WAVERLEY’S largest brownfield site, Dunsfold Park, is to be sold by Trinity College Cambridge – with concerns than an expected delay to the 1,800-home ’garden village’ could open the door to speculative development across the borough.
The former Second World War aerodrome south of Godalming is allocated to take up to 2,600 new homes in Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan up to 2032 – with planning permission already granted for an initial 1,800 homes on the site.
However, Waverley leader John Ward informed members at Tuesday’s annual council meeting that owner Trinity College Cambridge is in the process of selling Dunsfold Park, potentially setting back the development plans by at least 12 months.
This delay could have serious implications for Waverley’s ability to contest unwanted planning applications at appeal, with the council already struggling to prove the required five-year housing land supply demanded by the government.
Cllr Ward, the Farnham Residents councillor for Farnham Shortheath and Boundstone, said: "Dunsfold Airport Ltd has informed Waverley Borough Council that there will be changes to land ownership at Dunsfold Park and that Trinity College expects to undertake a process to pass its investment to a new land owner over the next 12 months.
"As the site is so significant for the local area and for the borough, the council has offered to assist in the smooth transition and has provided information to Trinity on the importance of development at the park.
"We are interested in exploring with them all of the options for the future ownership of the park and how an exemplary sustainable development will be delivered on the timescales of the existing planning permission.
"This is a very significant step and an opportunity to ensure that the park achieves our high ambitions in the context of post-Covid recovery. We look forward to engaging closely with Trinity College’s transition team in the coming weeks and months.
"Waverley officers are assessing the decision and will be preparing further information as we receive more detail from Trinity College and its agents, and will report back to councillors as this transfer proceeds."
Responding, Waverley’s Conservative group leader, Cllr Julia Potts, said: “I am very concerned at the announcement that there will be a delay in the development of the new garden village at Dunsfold Park.
“This puts the rest of the borough at major risk of further inappropriate development, particularly Alfold, Cranleigh and Farnham, which will not be popular with residents.
"It is essential that the executive and senior officers of the council do all that they possibly can to work proactively to ensure the development at Dunsfold Park goes ahead to avoid the knock on effect of failure on the rest of the borough where sites outside the Green Belt will be a jeopardy.”
The councillor for Frensham, Churt, Tilford & Dockenfield added: “I shall be seeking, as a matter of urgency, assurances from Waverley’s ’Rainbow Alliance’ and senior officers that this will be the case and they fully recognise the significance of this issue”.
Past owners The Rutland Group first proposed a new settlement at Dunsfold Park with its 2008 masterplan for the site. This was refused planning permission by Waverley, and later dismissed at appeal.
But in 2013, The Rutland Group transferred ownership of Dunsfold Park to Trinity College Cambridge, and the two parties entered into a long-term partnership to progress the development proposals.
With government housing targets piling pressure on Waverley to find more sites for new homes, the borough council’s previous Tory administration softened its objection to homes at Dunsfold.
And in February 2018, Waverley’s Local Plan was approved, including an allocation of 2,600 homes at Dunsfold Park as part of plans for more than 8,000 homes across the borough over 16 years.
Just a month later, in March 2018, the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government granted outline planning permission for a new Surrey village of 1,800 homes to be created at Dunsfold Park – based on an illustrative masterplan with scope for further development.