On Day 5 of the public inquiry into an appeal by Redwood to build 50 homes on a controversial site at Red Court, Haslemere, the vexed question of the robustness of the borough’s housing supply reared its ugly head. So did the elephant in the Zoom.
At the outset, Inspector Helen Hochenhull asked the parties taking part if they agreed that Waverley needs to supply 590 homes p.s.for the duration of its Local Plan.
The Inspector warned the parties:
“Remember that figure of 590 is the minimum to be supplied, plus a 5% buffer”
Waverley Claims it has a 5.2 year-supply – The Appellant claims it has only 4.7 years – so argues it is under-delivering.
Since an inquiry a few days earlier, Waverley has removed 17 homes from a long list of sites it claims are deliverable. However, the Inspector said she was mainly concerned with the larger sites promoted by the council.
These included Dunsfold Aerodrome and Milford Golf Course.
Dunsfold ~Park Garden Village. A scheme for 1,800 homes and 2,600 in the Local Plan and Waverley’s Strategic ~Planning Document – now out to public consultation.
Appellants planning expert David Neame of Neame Sutton claimed there were a host of problems surrounding the deliverability of the Dunsfold site.
He told the Inspector.
There were many fundamental problems with delivering it.
There was no implementable consent or Reserved Matters. Any development required a significant lead-in time due to the substantial infrastructure required. None of which had started. There was minimal trajectory information available and it was essential to recognise Lichfield’s guidance which identified a significantly lower delivery on similar sites. They say 260 per annum but hadn’t met even the original applicant’s timetable.
But there are bigger issues here since I last considered this in Mach. The owner Trinity College Cambridge has put the site on the market. The preferred bidder chosen is Columbia Threadneedle (CT) which is not a developer.
My colleagues at Savilles are the agents acting for Trinity who have advised us that the sale is unlikely to be concluded until at least the end of quarter one next year.
You will note that WBC evidence claims it will be concluded by the end of this year. That simply will not happen. Not at all surprising madam as reported in the press the purchase value of this site is in the region of £225m so there is a considerable amount of due diligence to be undertaken before that purchase concludes. Columbia is not the developer so will require a development partner to take this site forward and significant investment is required for that.
The council was alive to this uncertainty because it had produced a Strategic Planning Document (SPD.) (Due to the uncertainty over the change of ownership and developer.) The council approved this on 9 November with the public consultation closed on 20 Dec. He maintained that consultation will have included numerous objections, including those of Cllr Jerry Hyman due to his remarks last week.
So, the process was yet, to be concluded. Of particular importance, the SPD identified the strong likelihood of a fresh planning application on the site. Any new application or amendment for Section 73 would require a new updated Environmental Impact Assessment or an update to the existing EIA.
That work is highly unlikely to commence until there is a new owner, with a development partner in place. Considerable investment is required for that.
In addition, the council had granted some consents this year to allow the continuation of various temporary permissions on the site until April 2o24. These related to the filming of MotorSport, Top Gear and other track day events. Having applied all that and with regard to Litchfield’s evidence, he claimed, the council had no clear evidence of housing delivery on this site.
Madam, you will have noted your colleague’s conclusions on the Lower Weybourne Lane, Badshot Lea Inquiry, where she considered my previous assessment that 130 dwellings to be optimistic. That assessment was made before all of these changes that have occurred during the course of this year.
I, therefore, remove the site entirely from the 5 -year supply. One final point, if you agree with me that 450 dwellings should be removed, this puts the council on its own completion figures into a negative position of 4.7 years.
The Inspector asked Waverley if it envisaged Dunsfold providing 50 homes in 23/24, 200 in 24/25 and 200 in 25/26. She asked,
was this somewhat optimistic, bearing in mind how things have moved on in the past six months?
Waverley’s Planning Officer Katherine Dove said its Position Statement was based on information provided by the preferred bidder for the site, who believed it was achievable.
She admitted no further information had been received, saying the proposed owner was not a developer and would have to appoint someone to develop the site. It was anticipated the SPD would be adopted in February 2022. Temporary consents for filming would take place on the South West of the site and housing in the central and east. So it would take some time before housing reached the area used for filming. Events would stop when needed for development. We think the site should be included in the 5-year housing supply.
Mr Neame suggested from his experience, the new developer would want to change the outline planning consent and may want to do something slightly differently due to viability issues; what implication is that going to have for the site coming forward in the 5-yr supply?
Ms Dove argued if it wanted new planning permission and the developer didn’t want to use the outline consent and started again from scratch, it may delay things coming forward. Further applications may take time. Difficult to say how the new owners will want to proceed.
The Inspector asked the Waverley officer?
If we assume the new developer is content with the existing planning permission and Reserved Matters, there will still be a lead in time to sort out all the legal aspects, which from my experience, can take an awfully long time. Is it realistic to believe with a Reserved Matters application that say, takes place in March and there the length of time required to set conditions, infrastructure etc? Is it realistic to think that 50 units will be delivered in 23/24?
We think the evidence is sufficiently robust and we are happy. Said Ms Dove.
The Inspector asked how many Developers would operate simultaneously. Do you think ten are more realistic?
Ms Dove. said it was up to the developer how it tackled the site and may put out various parcels of land simultaneously. Still, we are happy with the information though recognise the difficulties, saying it would take time.
The Inspector asked? “Bearing in mind the prospective owner is an investment company and not a developer, what effect would that have?
Mr Neame said The preferred bidder is not a housebuilder so was difficult to understand how an investment company could provide a robust delivery trajectory. “We are not aware of who intends to deliver on that site, or whether they will proceed with the existing permissions.
He added that the temporary permissions were until April 2024 on land that did not propose residential development. However, that phasing strategy could change. Residents and businesses had objected to the noisy uses so that development would not be compatible with those temporary uses. Waverley could not stop the use until 2024.
The Inspector said she had heard a lot of uncertainty; perhaps Ms Dove could enlighten her whether there had been any pre-application discussion. Ms Dove said She said none had taken place.
” It would be helpful to know whether there is any direction of travel or not. Can you point my to anything that would give me further confidence on the deliverability of this very interesting site?”
To be continued… including Milford Golf Course and other disputed sites.