Will it be the third time lucky for a persistent developer?
The controversial appeal in Lower Weybourne Lane, Badshot Lea, Farnham, has begun. The Inquiry (via Zoom) runs for five days. The final days are on 26 and 27 April. However, this timetable may change.
Developers have been trying to obtain consent for development on a greenfield site in Farnham since first appealing in 2014, again in 2018, and now believe that without a five-year housing land supply in Waverley, they stand a good chance of success in 2023.
If the appeal were allowed, it would result in a significant coalescence of Farnham, Aldershot, Weybourne Lane, and Badshot Lea.
The 4.8ha site is on the southern side of Lower Weybourne Lane, between two different parts of the Farnham Built-Up Area Boundary. The agricultural land includes paddocks, some currently used for grazing horses and other animals. An access track along its eastern edge leads to an existing, gated, vehicular and pedestrian access onto Lower Weybourne Lane. To the west, the site is enclosed by a railway embankment and to the east by relatively modern housing developments at Badshot Park and Glorney Mead. To the south, the area adjoins further open land.
Waverley Planners have consistently refused consent saying development there would have an urbanising impact on the area. The result contradicts its planning policies, including the Farnham Design Statement and the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan. Neither would it enhance the landscape nor protect the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. It would lead to the coalescence of settlements and the erosion of the landscape’s character.
Upper Weybourne Lane is a priority junction with Farnborough Road; St Georges Road is a priority junction with Guildford Road; Without adequate mitigation, the development would have an unacceptable impact on highway safety and a severe cumulative effect on capacity at these junctions. It had not been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Highway Authority that improvements were necessary to maximise sustainable transport modes for pedestrians and cyclists.
The proposal (in combination with other projects) would have a likely adverse effect on the integrity of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) in that it is now widely recognised that increasing urbanisation of the area around the SPA has a continuing adverse effect on its interest features, namely Nightjar, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler, the three internationally rare bird species for which it is classified.
Waverley Cllr (Firgrove, Farnham) Jerry Hymn has already told Inspector Darren Muckcreey that it is not possible to conduct an Appropriate Assessment of the potential accumulative impact on the endangered species. Ground nesting heathland songbirds. He claimed there was a limitation on development in Waverley that was being denied.
The presumption favours sustainable development and the ’tilted balance’ (a term used to tilt the balance in the developer’s favour.) Parts 12 and 14 of the NPPF – do not apply to Habitat Development.
Paragraph 182 of the National Planning Policy Framework – says it doesn’t apply where the plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on the habitats site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects.) unless an Appropriate Assessment has concluded that the plan or project will not adversely affect the integrity of the habitats site.
Cllr Carole Cockburn spoke on behalf of Farnham Town Council for the permitted ten minutes on the site planning history and its policy constraints.