Now Waverley Planners and Haslemere and borough residents wait with bated breath for Inspector Helen Hochenhull’s decision.
The Appellant Redwood has not requested costs against Waverley.
The Red Court controversy for 50 homes in Haslemere has sparked off one of the most vitriolic and toxic issues that we have witnessed since the foundation of the Waverley Web. Anger and accusations of impropriety have been swirling around that part of the borough since the Red Court site was removed in late 2021 as an allocated site from Waverley Local Plan Part 2. (LP2)
Social media has been swamped with comments from Elstead’s Cllr Jenny Else, a strong supporter of development at Red Court and a member of the Tory Executive that presided over a delayed Local Plan and a dismal record of housing supply in its early years.
But Waverley’s Barrister Clare Parry has defended the lynchpin on which Redwood’s Red Court 50 home scheme off Scotland Lane hangs. Waverley’s 5-year housing supply.
In her summing up, she remained confident that the council was well on the way to dealing with the 990 homes required in Haslemere during the life of the local plan. There had been 230 completions, and there were 328 outstanding permissions in Haslemere. Another nine years remained in the local plan, giving ample time to meet Haslemere’s need. She refuted the developers’ claims that a whole list of sites – including Milford Golf Course and the Dunsfold Garden Village were undeliverable in five years.
As for the controversy surrounding The Royal Junior School in Hindhead and Old Grove, she set out the council’s position; while both not as well located as Red Court, not so poorly located to make them inherently unsuitable for allocation.
“Whether that is the right conclusion is a matter on which the L0cal Plan 2 Inspector will reach a conclusion.” she said.
Two sites at Sturt Farm in Haslemere for 132 (52 a.h.) homes and another for 45 homes at Wey Hill to be provided by registered social housing providers would contribute a huge number of affordable homes. But there was a debate about to whom they would be offered, and who had the nomination rights Waverley or the developer.
Inspector Helen Hochenhull sought clarity on the subject of “affordable homes.” Redwood’s Barrister Heather Sargent said no homes on the sites mentioned would remain “affordable” in perpetuity; however, Red Court would.
Ms Parry was unsure whether or not tenancies would be just for those living in the Haslemere area.
I don’t know? Officers can have some degree of control over who lives there. I do accept that in time if homes are not secured in perpetuity they may revert back onto the open market.
Claims that Waverley, on its present trajectory, couldn’t meet the 11,000 homes required in the borough during the plan period was so far behind – was unsubstantiated said, Ms Parry. There was sufficient brownfield land in Haslemere to meet the housing need there, and other sites were coming forward and would be completed elsewhere in the borough.
Ms Parry set great store on LP2 being lodged with the Bristol Inspectorate. A plan which she said, “it (Waverley) thinks is sound.
“That’s a big step forward, isn’t it?
However, Redwood’s planner ~Mr Collins, said.
Yes, it is another stage in the process. It is the same plan approved for public consultation, the representations have been packaged up and it has been sent off to Bristol for examination. What hasn’t happened yet is, no start date for examination, no Inspector appointed yet, which from experience takes about 6 months to the examination. Whoever is appointed will have to make an initial examination of that plan should it need modifications?
In her closing submission, Barrister for Redcourt Heather Sargent said:
Our position can be short. – Waverley Council doesn’t have a 5 yr land supply. The tilted balance of harm then reduces from what has been claimed here as significant to negligible.
The councils own evidence had shown significant weight must be given to both their market and affordable housing, highway improvements, and biodiversity gains.
The Appellant had serious concerns about the way the site was removed from LP2.
The obvious concern being the advice given by the Leader of the Council that the site was to be removed in very short order – before the consultation had even been completed or officers able to consider the points raised by consultees and their reps.
Waverley’s sole reason for refusal was based on character and appearance. A position had not changed since May 2018 when the council first allocated the site – except the trees have grown.
For over 3 years the council was content for develpment on the site. It is completely unpersuasive for the council to now say it cannot be developed. Once allocated it is very difficult to remove a site unless circumstances have changed.
