A CAMPAIGN group opposing plans for 29 houses in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at Longdene House, Haslemere, has been accused of spreading misinformation by the landowner.
Estate owner Tony Lawson, who has outline planning consent to build 132 houses in the AONB at neighbouring Sturt Farm, called on Longdene Action Group to withdraw its “misleading” statements concerning his bid for 29 new homes, or his property company Monkhill will sue for damages.
The letter, sent by Monkhill Ltd to most of the 250 signatories of a Longdene Action Group petition objecting to a scheme for 29 houses later rejected on appeal, included a stamped addressed envelope and asked recipients to respond confirming if they were group members, stating the company had no wish “to embroil innocent parties in this matter”.
It took direct aim at the group’s spokesperson, former town mayor Michael Barnes, stating: ‘If we fail to get satisfaction we will be pursuing Mr Barnes, and members of the so-called Longdene Action Group for damages”.
The letter concluded: “To be clear, we fully accept that all members of the public are entitled to comment and make representations regarding any planning application that affects them. However, there is no licence to dissemble or otherwise mislead inspectors, planning officers, committees or the general public at large and expect to do so with impunity and not be called to account.”
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We find the contents of this letter ‘high-handed’ and a little threatening”.
Another told the Herald he objected to the “attempt to stop his democratic right to make representations”, adding he and many other recipients had contacted the group to support its actions.
Longdene Action Group has declined to comment.
Responding, estate owner Tony Lawson said he had detailed to the group privately the representations that Monkhill claim were misleading, concerning both the plan to build 29 houses and a plan to build two houses at Longdene House.
Mr Lawson said: “The letter circulated was no threat. It was a statement of fact. If people attack our applications with misinformation then we will take action against them.
“I am bound to defend my company and what we have is a situation in which people continually practice misinformation. They may have strong views, but out of decency should check their facts.”
Mr Lawson added he had also made a formal complaint to Waverley objecting a planning committee councillor had not declared an interest when objecting to the scheme for 29 houses.
The complaint was not upheld and he now plans to take the issue up with the ombudsman.
He is still hopeful he can get consent at appeal for the scheme, after winning the right to a High Court challenge against the Secretary of State for Housing to be heard in April.