Here’s what the new housing Portfolio Holder for Planning had to say about the criticism and “hyperbole” being levelled at Waverley for its 5-year housing land supply difficulties.
Just moments after being appointed into her new role as Portfolio Holder for Planning Cranleigh Cllr Liz Townsend told her Executive colleagues…
“Developers are not delivering the housing they have planning consents for – and unrealistic housing targets have been dumped upon all local councils by the Government.”
In the video clip below here’s what the new girl whose head is now on the planning block had to say about that Government Inspector’s decision. A decision which had villagers in Alfold reeling – developers celebrating and…
Thakeham Homes Barrister Sasha White – grinning all the way to London’s Landmark Chambers.
The QC is a planning specialist with particular expertise in planning inquiries and High Court work.
He was nominated for Planning Silk of the Year by Legal 500 for 2020 and won an appeal in Alfold for Catesby Homes 18 months ago when a Government Inspector awarded costs against Waverley Council.
Alfold set to go under more concrete as Waverley’s 5-year housing supply ruled at 4.01 years by Government Inspector
Cllr Townsend delivered a strong rebuke to developers who don’t build out existing consents and on the Tory Government for imposing unrealistic housing targets.
Cllr Liz Townsend, who is a parish, borough and county councillor undertook the heavy-load of Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economic Development yesterday. She is also masterminding the £20m Cranleigh Leisure Centre project and the development at Dunsfold Park. She takes over from Farnham Residents’ Cllr Andy MacLeod who now becomes Portfolio Holder for Planning Enforcement.
37 thoughts on “The lack of housing supply in Waverley is down to developers and unrealistic Government targets!”
Everyone but Waverley’s fault then? It’s only two months since the previous portfolio holder said that WBC had a robust 5 year supply which would stand up to scrutiny at an inquiry? He said that the Council would look “very silly” if it were found otherwise at appeal. They do look very silly so easier to blame others.
I accept that government planning policy is problematic and that developer’s do not always behave as one would like but the administration are not blameless and must start taking more responsibility for the mess which they are delivering. Delaying LPP2 may have served some individual or political interests but it has only weakened the hand of the borough as a whole and was a strategic failure.
Hi all – happy to engage with this. I know we have a number of planning experts here so I’m genuinely asking – within the powers of a borough council, what would you do to resolve this?
Hi Paul, one suggestion may be to listen to the advice they receive from the officers. I believe both the Alfold and Red Court appeals were recommended for approval by the officers. Presumably they did this based on a sound understanding of planning law. The Council then rejected the applications and have found themselves trying and failing (in Alfold’s case certainly) to defend them at appeal. This is at significant cost to the taxpayer of course.
It is simply inadequate for Council policy to be to reject applications, fail to defend them at appeal and then blame the Government.
Your administration should spend more time listening to those who understand planning and less time seeking to pass the buck.
Delaying LPP2 by 9 months certainly wasn’t helpful and has left the whole borough exposed. Another item within your power – are you intending on blaming someone else for that also?
So in the first instance – the administration of the council (certainly this one doesn’t) even try to direct a planning committee to do something. I and we cannot make a planning committee take a decision in a particular direction. We can provide as much training as possible and ensure that training is of good quality. We do that but can always do more.
You still run into the common problem that a councillor will often find a development unacceptable that national planning policy finds unacceptable.
And most of the allocations, the vast majority in fact – are in the already passed LPP1. And of course that’s validated by the inspectors main issues being with sites in that plan, not so much with LPP2. It’s Dunsfold and (to a lesser degree) Milford golf course.
Would you also suggest that we ignore whole swaths of the community as has clearly happened in the past? What would you advise?
Wrong. Alfold application on Loxwood Road was recommended for refusal by the officers – as was Sweeters’ Copse Phase one and two. Red Court, however, was recommended for approval – so you are right on that one. Alfold is not sustainable for the amount of development proposed there – no schools, GP surgery, or other facilities – at least until Dunsfold is built-out. Thakeham, Catesby and Cala Homes are all hanging on Dunsfold’s coattails. As far as the name game goes – yes, the new administration has made mistakes – but it followed on from a Tory administration that delayed Local Plan Part 1 and LP2 for years – and provided the scene for the current problems we now face. Who opposed Dunsfold? The Tories? Who then proposed Dunsfold – The Tories – and then asked the Secretary of State to call it in – delaying it further THE TORIES. Who sent it to the High Court and Court of Appeal – yes, you guessed!
