DELIVERY of a controversial development of up to 135 new homes at Haslemere’s Sturt Farm, moved a step closer last week, after Waverley planners agreed a contorversial access road could be relocated.

The major housing scheme in an area of outstanding natural beauty was granted outline planning consent in March 2015.

It triggered a legal challenge, but calls by objectors for a judicial review of Waverley’s decision, was refused by the High Court.

Subsequent proposals to relocate the approved access road and to enlarge and extend the existing entrance serving a cluster of four homes at the farm – three of which are grade II listed – also caused an outcry.

The town council and the Haslemere Society joined 60 other protestors in objecting the plan to extend an existing access road serving the existing four homes would have a detrimental impact on their historic setting.

Keeping up the pressure in a last-ditch appeal, the Waverley branch of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) called for last week’s joint planning committee meeting to be deferred.

Members had been asked to support their officers recommendation that the access should be relocated.

But CPRE’s objection that there was no time to examine “a huge swathe” of new information was overruled by officers on the grounds the additional information did not change the proposal and CPRE was not a statutory consultee.

Officers recommended the access should be relocated because it would deliver 132 new homes, including four affordable houses, which would be 11 more than could be achieved using the approved access.

They concluded the increase in houses was a significant public benefit that outweighed the “adverse impact in terms of heritage”, given “the lack of alternative deliverable sites” to meet the borough}s housing targets.

The application for a 5.5m wide carriageway with a 1.8m footway on either side between Sturt Farm House and Sturt Barns and the new development, also includes the provision of 8.6 acres of adjoining farmland for public recreation.

Urging the committee to support the recommendation, Concise Construction planning consultant Nigel Whitehead said at the meeting: “It enables the maximum number of houses to be delivered and helps negate the possible need for more housing sites elsewhere in Haslemere.

“It has been two years and 10 months and not a single brick has been laid.

“Endorse this and allow us to move forward immediately with this strategically important housing scheme.”

Objecting to the scheme, councillor Stephen Mulliner said: “You cannot deny this has great importance as a heritage asset and we should go to great efforts to preserve it.

“A further 27 houses have been agreed up the hill, so we should not give as much weight to 11 more if we get this access. These historic houses will look completely different if we drive an access through them.”

Agreeing, Thursley councillor David Else said: “It’s a choice between a lot of engineering work that will cost the developer money, as against driving a 5.5m road through the middle, totally destroying the setting of what were originally agricultural buildings.

“Hundreds of cars will be powering past them, which could be quite frightening.”

But the majority of committee members spoke up in favour of the application, noting two of the homeowners directly affected had withdrawn their objections.

They also favoured the new entrance because it would not require the engineering works needed to create the consented access through a 12ft wall.

Bramley councillor Maurice Byham said: “It is clear the new access is preferable regarding safety, except for the listed buildings.

“There are two modern garages in front. I understand some of the owners are happier with this than the intrusion of a road to the back. This is a better and acceptable alternative.”

Agreeing, councillor Carole Coburn said they were not dealing with an “untouched cluster” of listed buildings.”

Frensham’s Brian Adams, Waverley’s portfolio holder for planning, said: “These are not all heritage assets. There is no cohesion, they are all broken up.

“The benefits of 132 new houses far outweighs the loss of amenity to a few homes by the entrance.”

Given permission to speak as a Haslemere ward member at the end of the meeting, Jim Edwards urged the committee to refuse the plan.

“Substantial harm will be created by at least 400 traffic movements a day in a setting that is unique in Haslemere,” he protested.

“The 17th-century setting has been enhanced, but come on - this is a major development and unacceptable.”