She said the Appellant’s planning witness had robustly refuted that Waverley had a five-year housing supply, and only 5 years – and no buffer – and seeking to include communal accommodation. She said its figures didn’t match and,
“an element of double counting had been going on. This council has a consistent track record of overestimating future housing delivery – since the adoption of LP1 its av completions are 24% lower than predicted. A situation over over optimism that has repeatedly been proven at appeal.
Waverley’ total 5-year requirement of 4,460 units had a total supply of 4,660 units – A surplus of 220 units.
Evidence on Dunsfold Park for 450 units alone would immediately take the supply 5 below five years.
The council’s case on Dunsfold Park is hopeless and I do put it as high as that.
That is because as recently as June 21 an Inspector in the Lower Weyborne Lane, Farnham decision expressed the view that even the inclusion 130 homes was optimistic and did not meet the definition of being deliverable within the NPPF. Since then the site has been put on the market, the preferred bidder is not a developer and will need a development partner. The council has decided to produduce a Strategic Planning Document for the site, and temporary consents have been issued, which indicates there is no intention to vacate the site before April 2024.
She said Milford Golf Course contributed 160 homes to the supply calculation, but whilst a restrictive covenant remained in place, there was a genuine fundamental impediment for any housing on that site. Suggestions that the covenant can be removed was purely speculation. It should be removed from the supply – together with Centrum Business Park and Coxbridge Farm in Farnham, which would immediately take the supply below five years
The need for housing in the borough would become more acute, and no allowance was made in line with The Strategic Housing Land Assessment for unmet needs elsewhere.
It was entirely likely Waverley would not meet the 703 figure plus a 5% buffer for Woking’s unmet need. It had consistently failed to meet the 590 figure during the LP1 period.
Ms Sargent told the Inspector – The council’s supply direction would worsen, coupled with poor performance delivery in the past, and it had to review its Local Plan Part 1 LP1 in 2023.
Haslemere’s immediate need for new housing was a minimum of 990 by 2032. As of last year, only 23% was delivered. Completions would need to double every year to reach the min. The town is behind the curve in respect of completions. There were no sites allocated in Haslemere’s NP, and 990 homes could not be delivered either by using land in the AGLV on this site or within AONB Royal Jnr school. There was, therefore, an exponential worsening of its housing situation.
Lp2 is 12/18 months away from adoption, and the Royal School has two objections from statutory consultees, including Natural England and Sport England, as well as the considerable debate as to whether the site is brownfield or previously developed land. No evidence had been provided on how many homes could be built there. LP2 would have to determine whether to allocate a site within the AONB that is not an edge of settlement location and is arguably only partially developed – ahead of Red Court, a greenfield site that is not in the AONB is on the edge of a settlement.
There is no immediate strategy to resolve the acute housing shortage in the town – and in the light of my previous comments, and in the absence of a 5 year housing land supply, this scheme providing housing should at least be given significant, if not very significant weight. Waverley will receive £2.3m some of which will go to Haslemere 22 affordable homes in perpetuity and 28 market homes.
Therefore only one reason for refusal remained—harm to the setting of the countryside and the setting of the AONB.
Red Court faced a small residential area – Park Rd and Scotland Close with limited visibility. The woodland was of poor quality and colonised by Japanese Knotweed and not particularly remarkable paddocks.
We maintain it is not a valued landscape.At no point during the three years that the council was proposing to allocate the site for development was there any suggestion that it was valued landscape nor was there any such suggestion in the officers’ report. Nor was it part of the council’s statementof case or did the rule 6 party seek to argue that it was a valued landscape.
It is a legal requirement to put forward these arguments in the Council’s Statement of Case if planning permission is to be refused.
Neither Mr Smith nor the South Down National Park recognises Red Court as a “valued landscape. The site was neglected for many years, evident from the Japanese Knotweed.
Waverley own Heritage Officer had no objection. The site wasn’t wild or tranquil. Neither was it rare or contributed to the South Downs National Park setting.
Miss Marsh the Residents Witness described the site as “wild and tranquil” but admitted she had never entered the site.”
In view of the balance of harm against the scheme’s demonstrable benefit, Ms Sargent respectfully suggested to the Inspector that planning permission should be granted.