I’d advise that you would have a better chance of having a robust 5 year housing land supply if you approved developments that were in line with national planning policy. This seems self-evident to me, your officers and the planning inspectorate, but not seemingly your administration.
Paragraphs 102 and 103 of the Alfold appeal verdict specifically state that LPP2 not having progressed was an issue which led to WBC’s policies being out of date. You can try and dissemble as much as you like but it is stated in black and white.
Residents views are important and I’d hope you would take them into account and urge developers to respect their views but fundamentally they cannot trump national planning law can they?
But just to be clear, other than basically your advice is to roll over except on ones that you don’t like..the issue here is the build out of things that already have permission? How do you address that when we don’t own the land.
And also just to be clear, you think that we should just approve everything so we don’t lose out on appeal. Surely the outcomes are the same?
Oh great! Let’s build anything, anywhere and everywhere in line with Government policy. Of course, residents cannot trump national planning laws, but you cannot blame them for trying. Homes built on flood plains, houses built on platforms to stop them flooding, leaving everything around them vulnerable? Good planning or what? History will show some of the awful planning decisions that have been made.
I’ll take it from your silence on the point regarding LPP2 that you concede your initial suggestion that the delay to LPP2 was insignificant was wrong. If that is your view then how do you address paras 102 & 103 of the appeal decision where the inspector specifically states the delay to LPP2 was an issue? The decision to delay LPP2 was of course one which you personally supported, presumably you understood the potential negative consequences for the rest of the borough of doing so at the time?
My point is that your current policy as an administration is to reject proposals, lose on appeal and blame the Government. It may be good politics but it isn’t competent governance. The outcome may be the same but at what cost to the taxpayer? How much money are you spending on defending indefensible positions? How much council resource is being used up on these pointless inquiries?
And of course if you had given permission to these developments – which are in line with national planning policy – then you may be closer to your 5 year housing supply. The fact that you do not have a supply emboldens developers to try for developments which are clearly inappropriate. Take Longdene House which will no doubt be rejected again at the planning committee and you will be forced to defend it at appeal again – hopefully winning again. This developer is emboldened to try his luck because you have no 5 year supply. We all know the national policies are not in your control but just rejecting out of hand proposals which are in line with national policy is a nonsense surely?
Dunsfold is of course an issue. I accept this. So do you clearly. But why then are your administration making ridiculous claims about having a 5 year supply when you know you do not? Cllr MacLeod admitted you would look very silly if the Inspector found against you. He did. You do look very silly. You yourself said at the recent council meeting regarding LPP2 that the Waverley Officers only recommended approval for Red Court because of the lack of 5 year housing supply and that this issue had now been resolved. Was this incompetence on yours and Cllr MacLeod’s part or an attempt to wilfully mislead? It must be one or the other.
For clarity my view is very much not “this is all Waverley’s fault” and developers and national policy are blameless. Failure has many fathers here: developers, national policy, your administration (and the previous one). But the constant attempts by your administration to blame everyone else is tiresome and lacks credibility. Admitting your role in this mess would be a good start, as would starting to listen to those at Waverley who understand planning policy. Given Cllr Townsend’s remarks at Executive and your comments in the local media this week I will not be holding my breath!
It of course isn’t a case of building anything anywhere. It is a case of approving enough schemes to ensure a 5 year supply. Sometimes this will involve the accepting the least bad options, but it does give the Council some control. At the moment they have none.
Everyone accepts Dunsfold is an issue. Everyone accepts the last administration should take their share of responsibility. Everyone accepts that national policy is an issue. But it’s also time the current administration accepted their share of the blame. What exactly is their planning policy or solution out of this mess?
But that’s the point, we have approved way in excess of that already. They just aren’t being built. They don’t remotely count unless they start or are at reserved matters stage. Milford golf course for example has an approved reserve matters application and it’s still not enough for that inspector.
And actually no the local
Conservatives don’t seem to
Accept any responsibility at all and seem to live in a parallel universe where this is a wholly local issue and not one set by their colleagues at Westminster.
Hi Paul, the tories should take responsibility but you are also not taking any responsibility are you? You do understand this don’t you? Or are you pathologically unable to accept that you may be to blame for some of the mess you are overseeing?
