For the second time in a month, a Government Inspector has concluded ‘Your Waverley’ does not have a 5-year but only a 4.25 year housing land supply
Inspector Helen Hockenhull has ruled that developers Redwood can build 50 houses, 15 of which will be “affordable in perpetuity” on land off Scotland Lane Haslemere.
Appeal Decision APP/R3650/W/21/3280136
During a gruelling six-day public inquiry conducted by zoom, the Inspector gave ample opportunity for objectors to have their say. This was markedly different to Harold Stephens approach to Alfold residents just three weeks earlier, giving one villager five minutes to speak.
Although Waverley couldn’t demonstrate a 5-year supply of deliverable housing land, the Inspector said neither could it demonstrate important planning policies to uphold the view that the appeal should be refused. She claimed the policies were “out of date.” So, therefore, permission should be granted as the benefits demonstrably outweighed the harm.
I have concluded that the Council cannot demonstrate a 5-year supply of deliverable housing land.The Council suggest that the 5-year supply is 5.2 years based on their amended completions data. The Appellant suggests that it is just under 4 years.
In light of my findings above, I conclude that the Council can demonstrate a supply of deliverable housing land of around 4.25 years.
However, she admitted there would be harm to residents living in Scotland Close, from overlooking and the development would have –
“a major adverse impact on the character of the site.”
However, Due to the lack of intervisibility and the fact that the site was visibly well contained, this impact would be localised. However, it would still fail to recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside and protect the character and qualities of the AGLV. Therefore, the appeal scheme did conflict with paragraph 174 (b) of the Framework and LPP1 Policies RE1 and RE3(ii).
She acknowledged that the local community valued the site, and it formed an area of attractive countryside. The main visual impact of the development would be for users of Scotland Lane and residents on Scotland Close. However, this could be mitigated to some degree by tree screening, but it would not wholly screen and the new development would result in an adverse impact.
“However, in my view, whilst the appeal site has a medium landscape quality and some ecological value, criteria. I am not persuaded that it forms a valued landscape.”
She said proposed pedestrian improvements necessary to mitigate the impact of the proposal would cause harm to the character and appearance of the area. However, she recognised they would also benefit the wider community.
“I conclude that the proposed pedestrian improvements would cause harm to the character and appearance of the area. This harm has to be weighed against the benefits of the scheme in terms of pedestrian safety.”
The site was suitable for residential development, close to Haslemere’s shops and services and close to public transport connections.
Red Court was within National Character Area 120 Wealden Greensand, and characterised by undulating and organic landform, with semi-natural habitats including lowland heath, fields in irregular patterns bounded by hedgerows, pastoral and arable land within a wooded framework and large houses within extensive parks and gardens. However, the site had not been managed appropriately for a number of years, leading to an invasion of Japanese Knotweed and dense spindly plantation woodland.
Housing land supply.
Waverley’s housing requirement is 590 dwellings per year together with a 5 % buffer.
The parties disagreed on the total five-year housing requirement (including the buffer and the shortfall) due to discrepancies that had come to light regarding completions.
Although an additional 246 completions had been identified from monitoring years 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, resulting in 3439 total completions, this arose because Waverley had taken into consideration Building Control and Council Tax data. There was also found to be an issue with residential institutions (C2 uses) not being included.
The Inspector acknowledged that the previous data has been relied on to inform the Annual Monitoring Report and was passed to Government for the Housing Delivery Test assessment. However, it was her view that it was inappropriate for the Council not to highlight the issue and correct its data. Not to do so, would compound the error.
“On that basis, I find that the 5-year housing requirement should be 4460 dwellings.”
Although the borough and Haslemere, in particular, are highly constrained, there was an acute need for homes and the Council had failed to meet the local housing need figure in 9 of the last 12 years.
“I acknowledge that the most recent figures, 2019/20 and 2020/21, show an improving picture, with the Council meeting its housing requirement, but there is still a significant deficit. Furthermore, the direction of travel, with the introduction of the standard methodology is upward, with an increased housing need figure of around 38% on the Local Plan Part 1 requirement.”
Haslemere has a specific minimum housing target of 990 net homes to be provided between 2013 and 2032. In April 2021, 23% of that requirement has been delivered. Taking account of outstanding permissions, 316 dwellings will need to be allocated in Local Plan Part 2. Waverley and the developer agreed that the new homes required could not be delivered without making use of greenfield land outside the settlement, including Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) land or sites within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB.)
Local Plan Part 2
Although submitted for examination in December 2021. The Inspector concluded it was unlikely to be adopted for 12-18 months. So offered no immediate solution to the borough’s housing need. Draft allocations are subject to objection and once the plan is adopted it would take time for sites to go through the planning process and deliver new homes.
The Royal Junior School, Hindhead was now available and a draft allocation in the LPP2. Located in AONB it was not an edge of settlement site and only partially previously developed. The LPP2 Inspector would need to determine whether it was a suitable location for residential development. The Council is optimistic that sites will come forward and achieve the required housing delivery in the remainder of the plan period.
The Inspector said:
“Taking an optimistic view, whilst this may be feasible, the housing need in Haslemere is now.”
Benefits to the economy.
The scheme would create local construction jobs and support the local supply chain. Though these benefits would be short-lived long-term benefits would accrue from future residents spending in the local economy.
A bird in the bush is worthless?
The Inspector said.
As I intend to to allow this appeal the Conservation of Habitat and Protected Species legislation requires that I undertake an Appropriate Assesment I am satisfied that I have sufficient information to allow me to do this.
However, it seems clear to the Waverley Web that as we can find no evidence – that she has conducted an Appropriate Assessment.
Dunsfold Garden Village
Dunsfold Park allocated in LPP1 for 2600 dwellings with planning permission for 1800 dwellings. The proposed Garden Village includes care home accommodation, a local centre, primary school, health centre, community centre and open space. Homes England funding had been achieved to support delivery. The Appellant considers the site will not contribute towards the five-year housing supply whilst the Council predict 50 dwellings in 2023/24 rising to 200 dwellings per annum thereafter.
The Inspector accepted planning consent had been granted for the access road and roundabout, and works would commence in 2022, but the council had provided no firm start date to the Inquiry. There were delays as the landowner was selling the site and a preferred bidder was keen to make progress.
“But that party is an investment company and not a housebuilder. A developer partner would need to be sought once the acquisition has taken place. The Council advise that the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for the site is likely to be adopted in February 2022. I consider it most likely that the preferred bidder and developer partner would not wish to progress with the current outline consent but would seek an amended consent having regard to the SPD. Such matters would take time to resolve.
I accept that development could start on the site while temporary uses remain. I also acknowledge that the site benefits from an implementable outline consent, however as discussed above, there is no evidence that the subsequent reserved matters application would be progressed.
In light of the above factors, I consider that delivery in 2023/24 as suggested by the Council is unrealistic. On the basis of the evidence before me, the delivery of new homes could optimistically commence in 2025/26. I therefore push delivery back 2 years and assume delivery of 50 dwellings in 2025/26. Consequently, I remove 400 dwellings from the supply.”
Waverley was in the process of preparing the Waverley Borough Council Local Plan Part 2: Site Allocation’s and Development Management Policies (LPP2) formally submitted for examination to the Secretary of State on 22 December 2021.
“Whilst this document is well advanced, I am aware of a number of objections to it, such that I afford it limited weight in this appeal.”
For the reasons given above, and taking account of all other matters raised, I conclude that the appeal should be allowed, subject to conditions.
You can read the complete Appeal Decision here: