Caught between a rock and a very hard place over the vexed question of whether it is all or nothing on Waverley’s ‘update’ of its Local Plan – along comes Farnham’s Cllr Jerry Hyman.
Waverley councillors are split over whether to update its LP 1 with a light touch as Farnham councillors want or give it a thorough Spring Clean to ward off even more housing development. The Government has directed councils to update their Local Plans after five years.
For as long as we here at the WW can remember, Cllr Hyman has argued that most of the borough HAS environmental protection but hasn’t used it. Protection that covers Cranleigh and the eastern villages, including beleaguered Alfold, which will soon be drowning under concrete
Farnham’s Special Protection Area is home to endangered species, including the *** Dartford Warbler. Most towns and villages are within 15km of the Special Protection Area and Thames Basin Heath. SPA visitor surveys reveal most of Waverley is in its catchment area.
Most Waverley Councillors, led by officers and legal advisors, have consistently refused to accept Cllr Hyman’s premise that the borough does not have an Appropriate Assessment, which is a legal requirement for planning authorities. He has argued for years that using its protection could head off some of the developer’s armies.
He claims Natural England has consistently failed to do its job correctly – or, as Council Leader Paul Follows described it – “a Government organisation trying to do a one thousand pound job on a 50 pence budget.”
However, the same cannot be said about Natural England’s stand in neighbouring Horsham, where it has imposed a moratorium to stop large-scale housing due to a water neutrality issue. It issued a directive on environmental grounds. Environmental damage is a strong argument against large-scale development.
Emboldened by a moratorium on housing development in Horsham and the possibility of Waverley being forced to take its and other authorities’ unmet needs has concentrated minds on Waverley’s protected areas.
Could Waverley now do the same?
Councillors argued for hours at Full Council how to deal with the dilemma of updating its 5-year LP1 to ward off another 290 homes p.a. bringing the figure up to 743 p.a., and with its unmet backlog totalling almost 900 p.a. Last week, an appeal Inspector claimed it only had a 3.46-year housing supply and not the 5-year required! Yet another planning appeal was allowed in Farnham.
After lengthy political posturing, the Tories want the update to be quick and slick – the remainder of the council, of all parties, including Farnham Residents, want a robust, evidence-led update that will stand the test of developer’s legal eagles and Government Inspectors.
Some believe it is a failure of both administrations. The Conservatives for putting together a plan that cannot be delivered, and the rainbow coalition for failing to recognise this and getting to a position where planning in Waverley is plan-led. The affected people are the residents of Waverley who live in an unplanned ‘planning by appeal’ system and the people that need the housing…
Said Planning Portfolio Holder Liz Townsend.
“We don’t want a re-run of the previous administration’s failure to get the Local Plan in place for five long years, during which developers broke down the barricades and built over Farnham, Cranleigh and the eastern villages like Alfold.”
Rather reluctantly – the Rainbows accepted that the borough’s exceptional environmental issues would be carefully examined during the update.
Jerry Hyman’s said: LPP1 Review – JH Notes Council 21.2.23, v2
FACT: At Annex 2 (Council Agenda p227), Natural England has at long last confirmed that to be legally compliant, WBC needs to produce a Wealden Heaths SPA Strategy with neighbouring Authorities (to enable us to assess in-combination impacts)
FACT: Neighbouring Authorities such as Horsham will be looking to dump their “unmet need” on us because they are now applying the Statutory ‘People Over Wind & Sweetman’ (2018) Habitats constraints correctly to limit development, and we are not.
*** A Dartford Warbler, one of Britain’s smallest songbirds trapped and ringed in Farnham more than five years ago, has been confirmed as the oldest of its species recorded in the UK.
The bird, which has survived five winters, was first recorded as a juvenile when caught in a net and fitted with a leg ring before being freed at Crooksbury Common near Runfold, near Farnham.
Researchers were amazed when it was caught again as an adult male on August 25th last year at the same spot – Its estimated age is five years, one month and three days – is a new National longevity record.
The warbler usually only lives a year or two.
Dartford Warblers are extremely rare in the UK and are only found at a few increasingly scarce heathland sites such as the Farnham SPA. Their numbers plummeted in bad winters due to a lack of insects.
14 thoughts on “Is ‘Your Waverley’ listening to Jerry- at last?”
We desperately need more housing and Waverley should be planning for it, to include a comfortable cushion of capacity. Not avoiding it.
The Farnham Residents Party has signally failed to address the issue over the last 4 years while they’ve been in administration (sic) and cannot, indeed must not, just keep pointing the finger at the Tories. That was then, this is now.
The Farnham Residents Party have been in power with their chums for 4 years and yes, environmental issues are paramount, but shouldn’t be used merely to avoid any housing development.
We’re frequently told that Parties should be judged on their record of achievements.
With the local elections coming up in May, perhaps residents will wake up and smell the coffee and examine who is proposing exactly what in terms of healthy development and not just looking to exploit and erect any possible barricades to avoid much needed housing here, and just putting it ‘over there’.
We’ve had enough of the worn out cliché “we need housing, but it must be housing in the right place”.
Yes, quite so.
So, let’s see some new elected members and councillors with vision, drive and the will to achieve this goal.
We’ve all had enough of the phooey.
We need sustainable truly affordable housing, in the right place, with suitable and sufficient infrastructure that doesn’t contaminate the atmosphere and pollute the rivers. Companies are judged upon their Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) practice which should apply to the public sector.
Affordable housing must be a multiple of local wages not local market values, the current unreasonable criterion.
