If Dunsfold Aerodrome’s new Garden Village is removed from
Waverley’s five-year housing land supply – will all hell break loose for Alfold and elsewhere in Waverley?
A Government Inspectors decision on Thakeham Homes appeal for 99 homes on productive farmland could affect the rural village on the Surrey/Sussex border. However, it may have an even bigger impact on sites elsewhere in Waverley. This would put at risk both Local Plan Part 1 (15 years in the making) and LP2 – its strategic sites allocation is now out for public consultation.
But Thakeham asks – why has LP2 been three years in the making?
Pressure will increase exponentially on Cranleigh and the eastern villages, Red Court in Haslemere, Secretts in Milford – in fact, anywhere in Waverley that isn’t close to a Special Protection Area (SPA) or The Green Belt if this appeal is granted.
Waverley’s legal team headed by Barrister Robin Green is up against one of the stars of the planning circuit Sasha White. Waverley must be shaking in its shoes as Mr White represented Catesby Developments winning planning permission for the Alfold housing development at the Sweeters Copse appeal when the Inspector costs awarded against the local authority.
The character of Alfold is now in the hands of Inspector Harold Stevens. Tomorrow, Tuesday on the final day of the hearing. The Sussex-based developer eager to build in the countryside to assist a cash-strapped Alfold charity must provide him with strong reasons for dismissing Waverley’s housing land supply figures.
Waverley claims it has 5.2 years – partner developers Thakeham Homes and The Merchant Seaman’s War Memorial Society claim it has 3.7 years. The developer claims Waverly’s figures are suspect and homes on numerous sites around the borough are neither credible nor achievable in the time frame.
Waverley’s Planning Officer Kate Edwards endured uncomfortable moments from Thakeham’s testy barrister. But she stoically kept calm and carried on defending the council’s five reasons for refusal.
To keep dumping yet more housing in this small rural village, was “unsustainable.” she argued.
From a base of 400 homes in Alfold (2011 census)the village is allocated a minimum of 125 in the Local Plan. Some 250 homes have already been consented to mainly by appeals.
Mr White argued that to increase this by “only 99 homes only represented a 15% increase.
“Therefore, just a limited increase?”
Although she trusted his maths, Miss Edwards disagreed this was a fair comparison.
Mr White argued replacing three mature trees including a 100-year-old oak protected by a tree preservation order with 198 semi-mature trees, was mitigation enough to remove one of Waverley’s reasons for refusal? The developers’ mitigation measures to improve the landscape and biodiversity would remove two reasons and tilt the balance for consent?
With her seat becoming warmer by the moment, Miss Edwards valiantly defended the council’s position repeatedly.
She told him:
However you argue this our argument remains the same. This development is unsustainable.”
Battling on, with monotonous regularity, he asked `Miss Edwards – if the council had no five-year land supply – by inference its development plan was out of date?
Did she know what constituted a strategic development site?
You have a five-year old development plan – No ~Local Plan Part 2 and you are still relying on the 2002 plan. Are any `Neighbourhood Plans available in Alfold or elsewhere in Waverley? If they are, are they up to date? As far as Alfold’s Neighbourhood Plan is concerned all I can say is… it is becalmed!”
Miss Edwards responded that she largely agreed but argued that the Lack of LPP2 did not preclude decisions based on the LP1.
He said: The plan is not compliant with the NPPF, because there is No LPP 2 and the lack of a list of non-strategic sites is a barrier to improvement. Therefore your Plan is not up to date is it!
He claimed the minimum number of homes in the plan was just that; the minimum and the maximum was unlimited.
Before answering further questions on past appeal decisions, he warned Miss Edwards that her professional credibility was at risk.
Two hundred fifty-four homes have already been approved in Alfold either by Waverley or successful appeals. Sweeters Copse, Brockhurst Farm etc. where he said various previous Inspectors had recognised that although the minimum limit was reached, homes were needed to meet the wider borough need.
Miss Edwards said housing numbers were decided by capacity and many other issues.
Villagers were infuriated by comments made by Thakehams’s landscape architect Miss Ede who cast a rosy glow over Alfold’s ample shops, pubs and facilities.
Said, one villager.
If they honestly think that the new residents on this site will cycle to Cranleigh/ Witley/ Godalming they must have lost the plot- If they think the new Demand Responsive Bus Service (One Mini Bus 12 seats) will be able to cope with the new residents that may want to get to schools/medical appointments or train stations at different times and therefore not need a car – REALLY? it just beggars belief that these people think they can hoodwink the Inspector with such tripe!
Here at the Waverley Web – we cannot wait to hear who rocks from the parish council to plead Alfold’s case? Perhaps, Chairman Penny Maine? Or, God forbid, maybe even Chris ‘Little Britain’ who has spearheaded the campaign to stop development at Dunsfold Park through “Protect ~Our Waverley?’ Because no doubt the developers are holding champagne on ice in readiness for him?