Will the new Governments environmental bill protect the countryside in Waverley?

Nature is going to pay a high price – and so will generations of our residents if the Government’s Environmental Bill gets the go-ahead this Autumn.

As Ancient woodland gets the chop, hedges and trees are gouged out to make yet another entrance to yet another development, the natural world of Waverley is in the gravest danger.

Despite ‘Your Waverley’s’ efforts to Declare A Climate Emergency, it will come to nothing if the legislation presently being scrutinised goes onto the Government’s statute books in its present form.

Our environmental law was supposed to be world-leading. Designed to restore and protect nature and give us a greener, cleaner Waverley.

With much of the borough surrounded by the Surrey Hills and the Special Protection Areas(SPA’s) and  Wealden heaths around Farnham protecting nature has already been given a hammer blow. The latest token gesture by the Government could be the death knell. for both people and nature, because one relies upon the other.

Heads in the sand again?
At a recent planning meeting, Farnham Residents’ Cllr Jerry Hyman was shouted down, once again, for claiming that yet another planning application for homes in the countryside had not been given an Appropriate Assessment.

It is an argument he has been putting forward for years! The Waverley Web is not a lawyer, neither will we pretend to be experts. However, as we have watched more countryside go under concrete, and watched badgers and other wildlife drown, we are worried – very worried!  Every day, social media reveals the damage to our environment because developers who promise much deliver little. 

For years we have watched Waverley planners and developers, supported by councillors, pretend that the damage in one area can be fixed by offsetting it elsewhere.

For example – build anywhere and everywhere in and around Farnham and nearby towns and villages, and let developers dump some money into Waverley’s coffers to provide a SANG – Suitable Alternative  Natural Greenspace in Farnham Park.

Here’s Jerry’s argument made at the Western Planning Meeting when the Red Court, Scotland Lane, Haslemere application was considered recently.

An argument that officers and his councillor colleagues REFUSED to accept as a reason for Refusal. So the planning application was Refused on the flimsiest of flimsy grounds! 

Here’s Cllr Hyman comments:
 “A number of residents have observed (as have I) that the Council’s “Appropriate Assessment  Proformas” do not constitute appropriate assessments, and that Items on this evening’s agenda must be refused accordingly.  Officers and Natural England claim that the required AAs do exist, but won’t provide them. 
You are no doubt aware that in the recent Appeals for the Lower Weybourne Lane and 19 The Fairfield applications, both Inspectors checked the content of the Proformas for themselves (at my behest) and both accepted that the Proformas failed to include the required detailed assessments of the mitigation.  If they had complete AAs before them then the Inspectors would not have determined that they did not, and thankfully they accepted they had no choice but to Dismiss the Appeals (or risk simple JRs). 
It is not surprising that habitual lawbreakers are in denial of the facts.  Hence we need our Leaders to look at the facts and simply confirm whether or not the ‘AA Proformas’ for Hookstile Lane and Red Court include the required detailed information and assessments of the mitigation proposals. 
The two relevant AA Proformas are on Waverley’s website, see the Draft AA Proforma for Hookstile Lane and the Draft AA Proforma for Red Court.
As Leaders, please confirm to Members and residents that those documents DO NOT contain any detailed assessment of the mitigation measures, bird population data or conservation targets? 
Please now ensure that amends for the Officers’ mistakes are made at this evening’s meeting.?
 I refer you to the Head of Planning’s response (below), which is not acceptable in law.  A complete written appropriate assessment containing all the available scientific evidence is required in advance of the decision-making, or consent must not be granted.   
If we fail to observe the highest level laws protecting endangered species, what hope is there for the rest of the environment?
Assai, two of the Items at this evening’s Western Planning meeting Officers are dependent upon the Officers’ pretences that appropriate assessments exist.  
The Old Mission Hall, Hookstile Lane application (WA/2020/0558) was refused at the last Western Planning meeting but has been recalled to Committee by Officers because as Ward Member I have refused to sanction a SPA Condition which would allow and encourage an Inspector to allow it unlawfully at Appeal.  Officers are refusing to admit that no AA exists, and have brought it back in the hope that the majority of Members will support them in displaying total disdain for the law and the residents we serve.
The Red Court, Scotland Lane application was covered in my previous email (below).  In the absence of an AA, it is vital that Members refuse on those grounds, to avoid the expense of an unnecessary Appeal and/or JR.
The Council and residents need firm, transparent and ethical leadership in this regard.    The Head of Planning’s response does not address the four questions.   It is plain fact that in People Over Wind and Crondall the Courts have determined that the approach and advice of experts, NE, PINS, lawyers and Officers since 2008, allowing the evasion of proper assessment,  has been wrong.  As the NPPG (ref.65-006) confirms, decision-makers must now mend their ways;  for Members to continue to kowtow to the partial and evasive advice of discredited ‘experts’ and lawyers would be perverse.  A primary school student could understand that.   It is also understandable that the culprits find it difficult to admit their longstanding failure to comply with the law.  Officers must not be allowed to continue the lawyers’ verbal pretences that complete appropriate assessments exist. It is our responsibility as Councillors to get a grip and ensure the Council now acts lawfully in all respects.    
Finally, I refer you to the responsibility of the Applicant, NE and Members under Regs 63, 9(1) and 9(3) of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.    Officers have no authority to advise Members to the contrary as it places the Applicant, Officers and Members at risk of criminal charges of Obtaining Planning Consent by Deception and Misconduct in Public Office. ‘ 
A further letter to the Chief Planning Officer concerning missing documents can be  read here:Dear Zac

The pandemic put fixing the environment on the backburner. But we don’t have time to spare – the UK is already one of Europe’s most nature-depleted countries. Out of 20 internationally agreed biodiversity targets, we’re failing on a staggering 17 of them.

As it stands, the Government’s bill leaves both nature and our borough in grave danger. It doesn’t do justice to the natural world. Or do enough to make a difference to our lives or the lives of future generations.

 These government failures are both outrageous and saddening. So what do we do? Shut up and put up. Or fight?

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