Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan stuffed by a Government Inspector.


Farnham folk are reeling at a decision by a government Appeal Inspector to allow a controversial scheme for 146 homes on both sides of Waverley Lane.

Similar appeal decisions, bombarding villages in the east of the borough with housing, are now hitting the town of Farnham.

Described by the townsfolk as Farnham’s “green gateway’ residents are fuming that after a four-day hearing, Inspector Lesley Coffey decided to give Wates Ltd the go-ahead. Originally it wanted 190 homes.

Five times in recent years, developers have fought tirelessly to overcome objections from Waverley Planners. So it was the fifth time lucky when Wates Developments Ltd finally hit the bullseye. Getting the consent for which it yearned for so long has thrown Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan and many other NPs into question.

So after eight long years, architects of Farnham’s blueprint for future development like Cllr Carole Cockburn have received the decision this week with a sense of utter despair. It now jeopardises its treasured Neighbourhood Plan and will hearten other developers eager to concrete over Farnham’s countryside.

The decision will no doubt have implications for Waverley’s five-year housing land supply – and enable Waverley to fight off several large housing schemes in Cranleigh set to go to appeal.

The inspector gave minimal weight to the neighbourhood plan’s policy FNP14, setting out housing site allocations to meet the Farnham area’s share of the borough’s government-set housing target.

She said:  “Policy FNP 14 sets out the housing allocations necessary to meet the housing requirements for Farnham within Waverley’s Local Plan Part One. It does not preclude development on other sites within the Neighbourhood Plan area.

“I, therefore, find that the proposal does not conflict with Policy FNP14.”

“In my view, Policy FNP14 is a permissive policy and sets out guidance for specific sites. Whilst the allocated sites may be preferred, Policy FNP14 does not suggest that only these sites should be developed. Indeed, such an approach would be contrary to The Framework that seeks to significantly boost the supply of housing.”

Wates first applied for the development in 2014 on land known locally as Compton Fields. It has fought tirelessly ever since to get the consent it now enjoys.

 It would appear Neighbourhood Plans, which take years to make, and be approved, are no defence against developers.

Will the earthmovers and bulldozers now roll? Or will it remain fallow for years like so many other consented development sites in the borough – until the time is right?

12 thoughts on “Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan stuffed by a Government Inspector.”

  1. The irrationality of this decision lies in the statement “In my view, Policy FNP14 is a permissive policy and sets out guidance for specific sites.” Those Farnham Residents that approved Policy FNP14 have every reason to believe that only these sites should be developed. Their cumulative impact can already be argued overdevelopment as traffic congestion, the overloaded sewage system and water supplies patently demonstrate.

    The Inspector did not consider the NPPF as a whole as the framework requires. Its purpose is to deliver sustainable development within the rule of law not “to significantly boost the supply of housing.” It is also of concern that Wates played the system by proposing a development 4 dwelling short of the 150-dwelling threshold for an Environmental Impact Assessment that appear despised by so many because it seeks inclusion of the community.

    The decision is probably another beneficiary of the inability of local authorities to set fees that cover the cost of planning applications and enforcing planning condition compliance. The Local Government Association advises that fees would need to be increased by almost 60% to ensure councils broke even on planning applications. Local Authority planning departments operating deficit was £245.4 million in 2020/2021 paid for by unsuspecting local council taxpayers.

    Again, an unaccountable Planning Inspector with delegated power harms the residents of Farnham with impunity by applying a personal view of the planning system.

    1. Wasn’t the Inspector doing exactly what the Government encouraged her to do? As she said: build more houses, regardless of the problems her decision will inflict on the over-burdened infrastructure. Even Thames Water is backing off – on two sites in the eastern villages private water companies are delivering water and sewage treatment, by using TW pipes!

      1. Don’t you mean that water and sewage in the Cranleigh eastern villages is by TW tanker. It is.

      2. “Lord Justice Lindblom said that section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 gave the local development plan statutory primacy and a statutory presumption in its favour that government policy in the National Planning Policy Framework did not have. Under the statutory scheme the policies of the development plan operated to ensure consistency in decision-making. The section 38(6) duty was to be performed properly, the decision-maker had to identify and understand the relevant policies, and had to establish whether or not the proposal for development accorded with the plan, read as a whole. A failure to comprehend the policies was liable to be fatal to the decision.”

        Both the law and government policy requires sustainable development. The law has supremacy over Government policy this is recognised within government policy for those who care to look.

    2. Some of us feel that Cranleigh and eastern villages ( including Dunsfold Park) have borne a hugely disproportionate part of the total new Housing targets for Waverley and that Farnham area has got off lightly.

    3. I don’t see any problem with this decision, the Inspector gave her view which was different to the councillors but totally in accordance with the recommendation of the planning officers. For once the officers were vindicated in applying Government policy correctly – you might not like the policy, but that is another matter

  2. The officers will only be vindicated if the Inspector’s view were sustained by the High Court. Planning decisions should be made with reasoned conclusions not views. The inspector’s role was to apply government law which has primacy, with policy as a material consideration. Appeals to the planning inspector can and have been fatally flawed.

    1. Is there any indication that there will be a challenge at the High Court? who is going to take that decision? is the Council going to use more taxpayers money?

      1. Why would there be a challenge. Surely Waverley can do whatever it likes. If a developer wins an appeal for a development of housing with 30% “affordable” and changes it to 100% affordable, having signed a legal agreement for a demand response bus service with Surrey CC, Waverley, and the developer who then sells the land to another developer who wants to dump it. That’s Ok isn’t it. Why should Waverley waste ratepayers money on doing the right thing. As the WW said: Throw Alfold to the developer wolves.

  3. @waverleyweb – you have got the wrong post on the wrong story…the legal challenge is to the Farnham decision not Alford…

    1. Sorry planninginwaverley not sure to wha you refer. BTW the village’s name is ALFOLD

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