Who gets the Waverley Web’s award for cheek of the week?

Redgrave Brightwells.jpg

 The lawns and flowers have long since been replaced with rubble and construction waste – and it now seems the garden’s trees are destined for the same fate, after developer Crest Nicholson applied for yet another ‘non-material amendment’ to its Brightwells regeneration scheme.

The FTSE 100 developer’s plans – to chop down a copper beech, cedar and London plane adorning the grounds of the Grade II-listed Brightwell House – are in direct conflict with its 2016 planning agreement with Waverley Borough Council.

WHY?

BECAUSE… Crest Nicholson claims…” the copper beech “will not adjust to the changes around it”, the cedar “is of a species that is fragile”, and that if these trees are removed, the London plane “will be incongruous in the new setting”.

Because the people of Farnham have kicked up such a stink Waverley Planners have been forced to consider the so called ‘ non material amendment’ before a planning committee.

Godalming’s Deputy (Paul Follows) and Farnham’s Leader (John Ward) called on officers to bring the matter before the planners, rather than it being considered by officers under powers delegated to them behind closed doors. It will now go before a ‘virtual’ planning committee on Zoom.

Crest’s application follows a succession of controversial revisions to its mixed-use development scheme in East Street, first granted planning permission in 2012, which the Farnham Society claim have all been made “to the economic benefit of the developer and to the detriment of Farnham”.

These include removing the Brightwell bowling club and later the Brightwells Gostrey Centre from the development site, removing the scheme’s social rented and affordable housing, and reducing the land value Crest was to pay Waverley from a reported £20 million in 2003 to just £3.19m.

In its own letter of objection, the Farnham Society gave no fewer than 18 grounds for refusal, concluding:

“The impact that the loss of the trees would have on the residents of Farnham is untold.

“It is the committee’s view that, although not a planning consideration, all confidence would be lost in the council as well as the planning department who are already held in very low esteem.”

Farnham Residents councillor Mr Ward said: “There is considerable concern over the Crest application to Fell some more trees including the large copper beech at Brightwells.

“Just to re-assure residents that it will not be an officer delegated decision as I have organised for this to be done transparently and openly by coming to the planning committee so that councillors can make the decision publicly.”

The Waverley Web has been told that this meeting is likely to take place in June, giving the council time to buy in the necessary hardware and update its own computer systems to enable ’virtual’ meetings to be screened online. The first virtual EXECUTIVE meeting was held successfully on Tuesday.

2 thoughts on “Who gets the Waverley Web’s award for cheek of the week?

  1. Objectors concerned about the loss of trees in Crest Nicholson’s plans in 2007 for Brightwells, sought advice from experts at Alice Holt Forest and were advised that the copper beech tree would not survive as planned in the proposed development. Objections were sent in pointing out this fact, but were ignored by officers and councillors. Waverley approved this plan having been warned that the copper beech would die. It is ironic that in 2019 it was Waverley officers who were obliged to raise this concern. Consultants have indicated that the tree could be saved by alterations to the buildings around it, but of course, Crest Nicholson do not want to do that. It is far easier to replant a semi-mature tree, get rid of a couple of other trees at the same time and destroy the setting of the listed building at one go. Job done!

  2. Why aren’t we surprised – cynical souls that we all are. Crest Nicholson and Waverley planners all knew what game Crest Nicholson was playing and had asolutely no intention of changing the plans to save a couple of trees, regardless of their importance to the people of Farnham. Of course they knew they would need the chop, it was just a question of … when!

    This developer has been allowed to ride roughshod over planning officers and councillors alike, taking the view that everyone iwould roll over and let it have its evil way with this throughly unpopular regeneration project. It doesn’t even give adamn whether the rest of Farnham’s shops closed down as long at Blightwells isn’t blighted by empty shops and coffee shops.

    We have heard that the company cannot wait to get the whole job done and dusted, so then can get the hell out of the town. It will just become a mark on its balance sheet and now that its last Chief Executive has bitten the dust, others following in his wake will do anything until – as you say, job done!

    Will Waverley councillors have the guts to stand up to the Crest thugs? That is the question? Will the new administration find the courage to tell this developer to go back to its drawing board? Break the habit of a lifetime? If only!

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