A TWO-PRONGED appeal for support from the town council was made by objectors battling a development of up to 40 new homes.
Former town mayor Michael Barnes, who heads Longdene Action Group, attended Haslemere Town Council’s planning committee last Thursday to present objections to two schemes concerning the same site at Longdene House, Hedgehog Lane.
The site adjoins the land at Sturt Farm given outline planning consent in 2015 for up to 135 houses.
Plans were ‘firmed up’ in March 2018 for 132 homes at Sturt Farm, including 53 affordable houses, and a public green space extending to eight and a half acres to compensate for the loss of land for housing in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
But Mr Barnes revealed the Sturt Farm development site has just been put on the market, meaning a new owner could reapply for a different scheme.
At last week’s meeting, the campaign group called on the town council to lodge a formal objection to an application for up to 29 homes at Longdene House that was refused by Waverley planners in 2018 but has gone to appeal.
It triggered a protest petition signed by more than 250 members of the group, objecting to the AONB development.
The appeal by Monkhill Ltd was lodged shortly after a planning inspector rejected a similar scheme to build up to 29 homes on the site in January.
The group was disappointed that the town council made no comment on the 2018 application and urged members to remedy that by objecting in the appeal consultation.
Reasons for objection, the group stated, were that the planning inspector who refused a similar scheme in January had said the Longdene site was a separate entity to Sturt Farm and Longdene had been removed as a Haslemere site allocation in Local Plan Part 2.
Responding, planning committee members agreed unanimously to send a letter of objection to the Planning Inspectorate.
But, committee members did not support the group’s request for the town council to make representations to Waverley against a permitted development order (PDO) for a change of use from office to residential -and conversion to 14 apartments - for Longdene House.
The group protested that a PDO was not subject to the same scrutiny as a planning application, but allowing it “on the nod” would pave the way for the residential development now subject to appeal.
In support of its argument, the group told the town council that Surrey Highways had responded to the 2018 plan that has gone to appeal to say they would not agree to the application proceeding unless Longdene House was converted to one dwelling prior to the first of the new houses being occupied.
Noting that Haslemere Town Council had successfully protested to Waverley Borough Council about the harmful impact that PDOs were having in Beacon Hill, the group urged councillors to object to the damage in the AONB, if Longdene House - a picturesque Victorian mansion - was altered.
Mr Barnes said: “Longdene House is a heritage asset. It is a fine example of a Victorian country house with an interesting history.
“The government inspector who recently dismissed the appeal was clear that the house adds to the landscape character and scenic beauty of the AONB in this part of Haslemere and should be protected.
“We are concerned that changing its use could involve internal and external changes which could lessen the house’s role as a valued Haslemere asset.
“Longdene House presently provides a valuable service for business in Haslemere. It provides a hub for several individual businesses and it is difficult to see where this facility could be replicated in Haslemere.
“We believe business is good for Haslemere and facilitating its movement elsewhere is not in the interests of the town.”
Responding, planning committee members said that as there was already a PDO for the change of use that expired on March 2, and as the significance of a building was not a technical reason to object to a PDO, there were no grounds to object.