Villages in the east of ‘Your Waverley’ are bitterly complaining about having housing dumped on them, but perhaps we should also spare a few thoughts for Witley and Milford?
The original intent of Witley’s Neighbourhood Plan was to identify the sites for the homes it needed. Then the planners in Waverley Towers swooped in and plucked out Milford Golf Course to include it in Local Plan Part 1.
To say Witley Parish Council and the Neighbourhood Plan team were not happy would be an understatement. They wrote, they wrote again, they had meetings, they banged their fists on tables and stormed The Burys but they lost the battle and the previous administration put Milford Golf Course into LPP1 as a ‘strategic site’ for “around 180 homes”. Never mind the problems with the nearest junction at the top of Station Lane and Church Road, a well known local bottleneck. Never mind also the restrictive covenant limiting the number of houses to (it is said) about 30 on this particular site!
“This is not a planning matter,” said the officers of the restrictive covenant at the committees considering this.
“This is not a planning matter” parroted the Councillors as they approved the outline application for the site for up to 200 houses (and spot the mission creep). Well, it is a planning matter now as this same restrictive covenant means this site and these 200 houses aren’t even included in the Waverley five year supply figures!
But Waverley Towers weren’t finished with Witley. There was more to come. Waverley Towers then said, of course, neighbourhood plans and the local choice were VERY important to them and they would support the Witley Neighbourhood Plan, but only if it allocated the sites Waverley Towers wanted, most of which happened to be outside the village centre and in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Not surprisingly these sites were opposed by Natural England and the Surrey Hills AONB officer. Then in the same breath, Witley was told by Towers that it couldn’t include the Secretts site, although it was in the middle of the village and supported by NE and the Surrey Hills contingent and had been popular with residents in a local survey because some of it was in the Green Belt. Witley was told if it included the Secretts site in its neighbourhood plan then Waverley Towers couldn’t “support” it (which actually meant W Towers would oppose it) and that meant the Neighbourhood Plan couldn’t pass.
So Catch 22 for Witley Parish Council and the Neighbourhood Plan team (and so much for localism…) A view shared by many other villages.
And so the frustrated and exasperated Parish Council and Neighbourhood Plan team decided whatever they did they couldn’t win, so they told WT it could take back site selection in Witley and sort it out for themselves. So that is why the Witley Neighbourhood Plan doesn’t allocate sites for housing and why Waverley Towers is now (still) sorting out the Witley sites in LPP2.
And guess what? After all that LPP2 is putting forward the Secretts site and not the sites in the AONB, but only for 177 houses which is what was left to get to the magic 480 which is the minimum Witley has to provide under LPP2. ..
But then bad boys Bewley Homes recently turned up as the Secrett’s chosen housebuilder (they have “previous” at Alfold ) Back to the drawing board for Alfold development described by Bramley councillor as “ crap.!” with plans for around 220 houses and not the 177 in draft LPP2. It seems Bewley has decided to crack on and submit a detailed planning application and not wait for the site allocation in LPP2 and recently held a “public consultation” to it can tick the consultation box and submit its application PDQ.
Meanwhile, some residents are getting worried because recently several Government Inspectors when ruling on appeals, have commented that figures suggested for Waverley’s towns and villages are”minimum” numbers only. The policy in draft LPP2 for this site says 177 but of course, residents don’t control the numbers any more really, do they? Ask Alfold where its residents are currently about to live on a building site. An Ockford Ridge resident tells us that they heard mutterings at the recent Bewley consultation of a much higher figure now being considered and according to one local on Facebook, Secrett’s customers are now being told it could be as many as 250 new homes.
With the Milford Golf Course consent in Station Road by Cala Homes now languishing, we know not where, due to the dispute over the covenant, could Secretts become a much larger development than villagers and the Parish Council originally supported and anticipated? Coming to a golf course in Milford soon – 190 homes.
Apparently so complicated is the background to the Witley Neighbourhood Plan that some (understandably) confused residents of Milford now think they were conned into voting for Secretts in their Neighbourhood Plan (they weren’t) for a site that is much larger than they ever intended when in fact the site hasn’t even been allocated for housing – not yet anyway.
Meanwhile, we are told by the same Ockford Ridge resident that residents up there would really welcome access to a spanking new purpose-built GP surgery within walking distance rather than having to hike down to the existing Godalming surgery down at The Mill.
As they say: It’s an ill wind that blows no good.
The Bewley public consultation which is open until 13 May