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.
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.