spending more time working from home and not from the office we watched it too. Quite shocking!

    We have so many examples of how much pressure our local/Waverley medical staff is under. In fact we heard from one WW reader that they sent away to Lakeland kitchen suppliers for gloves for a family member who is working with no protection!

    The latest figures for NHS staff being struck down makes horrifying reading, so we are with you on your fears for Robert Jenrick’s contribution to the housing debate.

    Funny too, how we hear so little from our Waverley MP’s – Angela Richardson NIL – Jeremy Hunt waxing lyrical about the lack of test kits, which he did nothing about when he was S of S for Health!

  5. WW – I am shocked by the lack of ANYTHING from our MPs obviously sitting in Lock down and being PAID well done them!

    The rest of us have to make do with a trickle of Income until June even then we have no idea what if anything we will get bearing in mind it is based on PROFIT not Income/earnings unlike PAYE – Why ? It costs me to travel to London – It costs me to pay for Outgoings, Stationery, Post, House as office

    I do hope that when we finally get back to normal – and we are in a position to have local elections we can remedy this mess

    Alfold is being trashed because we have no Green belt, SPA, AONB etc.. and the developers know it. As Obviously the Inspectorate do who are appointed by the Government that want to build New Homes. We are easy pickings and they know it. I would have hoped our MP’s would have recognised this and done something – But no – the little Mice have all gone to ground

    I don’t wish Ill on anyone – but I am having bad thoughts right now – this is not fair on this small village – This will all come out in the wash eventually – Good Luck Developers when you cannot sell your New Boxes on Flood Plains and We lose Good Agricultural land that could Produce food for the Country and YOUR children are Hungry That despite promises of Global warming – You continue to add to it

    – Think what you have done. When your child asks you Why there is no food or what an Owl/Skylark is – or a Deer is and your cannot show them because they no longer exist…. I hope you can tell them that you built these homes to make money to pay for their education, to pay for Your Lifestyle – But you didn’t actually live in the villages that were concreted over BY YOU

  6. Well said – you have summed up all our feelings – but fear not – watch this space – the day of reckoning maybe, just maybe – will soon arrive.

    As for our MP’s – we have been sent a message from a Cranleigh resident who tells us their MP’s only contribution in this crisis is to LIKE a local man’s efforts to shave his hair off. Doesn’t that sum up everything about your MP over there – The Honourable Angela – who always ensures she is either on the front bench of the House of Commons or immediately behind the Prime Minister or the despatch box, showing her knickers!

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