Here at the Waverley Web, we sometimes wonder why there are LOCAL Planning Committees and officers or why anyone bothers to consult the public on the proposed development.
Think of the time, effort and money that could be saved by not judging planning applications or defending planning appeals. Why not throw local democracy out with the recycling because that is what the Secretary of State for Levelling Down is doing in Waverley?
Inspector Tim Wood BA(Hons) BTP MRTPI has put a boot into Waverley’s claimed housing land supply of 4.9 years by slicing off a lump to bring it down to 3.9 years! Now – there’s an incentive for those avaricious developers.
The latest planning Appeal ALLOWED is for 65 homes at Bells Piece, Hale Road, Farnham – a site not included in Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan. We can see the milk curdling in Cllr Carole Cockburn’s morning coffee here in Haslemere!
Strongly Opposed saying:
This is not an approved development site in the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan 2020, is outside the Built-up Area Boundary and not compliant with FNP1 New Development and Conservation and FNP14 Housing Site Allocations.
The Inspector has allowed for new access off Hale Road and the development of up to 65 mixed dwellings to include 40% affordable housing, the creation of public open space (including a small public car park), associated landscaping and infrastructure at Hawthorns, Hale Road, Farnham, Surrey GU9 9RL.
The appeal site is about 2.82 hectares and is located on Farnham’s north-eastern edge. Hawthornes is a large detached house, garden, adjoining paddocks, and field/meadow. Hawthorns is accessed from Hale Road along a private track shared with Bells Piece, a day centre located south of the site.
The private track is close to the Six Bells Public House to the south, and a small field to the north, previously used by the residents and operators of Bells Piece for horticulture and occasional events.
South of the appeal site is Scholars Way, a public footpath linking Hale Road with Farnham Park, Farnham Castle and the Town Centre.
Scholars Way marks the northern extent of the settlement boundary of Farnham. Hale Road links the Six Bells roundabout with the A325, an important route into Farnham. On the eastern side of Hale Road, and opposite the appeal site, are allotments, a petrol filling station and the entrance to Roman Way, a predominately residential cul-de-sac.
The Inspector admitted the development would harm and have an urbanising impact on the appeal site’s landscape character, particularly on landscape features of value, principally the meadows. However, the effect on the meadows could be minimised, and the overall visual impact would be contained and localised and would not be significant.
As a result, I consider that the harmful impact on the landscape would not be significant.
Waverley maintains that the perceived benefit of the housing would be negated by Farnham’s ability to meet its quota; in fact, there were established and tested reasons why going above the provision of 2,780 dwellings would be to the disbenefit of the town.
It argued that the site is outside the built-up area boundary, is inappropriate in a landscape of high sensitivity and value and will damage rather than enhance the character of the Borough of Farnham, in which green spaces are integral. • Its design and layout are not suitable for the location.
• It fails to support sustainability goals in its housing provision and amenities, impacts traffic, walkers and cyclists, and adds pressure on infrastructure.
Farnham’s Special Protection Area and Thames Basin Heath.
Mr Wood said he had taken account of the potential impact.
I consider that, when following a precautionary approach, the proposal, alone and when combined with residential development, would likely have a significant effect on the SPA. Hence, an appropriate assessment is required to consider the proposal’s implications for the integrity of SPA. The impacts from recreational disturbance on the SPA which would occur if the appeal scheme were permitted, if left unmitigated, would fail to maintain the integrity of the SPA. Therefore, the proposal would fail to adhere to the Appeal Decision APP/R3650/W/22/3302987 https://www.gov.uk/planning-inspectorate 7 conservation objectives for the SPA. The Habitats Regulations require that the competent authority may only give permission for the proposal after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the European site. In so doing, they may consider any conditions or other restrictions which could secure mitigation and provide certainty that the SPA would not be unreasonably affected.
Below is Cllr for Firgrove Farnham, Jerry Hyman’s strong argument to resist further damage to these important sites.
3302987 Hawthorns Decision 17.2.23
3302987 Hawthorns – Cllr Hyman Statement of Evidence 25.10.22
14 thoughts on “Yet another planning appeal allowed in Farnham.”
