Residents of the area around Scotland Lane were out in force on the first day of the public inquiry.
They say they will battle relentlessly to save the haven for wildlife close to the South Downs National Park they cherish.
Developer Redwood South West is appealing against Waverley’s refusal for 50 homes on Haslemere’s controversial Red Court site. The hearing will be played out over the coming days until December 23rd and again on January 6th before Government Inspector Helen Hockenhull.
Having taken a Part 6 role in the proceedings, which gives residents, including associations and Haslemere Vision, equal status to speak at length and possibly cross-examine the developer, Haslemere people are out in droves.
However, Barrister for Redwoods, Heather Sargeant, claims that the site, once included in Waverley’s Draft Local Plan Part 2 and was recommended for approval by Waverley’s planning officers, is a natural extension to the nearby settlement. During a heated debate Waverley councillors refused the scheme in July. Build anywhere, or even everywhere, in the borough of Waverley – except in Haslemere?
It is of low density – only 17 dwellings per acre and provides affordable homes in a town and a borough with no five-year housing land supply and an acute need.
On Thursday last week, residents had their say when they expressed their dire concerns for road safety in Scotland Lane and on Museum Hill, particularly with a virtual pavement proposed by the developers. However, there are no such concerns put forward by the statutory authority – Surrey County Councils Highway experts.
But it was resident Howard Brown who painted a picture of a site that has become a haven for wildlife aided by environmentally conscious residents.
Although we couldn’t see the picture of Roe Dear caught in security fencing here at the Waverley Web, he told the Inspector some images were”too distressing for anyone to witness.”
He stressed the area was a wildlife corridor between the site and the nearby homes, most of whom had encouraged and assisted various species in their ability to thrive.
He said the paddocks had been used for the past 20 years for a horse and a couple of sheep and he provided the Inspector with a long list of birds, insects and animals that inhabited the whole site and nearby gardens.
These included: A “rich and plentiful supply of Dormice, including Hazel dormice – an endangered species.
These include Shrews, voles; badgers; slow worms; lizards, sand lizards; toads. Grass snakes and adders. All of which would be killed if development was allowed. There were many birds due to the rich tree cover with Bats, Pheasants – and a rich harem of friends – Goldfinch, starlings, greater spotted woodpeckers, owls, cuckoos, pigeons, nightingales and buzzards. Hungry Haslemere Hedgehogs and Squirrels were abundant because nearby homes had not fenced off the wildlife.
Equally important to the area are the dark skies. Both animals and humans need dark skies. We can see both Jupiter and her Moons. We can see the Milky Way and all the stars. The heat haze from concrete will blot out those stars against the background of the National Park and the setting of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
He claimed the owners of Red Court had deliberately mowed close to the hedges, put up notices, and erected Dear traps on the south side of the AONB land, which had effectively penned the animals in. The Police, Waverley and the R.S.P.C.were contacted but took no action as the animals were unprotected by law. He had distressing pictures ånd videos.
The Barrister for Redwoods, Heather Sargeant, argued the immediate surroundings were not undeveloped. Neither do they accept that the development would negatively affect the National Park because there are intervening trees in the land corridors? Vegetation to the South of the site would form a sufficient buffer.
The inquiry continues today Monday – and is a webcast on the Waverley Council site.