A FORMER council leader and mayor has hit out at the “arrogance” of some councillors after Waverley’s western planning committee only narrowly passed an application for extended community facilities at The Spire Church in South Street.
After a feisty debate on Monday, the application for a new single-storey extension to the north-western side of the church was eventually granted full planning permission, with five members voting in favour to four against.
But not before Carole Cockburn, long-standing Tory councillor for The Bourne, blasted colleagues for an email campaign against the church – stirred up by the persistent objections and counter proposals of planning watchdog the Farnham Society.
“I have been horrified at the number of emails that have been flying around about this, and the arrogance of certain members of this committee who think they have the right to tell this church what to do,” she told councillors.
“For goodness sake, be professional. Look at this as a building, look at what they’re trying to achieve, weigh up the harms and the benefits and come to a conclusion – but only on planning grounds.”
Earlier in the meeting, Robert Blower, architect and Farnham Society committee member, told councillors the new extension would harm a heritage asset, and suggested an “alternative approach”.
This, he said, “retains and upgrades the existing 1929 extension, and avoids any harm while providing all the required amenities”.
However, Mrs Cockburn added the Arthur Stedman-designed extension, which the new building will replace, is not “a thing of beauty”, and that “apart from the Farnham Society, I haven’t heard a single person criticise this”.
Also addressing members on Monday, Spire Church project manager Nick Savill said the church’s “outdated” facilities are “bursting at the seams” and need renovation.
“This is no carbunkle, this is attractive and well-designed architecture,” he said, adding parishioners “love this new proposal” and finally called on the committee to “show your impartiality to the lobbying of the Farnham Society”.