The Public Inquiry by Redwood to build 50 homes on a new development to be named Scotland Park on land at Red Court in Haslemere re-convened after the Christmas Break.
It is sometimes difficult for the layman to understand how Waverley can produce a robust argument against a scheme when its officers recommended that it be approved just a couple of months ago.
WW could best describe Waverley’s position in this appeal as being between a rock and a hard place. But fight it is waging against a developer’s intention to provide what it describes as,
“Of the highest quality -in fact, the highest quality development,” one appellant witness had ever seen.
Was Waverley’s barrister Clare Parry contending that Natural England has earmarked the appeal site for inclusion in the Boundary Review Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – to get itself out of a hole?
May the council have dropped into a hole with the revelations about its five-year housing land supply?
But before the legal eagles and experts Zoomed in, resident Mr Howard Brown spoke on behalf of his neighbours in Scotland Close adjoining the site.
He said there were even more rare species to add to the diverse wildlife population on the site – a common lizard and a green snake – which he said – may be “very rare” and should be added to the long list of protected species. The concrete drives to the new homes would adversely affect the wildlife corridor.
He attacked the developers’ assumption that the overlooking of Samantha and Ray Newman’s property would cause ho harm.
I am sorry, they can’t make statements about what residents believe and what residents think. And, I think this should be struck from the record.”
He said the scheme was not meeting the Haslemere Design Statement. Ignored privacy concerns, and no consideration was given to the heights of the new homes overlooking 6-9 Scotland Close, only be four metres away. Homes would block their light and affect their privacy. The appellant had ignored on drawings a living space (a home office) built over 30 years ago so had the privacy of children’s bedrooms.
Residents were not consulted on what sort of tree planting they would like. No consideration for the tree route protection and disturbing roots would be dangerous. It would destroy their views and right to light.
He told the Inspector the development was unsustainable, and the appeal should be rejected.
Inspector Helen Hockenhull said she wanted to view the site from a residents garden.
During cross-examination of Miss Evans, the resident’s planning witness was asked by Redwood’s barrister Heather Sargent if Haslemere’s Neighbourhood Plan had identified any sites for development in the town? It hadn’t been identified as a “green finger” or as a protected landscape by the town council or the Alliance of residents.
Miss Evans said, No, it hadn’t – but she wouldn’t want it suggested that it had not been thought about as a “green finger,” giving why, as it was not public land and was proposed for development. Miss Sargent claimed the development could enhance the landscape.
Miss Evans said:
“I cannot accept that the introduction of a housing estate onto the land could possibly be regarded as protecting and enhancing the valued landscape.”
Old Haslemere Road and Museum Hill highway improvements.
Miss Sargent asked? “Were you questioning the practicality of the walk for many people using the route? You are not suggesting that people won’t use it, are you?
Mr Evans said residents do now, and she was sure some people who relished the climb would continue to do so, but it was not suitable for everyone due to the narrowness of the path and the incline. However, the barrister maintained that proper and improved footways would improve this.
Miss Evans disagreed, saying she was looking for a practical and useful route. The section on Museum Hill going northwards towards the town centre – was an awkward junction where Old Haslemere Road turned into Museum Hill at its junction with Hill Rd. A particular concern was the narrowness of the road and parked cars. Going southwards up the hill was very narrow, where the virtual footway was proposed.
“Rather than helping the situation it could make matters even worse because if you are walking in the virtual footway you may think you are safe. But you would not pay as much attention. At the moment it is not safe, but pedestrians know they have to look out for cars and find ways to get out of the way, whereas with a virtual footpath there is conflict of priority between cars and pedestrians.
Experts said changes would make the route safer and Miss Sargent asked Miss Evans was questioning the evidence of highway experts? She said she was – but from a planning point and not a technical view.
“I don’t have much evidence on virtual footways but I do share residents’ concerns.”
A claim made by Miss Evans that Surrey Highways intended to remove parking spaces, which residents had fought long and hard for, would have an impact on their amenities. The barrister and later Charles Collins, her expert planning witness, refuted this claim.
Miss Evans argued no weight could be given to the Waverley officer’s recommendation to approve because it was removed from LP2 but refused by the planning committee. However, putting herself in the officer’s position, it would be difficult not to say that it was a draft LP2 allocation in the back of her mind.
She admitted that neither Surrey Wildlife trust, Waverley, nor third parties claim there would not be a biodiversity net gain from the development. However, the resident’s Alliance does. However, putting herself in the officer’s position, it would be difficult not to have that it was a draft LP2 allocation in the back of her mind.
After a long debate, the eastern planning committee gave these reasons for refusal.
The Inquiry continues tomorrow Friday at 9.30.