Waverley Towers saw Day One of a controversial planning inquiry begin yesterday. A joint appeal by a Sussex-based developer and an Alfold Charity to build in the countryside.
The partnership of Thakeham Homes and the Merchant Seamen’s War Memorial Society wants to build 99 homes with 30% “affordable” on agricultural land off Loxwood Road. To gain access, they need to demolish a bungalow called Hollyoaks and an oak tree covered by a Tree Preservation Order.
However, if bungalow and tree are to go – along with a vast swathe of the countryside, they have to convince an Appeal Inspector over the next six days that the development is sustainable in the small village on the Surrey/Sussex border.
Day One saw Thakeham ripping to shreds Waverley housing land supply data claiming it has only 3.76 housing supply and not the 5.2 years it boasts it has under its belt.
Alfold claims it has already had more than its fair share of development – and fears that if current appeals are allowed, it will be swamped with housing without the infrastructure to support it.
However, the developer is already hoovering up countryside all over Sussex, turning it into bricks and mortar, claiming Waverley’s housing needs were urgent. The borough was “incredibly constrained” – but the Alfold appeal site was not in the Green Belt, AGLV or AONB – and Alfold had NO Neighbourhood Plan! Arguments put forward in the 2017 refused appeal for 425 homes could not be attached to this smaller-scale development.
** An appeal by the same outfit for 425 homes was refused in 2017. Care Ashore and Thakeham Homes’ boat sunk by a Government Inspector!
Appellants spokesman Jonathon Dodd told Inspector Harold Stevens there was a country-wide crisis in the delivery of housing affecting people on a daily basis; The country needed 300,000 homes, 100,000 of which must be “affordable.”
4,071 homes are needed in Waverley over the next five years in order to accommodate this immediate and urgent crisis – and plannng permissions must be granted NOW! It is lamentable that here in Waverley over the next 5/6 years the delivery of housing will only be satisfied by appeals such as this – by Government Inspectors. Waverley needs 11,000- homes by 2032 – 590 p.a.”
The delivery of Waverley’s delayed Local Plan had relied upon appeal decisions, and the delayed Local Plan Part 2 was a strategy that relied almost entirely upon Dunsfold Aerodrome that was nowhere near deliverable and g0ing under new ownership.
When the Inspector asked Waverley’s planning representative if she could enlighten him on the Dunsfold position and its owner, she said…
“I am not allowed to say who it is. But we have e-mails from a man called Tom who had been in talks with the council’s planners.”
Thakeham’s man revealed the possible buyer as Columbia Threadneedle, who, he said had ” not yet taken the keys” to Dunsfold but it was expected that despite Waverley’s SPD (Strategic Planning Document) – now out to public consultation – the new owner may have its ideas for the site. This requires new planning applications to be negotiated and consents given. He cast doubt that the site would deliver homes in the five years. It was also quite likely the owners would seek to negotiate a higher number of homes than the previous incumbent.
Note: Columbia Threadneedle offered £250m for the largest brownfield site in the borough but is currently carrying out extensive contamination tests, so it remains in the ownership of Trinity College Cambridge. Around 2,600 homes are earmarked for the Dunsfold Garden Village site. Some believe there will in future be many more.
Thakeham claimed Waverley had artificially skewed the data on its five-year housing supply by including 113 Class C homes. (old person homes), which had just sneaked it over the 5-year housing land supply. Many other permissions (152) + another 89 had expired or were undeliverable. He cast doubts on many more.
Last week Farnham Cllr David Beaman asked Waverley Executive’s planning portfolio holder Cllr Andy Macleod to confirm he was confident that the council’s claim of having an adequate housing supply was robust enough. “Without any reasonable doubt, ” so the authority could make it stand up at imminent appeals.
“Because if it doesn’t we will all look rather silly.”
Mr Dodds said that Waverley’s mindset was to delay housing delivery in the borough – leaving the Inspectorate as the provider for granting planning consents on Appeal.
“And,” he warned, “this trend is set to continue with this Appeal!
The appellants would deliver superb housing and demolish the council’s five reasons for refusal.
He continued by shredding one after another a string of proposed housing developments named in the council’s five year-housing supply schedule, which he described as – “certainly not the best.”
He claimed that sites included in Waverley’s current 5-year housing supply document was littered with inaccuracies and included homes that were neither deliverable, realistic or achievable. Including 242 homes for which permission had expired and repeatedly challenging the robustness of much of its data.
It is extremely optomistic and highly unrealistic.”
The validity of sites questioned included Dunsfold Park; two sites in Haslemere; Milford Golf Course; Cranleigh Brick & Tile; Cranleigh High Street; Weyhill Haslemere; Sites in Chiddingfold at Meadow Nurseries West & East; Centrum Business Park in Farnham; Barons Toyota Garage in Hindhead; The Old Grove, Hindhead and more.
Said Mr Dodds:
“My position on Waverley’s five-year housing supply is 3.76 years! There are a number of sites that easily fail the test and this is very serious. It is completely untenable for the council to say it has a 5YHS with the inclusion of Dunsfold Park – it is quite unreasonable.”
The Inspector said there were many unanswered questions on the housing numbers.
I want an up-to-date position on this borough’s housing land supply to take away by the end of this Inquiry and questions answered during this Inquiry, whether you agree with one another or not.”
The Inquiry continues, including visits by the Inspector to various other important sites.