The battle of Waverley Lane.

The year is 2023, and the location is the choked decaying town of Farnham’s outer reaches.

Farnham an Aerial View
Most polluted town in Surrey
After years of seemingly futile engagement, the developers finally get permission for  14o homes on land known as “Compton Fields’ in Waverley Lane.
It was the sixth time lucky for builders Wates Developments Ltd.
However. No opportunity for celebration … yet?
Farnham Town Council, and ‘Your Waverley’ once again beaten into submission by Michael Gove’s posse at the Dept of Levelling Up, has unashamedly said “no”.

The decision made by the Planning Inspectorate was “wrong.” Inspector Coffey dismissed Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan, the local blueprint for future development, and claimed it was  ” for guidance” only.

The three combatants are thus poised to line up for a final decisive engagement. The sound of heavy artillery being dragged back into position echoes through the chambers of Lincoln’s Inn Fields once again.
Farnham town councillors were recently asked whether they wanted to challenge the Planning Inspectorate independently or join WBC in a cross-council alliance.
The Battlefield
Let’s take a moment to look at the wider battlefield, which is somewhat complicated.
WBC, already suffering financial constraints, is now faced with taking on yet another legal case. It has a record for coming second.
WW asks. How can it continue to do this? Surely a council on the slippery slope to administration does not want to take on another costly battle, especially against the Dept of Levelling Up. But it does, and no doubt it will. Frankly, it is suicidal.
Milford Golf Course
The situation is further blurred when it transpires. WBC and Gove’s Dept are forced to be on the same side in a separate engagement over Milford Golf Course and a fight to defend Local Plan Part 2. shortly to be fought in the High Court.
Awkward is hardly adequate for WBC as the Dept is being exposed to the claimant’s charges courtesy of WBC.
WBC is becoming an annoying pain in the butt to the Dept. And it is in sheer boggle-eyed amazement that Waverley continues as if nothing is wrong. It is punching above its weight, jabbing away, and being generally annoying, which is fine if you have both the skills and ample reserves. Waverley Borough Council has neither.
The plucky shambolic amateur against the might of the Department. Making for the ever-so-British way of winning against the odds. All well and good eighty years ago, but celluloid thin against the intended desire of a Government and its special planning force determined to build, build, build on Waverley’s green and pleasant land.
Planning Appeals Mounting
Meanwhile, whilst Waverley prepares to fight the battle of Compton Fields, it is being attacked from the rear as further planning appeals are piling up as the new free-for-all-new one-and-only Planning Committee continues to confuse viewer and participant councillors alike.
Anyone would think we don’t know what we’re doing.”  muttered  an informant in the last few days.
The developer can stand back, knowing whatever the outcome, Waverley will ultimately lose. For deep in Whitehall, the documents are prepared. The signature awaited. The clock ticks down as Waverley’s money drains away. Spent on good causes on principles on the desires of the electorate. Blatantly honest and exposed to the reality of the system as it is. Every time the ammunition gets thinner until the stores are empty.
What better way to pull the rug than to let WBC do it themselves?

6 thoughts on “The battle of Waverley Lane.”

  1. Councillors should recall their obligation to provide value for money to the community that they serve. Litigation is for where there is a greater chance than 50% of winning and for those with deep pockets that can afford the downside risk. Judges’ obligation is interpreting the law justly, whereas for lawyers it is merely to win the case, they may even get well rewarded for loosing. For future litigation councillors should voluntarily put some skin in the game by sacrificing some their annual “allowance” when a case is lost. At the moment the unususpecting community bears all the risk and often unknown cost of legal imprudence. As French Emperor Napoleon wisely remarked “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

    1. Brilliant comment Mr Edmonds, why on earth aren’t you still a Waverley Borough Councillor? Lawyers mostly don’t give a damn, whichever win or lose thy are laughing all the way to the bank.

      1. Waverleyweb, thank you there are many reasons for leaving principally the inability to deliver equity and value for money for the ward residents within the local government management systems and culture.

        The following Grant Thornton research found on the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) website provides transparency to rational concern for audit, scrutiny and financial management.

        “In the case of Croydon Council, Grant Thornton raised concerns from 2017-18, made a series of recommendations, and issued an adverse opinion on value for money in October 2019. Their public interest report explicitly criticises Croydon for not acting on their recommendations as this would have put the council in a better position to withstand the financial pressures of COVID-19.”

        “Council leadership must take primary responsibility for financial mismanagement; Grant Thornton suggests the audit committee did not provide sufficient challenge nor take action to highlight the significance of the issues to the wider council. The committee failed in one of its key responsibilities, which was to ensure that auditor findings and recommendations are acted upon.”

        Oliver Simms, Manager, Public Sector Audit and Assurance for ICAEW, commented: “The failures that led to local auditors issuing public interest reports provide lessons for all local authorities on the importance of good governance and strong financial management to ensure councils remain financially viable and secure value for money for taxpayers. It is particularly worrying when significant concerns raised by auditors are not addressed.

        The root cause of some local government failures exists in insufficient public transparency combined with the paucity of Councillor financial, scrutiny and planning training. Given that this is a personal reasoned conclusion based upon past and current evidence.

    2. An appeal on the site in Farnham was inevitable. The Farnham Residents Association are in the strange position that they were elected on the basis of sticking up for Farnham but have been part of an administration which has overseen planning policies which will have a considerable negative impact in Farnham. Of course they want to appeal the decision. I hope they win, but the track record is not good. If they continue to be part of the administration then this will only become more frequent.

      It may have been dealt a tough hand on planning but the rainbow coalition has played it badly. Its policies are consistently based on hope rather than expectation and the rhetoric from the leadership is detached from reality. What happened to the twice monthly planning committee meetings for example which were announced by our dear leader?

      The cost for this mess has been picked up by the residents, both literally in a financial sense but also in terms of having no coherent planning policy for the borough. The Milford Golf Course issue was always going to cause further trouble down the line – it was stunning to me that the inspector didn’t challenge it further at the time. Alfold is a mess which has rightly been covered in detail here. In Farnham there are half a dozen major developments which no one wants but are likely to proceed. In Hindhead the Royal School site – a central plank of LPP2 housing delivery policy and the site which held up the entire process – currently has a planning application in with objections from multiple statutory bodies who have raised concerns about the environment, countryside, flooding, loss of sports fields and many other issues. It’s hard to see how that one can progress in its current guise. Though no doubt if Waverley reject it Cala will take it to appeal and try their luck.

      The only winners of this mess have been the developers, and perhaps the lawyers, who are paid regardless of the outcome of these unwinnable appeals.

      It is only a matter of time before planning is taken out of Waverley’s hands. An unfortunate result – and one which will favour no one who lives in Waverley – but one which has been entirely predictable for at least 2 years now.

  2. Meanwhile there appears to be a mass exodus of the senior experienced planners from the department. Morale must be at an all time low not helped by the repeated head in the sand approach taken by Councillors.

    It’s about time the Council realised that the borough needs more housing and not to play loose and fast with money spent challenging decisions. If the JR is successful it doesn’t plug the repeatedly massive gap in the housing supply! We’ve seen it in Alfold that the JR’s are simply a political exercise to show face. Democracy at its finest

    1. Why the hell isn’t someone visiting the Bursar of Trinity College, Cambridge to tell him to pull his finger out and get on with the homes he has planning consent for at Dunsfold Aerodrome. Perhaps Paul Follows should read the runes to him and relate the damage his institution is doing to the borough. A Garden Village with 2,600 homes was promised. Where are they. Is that new road leading to nowhere?

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