GOVERNMENT housing targets for Waverley until 2032 leapt from 519 to 590 per year, following a packed six-day public examination at council offices to test if its draft Local Plan is “sound”.
Significantly, however, Inspector Jonathan Bore raised no objection to Waverley’s allocation of 2,600 new homes to Dunsfold airfield, which could be a trump card for the council’s defence at next week’s planning appeal inquiry to determine if it should have granted outline planning consent for 1,800 homes.
Despite the setback, campaign group Protect Our Waverley (POW), which is fighting the airfield housing scheme, said it “remained confident” the application would be rejected at appeal.
A further obstacle to building the thousands of new houses now required was also removed at the examination, when Waverley announced last Thursday, the final day, that the upcoming judicial review had been cancelled to test the legality of granting that outline consent.
In a further dramatic twist, questions were raised about Mr Bore’s suitability to scrutinise Waverley’s local plan, after it emerged he signed off the refurbishment of London’s Grenfell Tower. Police have now launched a criminal investigation into the fire that claimed the lives of at least 80 people.
Previously Mr Bore was executive director for planning and borough development for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where he signed off the details of the tower block’s refurbishment, including the new external cladding back in 2015.
Responding to concerns, a Planning Inspectorate spokesman said: “Planning inspectors play an important role in examining local plans impartially and publicly. A local plan sets out local planning policies and identifies how land is used. Jonathan Bore is an experienced and capable Inspector. The Planning Inspectorate has full confidence in his ability to examine Waverley Borough Council’s local plan, ensuring it is sound.”
Setting the increased housing target, Mr Bore said: “Housing requirements need to address the serious problem of lack of affordable housing in the borough.”
Mr Bore told the council the higher figure also included taking 50 per cent of Woking’s unmet housing need, as it is the “least constrained” authority between Woking, Guildford and Waverley to provide the overall number required by the three authorities.
Waverley Forum, which represents 10 property developers and landowners, had called for an increased target of 635 new homes per year but agreed to accept the lower figure.
Responding at the hearing to the higher housing target, Waverley’s head of planning Liz Sims said: “We fully recognise the benefit of an adopted plan as a better position to resist speculative, inappropriate developments in the borough. But some changes are not welcome, particularly the housing uplift required to meet Woking’s unmet need.”
The council will launch a public consultation on the proposed modifications Mr Bore advised before re-submitting them. The inspector will then produce a report indicating any further modifications to enable the plan to be adopted.
Waverley now needs to address how the increase in housing numbers can be distributed appropriately so that it is in accordance with the submitted strategy of the local plan.
Welcoming Mr Bore’s support for Dunsfold Park as a suitable site for 2,600 new homes, a borough council spokesman said: “The inspector’s view from the hearings on the spatial strategy, which includes Dunsfold, is clearly helpful to the council’s case at the public inquiry.
“Waverley will be submitting Mr Bore’s expressed view on Dunsfold from the local plan public hearings to the public inquiry inspector.
“The council and POW have both submitted their evidence to the public inquiry and it is now for the public inquiry to determine the application. The council will be publishing information about the inquiry and guidance for members of the public who would like to attend on its website later this week.”
The Dunsfold Park Inquiry starts at Waverley’s Godalming offices next Tuesday (July 18) and is scheduled to last 12 days.
Dunsfold Park chief executive Jim McAllister said: “We have noted the remarks of the inspector at the local plan hearing and agree that the development of Dunsfold Aerodrome is a sustainable approach.
“As a large brownfield site Dunsfold Aerodrome can make a positive contribution to meeting Waverley’s housing needs. The development of the aerodrome will provide a range of homes for families wishing to live in the borough, including affordable, and will direct development away from green fields, create new jobs and deliver a range of new community facilities and infrastructure improvements.”