With the Public Inquiry grinding towards a close, it was time for Redwood’s Planning guru to take centre stage.
Planner Charles Collins Planner told Government Inspector Helen Hochenhull that the scheme to build 50 homes on Red Court, Scotland Lane, was sustainable close to amenities and only a 10/20 minute walk from the town’s railway station.
The High-quality scheme was set back from Scotland Lane and was one of the best-designed schemes he had ever been involved with. Scotland Park was low-density homes with lots of green spaces delivered within five years, had addressed all technical issues, and had no statutory consultee objections.
However, he said the most critical part of the developers’ case was the lack of a five-year housing land supply in the Borough of Waverley. A highly constrained borough boasted 61% Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Value and Areas of Great Landscape Value.
I was disappointed with the outcome of Waverley Council’s planning committee meeting which was long – a couple of hours which was particularly telling and which is available for all on the council’s website. It is clear from my view that members struggled to come up with credible planning reasons for refusal.
I would encourage everyone to view that video.
He said the one and a half storey and two storey homes would fit in well, and the apartments had been designed to look like houses. There would be two and three to four-bedroom homes reflecting the character of homes in the immediate area. No gas would be laid on. Conditions would cover any outstanding matters.
Haslemere’s Neighbourhood Plan (NP)had made no site allocations for future developments, and he questioned whether the settlement boundary had been updated. He confirmed to the Inspector that the NP group had made no effort to identify the site as a “green finger” or give it any special designation when it had an opportunity to do so.
In my view, at present, there is no immediate strategy to solve the immediate housing shortage in Haslemere. The neighbourhood plans makes no allocations. There is a requirement for 990 homes to be delivered in Haslemere in the Waverley Local Plan and only 23% (230 dwellings) have been delivered, halfway into the plan period.
Frankly, the town is nowhere near where it needs to be at this stage in the local planprocess. It is also relevant that from 2023 based on the present standard method there will be a 38.7% uplift in the overall borough’s housing requirement – 507 p.a. up 733 p.a.
The council recognised there is an acute need for affordable homes. In the plan, as does the NP.
Waverley’s Monitoring Reports revealed the low proportion of homes delivered. There was a deficit in six of the past eight years, which was consistently shown by the number of successful planning appeals.
Contrary to Waverley’s own reporting they have failed year after year on their 5 year land supply.”
The council knew this, hence the reason why the council officers recommended approving this scheme in the first place. There needs to be borough-wide action to address this and in my view, Local Plan 2 provides only part of the solution. The council’s reliance on delivering major sites in Dunsfold and Milford and its reliance on a patchwork of Neighbourhood Plans, some made, some not majority not.
The council could and should have have done much better in the first part of the plan period.
He said a was decision needed now, which means greenfield developments, and the best places for these were in Waverley’s principal towns.
When Inspector Bore examined Waverley’s Local Plan, he made it clear that the provision of the ~Part 2 was required ” promptly.
” It was expected in 2019, and now I predict it will be 2023 some 4 years late.
The Royal Junior School at Hindhead, which had been included in LP2 following the removal of Red Court, was already the subject of objections from statutory consultees, including Natural England and Sports England. The majority of the site was not previously developed land, and IF it came forward would have to be less than 90 homes. It was further away from Hindhead amenities, train and transport routes.
However, there was No objection from Natural England or Surrey Wildlife Trust. The SW Trust acknowledged that Red Court was not a priority habitat. Mitigation measures proposed will give a Biodiversity net gain. Conditions agreed between Waverley, and the developer could protect dormice and reptiles.
He said much had been made of the possibility of Red Court’s possible inclusion when Natural England made the AONB Review decision. That was some years away and may need a public inquiry as it would affect many towns and villages in Surrey. There is much evidence gathering underway. There is no harm to the heritage, woodland ecology, air quality, drainage, transport, no safety issues, only minor or moderate harm on the wider landscape.
Mr Collins summarised the numerous benefits; affordable housing provision (homes provided in perpetuity), market housing; all the area residents would benefit from the safer pedestrian and cycle links to the town centre. A Biodiversity net gain goes way above that required. Countryside links will transform private land, linking it to the national park beyond.
There would be construction jobs. There would be electric recharging points and open spaces for play.
Community Infrastructure Levy of 2.3m which goes straight to Waverley and Haslemere Town Council to spend on local infrastructure improvements, that will beenfit everyone.”I firmly believe once completed this deveopment will be a benefit to Haslemere and will provide new homes for 50 families.
The Inquiry was extended for an additional day and a site visit the following Tuesday.