WAVERLEY’S new portfolio holder for planning has expressed confidence Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan will “kill” five upcoming appeals for more than 500 homes in the town area, despite councillors agreeing Waverley’s new higher housing target this week.
Christopher Storey, the Tory councillor for Weybourne and Badshot Lea, took over the reigns as Waverley’s executive member for planning from Brian Adams this month, and has been immediately thrown in the deep end - presiding over key landmarks in the development of the borough’s Local Plan and Farnham’s Brightwells redevelopment.
Last week Waverley invited members of the press to a briefing on the Local Plan, just weeks after a government planning inspector declared Waverley’s planning blueprint “sound” subject to a series of major modifications including raising the borough’s housing target to 590 homes per year.
This includes an additional allocation of 450 homes in Farnham, on top of the 2,330 already proposed over the plan period up to 2032, forcing an early review of Farnham’s own Neighbourhood Plan, adopted just last July, to find new housing sites.
Responding, architect of the town plan, town council leader Carole Cockburn told the Herald the inspector’s decision represented a “cruel blow” to the community-led planning document and the 10,000-plus people who voted for the plan in a referendum last April.
However, Mr Storey took a different stance to Mrs Cockburn, echoing inspector Jonathan Bore’s comments that: “These changes [to the Local Plan] will not diminish the importance or relevance of the work carried out to produce the Neighbourhood Plan, which will remain part of the statutory development plan.”
Addressing specifically five pending appeals for more than 500 homes spread across sites in Waverley Lane, Monkton Lane, Lower Weybourne Lane, Folly Hill and behind Farnham Park Hotel in Hale Road, Mr Storey added: “I am very confident that the Neighbourhood Plan and the Local Plan will kill all five of those.”
His comments came just a day before 11th hour protests failed to force a rethink last Tuesday, and the new higher housing target of building 590 homes a year in 14 years was agreed by Waverley Borough Council.
Following a special executive meeting at 5pm, 41 members of the full council meeting at 7pm voted in favour of the inspector’s changes to part one of Waverley’s local plan in order to speed up its adoption and “take back control” from speculative property developers.
Farnham Residents opposition leader Jerry Hyman was a lone objector, again arguing there was insufficient evidence for the mitigation measures proposed to protect the borough’s Special Protection Areas, while councillors Andy MacLeod (Farnham Residents), Kevin Deanus (Alford, Tory) and Paul Follows (Godalming, Lib Dem) abstained.
Responding to a last-minute challenge by Protect Our Waverley (POW) campaign that Tuesday’s decision was unlawful, because the council had potentially breached its constitution by holding the local plan meetings too close together, Waverley leader Julia Potts (Upper Hale, Tory) said it would be “very disappointing” if POW pursued its challenge.
“Waverley can proceed provided it is aware of the risk of challenge,” she said.
POW had previously called on all borough councillors to defer a decision on whether to approve the modified local plan, until the appeal decision on whether 1,800 houses can be built at Dunsfold Park - which has been allocated 2,600 new homes in the local plan. The verdict is due by March 31.