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.
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.