And I’m afraid that you are lying again about there being more than enough permissions. If that were the case then why does your 5 year supply include sites with no permissions? Ockford Water, Barons, 101 High Street, Wey Hill etc…
So in this small exchange we now have two porkie pies from you. Firstly that the LPP2 delay was irrelevant and now also that your 5 year supply can be met by existing permissions. Both are demonstrably untrue. You shouldn’t lie in responses in the hope that you won’t get caught out.
And how do you explain the comments by yourself and Cllr MacLeod where you told the Council that 5 year supply was no longer an issue? Was this incompetence or were you wilfully misleading? We are only holding you to your own words.
Seeing as you won’t answer my questions and come back with untruths I’ll try one more question. A simple yes or no for you: are the Council you lead in any way responsible for the planning mess in this borough?
The point that I am trying to make is that plenty of allocated things have consent and had the developer actually built them out this wouldn’t be a problem.
Just out of interest, can I ask your name? You know mine?
If you answer any of the questions I’ve asked I’ll consider answering yours. Does that sound fair?
Problem is, I’ve had my fill of talking to anonymous conservative councillors and other posing as ‘fact check’ group for their own gain.
I am Paul Follows, who are you?
No doubt Follows and Townsend will say that the figures in relation to housing land supply that were relied on at the two recent appeals are the Government’s fault and not their own. I have never seen an administration take credit when it isn’t due or run a mile over their own failings. Enough is enough – Andy Macleod has gone but why hasn’t Follows as he is as much if not more to blame for the mess Waverley now finds itself in!
Mike, I would refer to you exclusively by surname but I’ll have a punt it starts with B and you are the red court defender?
I am not doing Politics tonight as I have lost the Will to live on this. Having had no Proper Internet for 2 weeks…..
Just to say 2 More Applications in Alfold – What a surprise????? These are both Development by Stealth – I am sick to death of them all.
WA/2022/00211 – Erection of 9 dwellings with associated parking and landscaping following the demolition of existing dwelling (Medlam House) In addition to the 56 Already Granted Onsite. Takes that one to 65 New Homes.
WA/2022/00204 – Erection of 11 no. Dwellings comprising 4 no. Open market units and 7 no. Affordable units access through adjacent residential development parking servicing and landscaping Details
So that takes the Brockhurst Farm Development to 23+7+11 in 3 separate Applications to 41 – When the INSPECTOR said that 36 was too many – It is all a JOKE
Alfold will continue to take this Cr*P and no one in WBC is going to do anything about it
What is the Point???????
Realistically if WBC owned up to the 5 year HLS issue sooner than leaving to appeal they would be more in control. How WBC thought it was sensible to publish a HLS position in November dating back to April when decision in the interim had set the figure much lower is beyond me.
Arguing a 5HLS is costly for the council and for developers. Take ownership of it and whilst this may result in approvals of schemes outside of local plan policy it will in future lead to greater control. The head in the sand position has been going on for far too long. Adoption of LPP2 would only result in a pause not a solution overall.
If development is to be steered away from those areas beyond the Green Belt (Alfold and Cranleigh in particular) then greater use of urban land particularly backland development and flatted schemes will be required. Waverley just do not seem to like this prospect what so ever though.
The Council can work with developers through pre-app (which was closed for the best part of the year) rather than taking an ‘us vs them’ approach. This could encourage conditions for a 1 year implementation scheme as opposed to three as has been adopted in other council’s such as Surrey Heath.
If we publish a statement of less than 5yrs ourselves then the tilted balance applies anyway?
There is no control here because we don’t own the sites in question.
So the council would prefer to sweep the matter under the carpet wasting council tax money defending the indefensible? One of these appeals will one day include a substantial award of costs.
It’s irrelevant if you own the sites or not. Continuing to only approving the bear minimum means that if one site falls behind then supply is in tatters. There are plenty of authorities with well over 5 year supply but Waverley seems happy day at 5.0000000001
Other than the basic issue of it really not being right to look at one borough to another – geography, green belt land and other constraints very so much it’s hardly apples with apples.
But we put forward the case of why we think these sites are coming forward. Let’s pick the two in question that came up in the appeal. Dunsfold is litterally being sold to a new owner who wants to crack on. The inspector thinks no new homes in 5 years in that site? Really??
And Milford golf course, has not just outline but reserve matters and the possibility of a land covenant issue, which from all we have been told is in hand- is enough to discount it totally?!! It’s barking.