It often helps to follow government guidance and consider “whether any new social, environmental or economic priorities may have arisen.
This is total nonsense and Cllr Hyman knows this. He continues peddling this and no one in the country follows him. He continues to waste time and money for Waverley constituents – see the Council spending nearly £90k defending appeals – https://modgov.waverley.gov.uk/documents/s52239/WBC%20Supplementary%20Financial%20Report%20V2%2022-23%20FY.pdf
What exactly do you want the council to do? Cave into developers Planninginnwaverley? Stop defending appeals? What about localism and listening to residents with a much clearer idea of their water shortages, burst pipes, electricity and sewage problems inferior roads, lack of public transport etc.?
@waverleyweb The Council should be working with developers to front load infrastructure and deliver houses in the most sustainable locations where the infrastructure exists and can be delivered. Just refusing applications and then defending the indefensible does nothing to assist with the housing issues and just leads to planning by appeal and poor scheme and has a negative effect on the local residents
Isn’t that precisely what the council is attempting to do? It has refused huge housing developments in villages where the infrastructure doesn’t exist – no schools, shops, a post office, train station, public transport, or health facilities. Then the developers lodge appeals, and the Inspector completely ignores local evidence and listens to hot-shot lawyers who convince him that all these things exist!
“…front load infrastructure and deliver houses in the most sustainable locations…”
Yes agreed. So that rules out anywhere within 5 miles of Cranleigh.
“…developments in villages where the infrastructure doesn’t exist – no schools, shops, a post office, train station, public transport, or health facilities.”
Yep, So that rules out anywhere within 5 miles of Dunsfold aerodrome.
Didn’t Dunsfold Aerodrome Ltd have plans in its garden village for – a school, GP and health facilities, shops a dedicated bus service now roads and improvements and more? Didn’t all the developers Thakeham – Cala Homes etc tell a string of Government Inspectors Inspectors, that all their residents would be able to access services there?
And, the Inspectors swallowed it hook line and stinker! Now the new residents have ZILCH!
I’m new to Waverley and admit to have very little understanding of planning matters so apologies if I am missing something. After reading about the many planning applications over the past 10 years or so I am left with wondering why some of the larger developments which offered infrastructure were opposed so vehemently when the same land seems to now being built on by stealth. An example (and please excuse me if I have got this completely wrong) is the Thakeham development in Alfold. An application years ago was for around 400 homes and provided some of the infrastructure so badly needed – it was refused. Now they have been successful on appeal for 99 homes and I believe they plan to submit a further applications on the same site in the future. Alfold will probably end up with the same 400 homes built in small stages but without any requirement to provide services. Surely it is better to have the infrastucure so badly needed, with a larger development all at once rather than bit by bit building without any services.
You may be new to the area, and you may admit to little understanding of the planning system but you have hit the bulls eye. You are one hundred per cent right.
When the Dunsfold airfield development was first mooted 17 years ago, there was massive opposition. Despite there being plans for a school, health facilities and much more – all on the 378 acres- largest brownfield site in the borough. As the years dragged on, numerous refusals, public inquiries, court hearings, intervention by the government- the original ambitious plans were scaled down. Covid and the economic climate intervened and then the various owners either sold, or put site up for sale. So – no infrastructure and the site lays dormant. No homes, no school no health facilities or public transport system. Millions of public money spent resisting the scheme and millions more defending it!
Thakeham, that you refer to, was hanging on the coat tails of Dunsfold, telling various Inspectors when it originally sought permission for 400 homes, that it would provide – some infrastructure – but with the huge Dunsfold Garden Village on its doorstep, its residents could be schooled there in their early years and use the other facilities the nw village offered. But the Inspector said, too big, for small village and it was refused. Clever old Thakeham decided to build be stealth providing the village with nothing! Then lob in application after application until of course, you are right, it gets the 400 it originally intended – while making maximum profit. KERCHING!
Thakeham did not offer any infrastructure. No road improvements, no trains, no buses, no services. Their promises were empty.
Likewise Dunsfold Garden Village was scant on infrastructural promises. Providing a few empty units that could be occupied by a doctor or relocation for the existing Jigsaw school is not sufficient. A spine road is diddly squat value to anyone.
A good look at DP’s 106 Agreement? A bus service in perpetuity – never before offered by a developer anywhere.
Bus service? Easy to promise, and even easier to welch out of. Just look at Milford Hospital developer’s promise of a bus service in exchange for 106 £500k+ houses…. not one bus ever ran. Stagecoach said DP promised bus service was unviable.
As we have all seen, what developers promise is never what is delivered, especially with such weak enforcement from the planners.
I thoroughly deplore the current system of not providing ‘infrastructure’ in advance of new housing. However this system probably goes back to the advent of privatisation which is when serious investment in new infrastructure slowed down dramatically as it became necessary to provide shareholder dividends and at the same time ‘protect the consumer’ i.e. keep prices down. Investment is not a priority, at least as far as I can work out. The inadequate electricity grid is probably the one that causes me most concern.
The planning system itself is actually even more bonkers than some of the posts here suggest because if a developer does offer increased facilities over and above what its own development requires the planning officers will discourage this as saying it risks the accusation of ‘buying’ a planning permission. So the community can’t win.
We really need a root and branch overhaul of this whole system but in the meantime we have to work with it to get the best out of it that we can within the rules.
p.s. just one point of information. In its first very large proposal for 375 units, Thakeham did offer a primary school and sewage improvements at Alfold. That is my recollection and this report seems to confirm it.