I couldn’t agree more with your statement about local planning. The number of applications round here which have first been refused and are then allowed through following an appeal are numerous. This despite valid feedback and objections from a large number of local residents who worked hard to arrive at a neighbourhood plan to meet the council requirements. It makes me wonder why the systems are in place and what a lot of time and energy would be saved if the process were different. I cannot understand why the magic of an appeal always seems to reverse the initial decision – despite valid reasons for the first refusal. Building in gardens and important green spaces within our village seems to be a free for all if you go through the planning motions as they stand, i.e get refused, then appeal, wait a few months then get permission despite the initial decision!
The reason that it is revered is that the professional planners recommended that permission is granted and then then non-professional planning committee disagreed. It is not a surprise when a professional planning inspector agrees with the professional planners and not with the wholly unprofessional committee…
The Inspectors comments are factually incorrect. Bells Piece is not a Day Centre. It is a residential care home for adults with quite severe learning disabilities. Bells Piece will be seriously effected by this development.
From our experience, Inspectors need to be more accurate. Sadly, they don’t give a damn about the effects development will have on such establishments as your amazing facility at Bells Piece. Please keep in touch with us here at the Waverley Web about the development’s effect on your residential care home once the bulldozers move in.
This application was recommended for approval by the officers who recognised that sustainable development next to the most sustainable settlement in Waverley is the best place to put housing. Waverley has the worst housing affordability in the country outside of London and Dunsfold won’t deliver any new homes any time in the near future, so there is a need for more homes to be delivered in Farnham. The cost incurred in defending these appeals (and there are at least another three in the pipeline) comes from Waverley Council Tax (i.e. our money). All the other three appeals were also recommended for approval by the officers, so I would not be surprised if all were allowed. I wonder what the total cost to the Council is in defending these appeals… would it not be better spent on more critical services?
There are many instances of an appeal Inspector upholding the refusal of a WBC committee against the recommendation of officers. In Waverley the use if the word professional is stretching it.
I think that it unfair. The officers are trying their best in face of aggressive developers, a planning committee that totally disregards their views and a total lack of investment from the Council. As to many instances, I am not sure that I would use the word many…there any many more cases where PINS agrees with the officers…
Planning officers “doing their best” is a meaningless defence. The officers are a push-over and the developers know it. There is a no due diligence exercised by officers – they don’t question anything that is presented to them. They merely re-package the lies and mistruths presented by applicants, overlay a Waverley logo on it, and present it shoddily as fact to a committee. They gladly farm out responsibility to an unaccountable and equally inept Highways department when they can. Professional standards are very low. How many times have we heard an officer bleat “I didn’t visit the site, I used my experience to assess the application”? or “Highways have no comment”?
Sadly the professionalism among planning officers, generally, is now very poor. But who would work fo a planning authority when you can receive mega bucks from developers? Developers that are in the back pockets of a series of Tory Ministers. Michael Gove, Robert Jenrick to name a few.
The deliberate error of law within the Decision Notice is at paragraphs 34 and 35 where the Inspector states,
”… I concur with the appellant and the Council that this mitigation would ensure the proposal would not adversely affect the integrity of the SPA …” and
“…in relation to the Appropriate Assessment, I conclude that the proposal, with the mitigation measures set out, would not adversely affect the integrity of the SPA in view of the site’s conservation objectives.”
It is plain fact that the law requires that Appropriate Assessment must include
“…. a full and precise analysis …”
of the mitigation measures which
“… may not have lacunae and must contain complete, precise and definitive findings and conclusions capable of removing all reasonable scientific doubt as to the effects of the proposed works on the protected site concerned”
[C-323/17 People over Wind and Sweetman,paras 36,38].
No such assessment exists in respect of the imaginary mitigation capacity of Farnham Park, or of Natural England’s SAMM strategy.
The Inspector did not produce an appropriate assessment. He instead merely continued the unlawful practice of evading assessment by deception, with our Officers’ support. The Inspector was well aware of the Statutory requirement that in the absence of an appropriate assessment containing detailed objective evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the mitigation, consent could not be lawfully granted.
Furthermore, para 182 of the NPPF dictates that the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ and ‘tilted balance’ do not apply. The deficiencies in the strength of Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan policies and the lack of a 5YHLS are entirely irrelevant.
It is embarrassing that as partners in the Waverley administration, we are still selling imaginary Farnham Park ‘SPA mitigation capacity’ to hostile developers so that HM Planning Inspectors can grant unlawful consents to developments which we oppose.
Fortunately the Hawthorns application was Outline only, so the errors can be rectified at the Reserved Matters stage if enough residents are prepared to stand up for the town (and the law).