COMMUNITIES Secretary Sajid Javid has given the green light for 1,800 new homes at the home of BBC’s Top Gear, Dunsfold Park aerodrome - endorsing Waverley’s Local Plan and in doing so safeguarding Farnham’s green spaces and the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan.

The cabinet minister delivered his long-awaited ruling on the former Second World War airfield south of Godalming last Thursday, backing an independent planning inspector’s recommendation to uphold Waverley Borough Council’s December 2016 decision to grant Dunsfold Airport Ltd and its partner the Rutland Group permission for the major new settlement.

In his decision letter, Mr Javid also backed the Local Plan inspector’s conclusion that the strategic site allocation at Dunsfold Aerodrome is a “key contributor to housing delivery” in the borough and able to accommodate up to 2,600 homes, as well as confirming that the council has a five-year housing land supply.

Dunsfold Park’s last “masterplan” to build a 2,601 home eco-village at the private aerodrome, on which Hollywood blockbusters such as James Bond’s Casino Royale have been filmed, was refused permission at appeal in 2009 after an inspector found the rural site was not sustainable.

However, having called in Dunsfold Park Ltd’s latest plans amid pressure from local objectors, Mr Javid recognised the borough’s housing need was “massively greater” than in 2009 and concluded the location of the aerodrome can no longer be considered inherently unsuitable - some 18 years after BAE Systems vacated the site.

Welcoming the decision, Waverley leader and Upper Hale councillor Julia Potts said: “I am delighted that the Secretary of State has granted planning permission as this development will provide significant benefits to the local community. Of the 1,800 new homes 540 will be affordable. The development will also create over 1,000 new jobs and secure substantial financial contributions for much-needed infrastructure.”

Dunsfold Park is the largest brownfield site in Waverley and is allocated for 2,600 new houses in Waverley’s newly-adopted Local Plan.

As a result, Mr Javid’s decision significantly relieves the pressure to build on further greenfield sites in the borough to meet Government housing targets, including a controversial requirement to meet 50 per cent of Woking’s unmet need, and particularly those surrounding Farnham and Cranleigh.

Symbolically, Mr Javid also dismissed plans for more than 350 homes in the Farnham area at appeal last Thursday - endorsing Waverley’s refusal of planning permission for 157 homes in Waverley Lane, 56 in Monkton Lane and 140 in Lower Weybourne Lane, against the recommendations of inspectors.

In all three cases he strongly backed the policies of the recently-adopted Local Plan and the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan - the latter of which is undergoing an early partial review after Waverley upped the town’s housing target, leading to fears that it had fatally undermined the town’s community-led planning blueprint.

These fears were dismissed by Waverley’s portfolio holder for planning Chris Storey in March, who expressed his belief the two local planning documents would together “kill” the appeals, and the councillor for Badshot Lea and Weybourne added he felt “vindicated” by Mr Javid’s rulings this week.

He said: “I’m very pleased personally that the Secretary of State has supported our view of the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan, and that the apprehensions that Farnham Town Council had about undermining the Neighbourhood Plan don’t seem to have come to pass.”

Welcoming the news, Dunsfold Park chief executive Jim McAllister said: “This is a very positive decision. The development of Dunsfold aerodrome will provide homes for all sections of the community including young families currently priced out of the area, create new jobs and deliver a range of new community facilities together with infrastructure improvements. We look forward to working with Waverley Borough Council to progress the detail.”

While outline consent has now been granted for the development at Dunsfold Park - which as well as 1,800 new homes, promises an expanded business park, a new primary school, community centre and supporting infrastructure - there are a number of processes that need to be worked through before any building work can commence, potentially in two to three years time.

However, campaigners may yet seek to delay the scheme further by challenging both the Dunsfold decision and Waverley’s Local Plan in the courts - despite the rulings of Waverley Borough Council, the Planning Inspectorate and now the Secretary of State weighing heavily against them.

Bob Lees, chairman of Protect Our Waverley, the leading opposition group to the proposal, said: “We are very disappointed that the Secretary of State has permitted this development to go ahead. While more housing is needed, it should be put in the right place and Dunsfold is clearly not the right place, with its totally inadequate infrastructure.

“We now trust the local authority and the site owner to work closely and constructively with the local community to ensure the adverse impacts of the development are minimised.”