It is vitally important that everyone recognises that the borough of Waverley is one of THE most constrained areas of the country due to – the Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Areas of Great Landscape Value. In addition, it has SPA’s – Special Protection Areas. Inspectors and Planning barristers all accept this principle. That is why brownfield sites such as Dunsfold are so important. If there is blame to be levelled at anyone it is (a) The Tory administration for repeatedly refusing to include it in its Draft Local Plan. (b) The two Tory MP’s Anne Milton and Jeremy Hunt being persuaded by ‘Protect Our Waverley’ to seek a call-in from the Secretary of State – delaying it still further and then sending it to the Court of Appeal. How much do you think in time and money that cost Waverley Borough Council and the taxpayers? To add insult to injury – read the Waverley Web for all our sakes and see who is suggesting that perhaps Dunsfold could take more of Waverley’s housing quota – really – you couldn’t make it up.
For the umpteenth time, these really weren’t the only two that came up at the appeal were they? On every single one of your larger disputed sites the Inspector found against you. Even if Dunsfold and Milford were allowed you would have still fallen short.
No Sigh! If some of the consented developments had even started – let alone been built out – Waverley would have more than a five year supply. Take one example in Cranleigh. Agreed in 2017for 100 homes – reserved matters (or details of the scheme) going before the Eastern Planning Committee in 2022. Why? Because developers are trickle feeding homes into the market to keep the prices up. One developer in Alfold has already sold on a second phase site for which it gained consent at Appeal several years ago because it couldn’t sell homes fast enough in its first phase. So another shed-load of homes have not been built there. Why has Trinity College Cambridge not been built at Dunsfold – Because it wants to make SHEDLOADS OF MONEY – that’s why!
They were deemed to be around 900 homes short by the inspector. Off the top of my head half of these are dunsfold – which seems optimistic to me in any case. Surely the Council know the difference between an outline application and a site which is deliverable in the next 5 years? The Cranleigh site you reference only supports the inspector’s ruling that the Council are over optimistic and unrealistic in their delivery expectations.
If the Council knew it didn’t have a 5 year supply then why has it publicly argued for the last few months that it did so? This has happened at Council meetings and at two appeals. It doesn’t scream competence, in the end it will cost the taxpayer more, and as Cllr Follows alludes, the outcome will be the same.
Hardly a huge success for the administration he leads.
I repeat again, what is their policy to get out of this mess? At the moment there isn’t one.
What’s that about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?
So Dunsfold is “literally” being sold – what rubbish excuse the pun – Nothing is definite on the site until all outstanding matters are resolved. Of course the Inspector will see that as things stand the site have question marks and are therefore discountable
Who provides the figures for the 5 year land supply – the council! If they knew what they were doing and not playing games over sites they prefer to others then they could be more realistic as to what is deliverable and what is not! Perhaps if developers were punished for not starting within a shorter timeframe we would know if they are really going to get on with it or are trying to hold back as some suggest. Whichever you look at it Cllr Follows team have been found out playing with the figures to suit their agenda and have been found out! Cllr Follows – please take responsibility for the failings of your council rather than trying to pass the buck!
Paul Follows: Milford Golf Course covenant is “in hand”. So you are quite happy to take the uncorroborated word of a developer who has always said the covenant is no barrier to them?
DP at 1800 homes was a £1.1billion project. There is a lot of profit to be made – but not necessarily now.
Do I understand this correctly – Waverley produced figures to show they had more than a 5 year housing land supply because they knew if they didn’t the tilted balance would be invoked. Surely it would just be better just to give the actual figures rather than losing appeals
If you had watched the Loxwood Road, Alfold Planning Appeal – you would have witnessed a Government Inspector doing the Government’s bidding. We only wish it was a webcast. His mind was made up before he closed the hearing. He certainly didn’t even want to listen to the only local person who spoke and was given five minutes out of a six-day hearing. It was an absolute disgrace. In his decision letter, he couldn’t even spell the name of the village correctly. As for Dunsfold – watch this space.
But we couldn’t watch it because the council decided that Red Court was more important than Alfold. Different rules for different sites.
By the time the Inspector at the Alfold/Alford inquiry was closing the hearing he had heard all Waverley’s evidence and had a few days to think about it so why wouldn’t he be entitled to think Waverley hadn’t got a leg to stand on?