Flats are to be built on the former site of the Sturt family’s wheelwright shop in Farnham.

Waverley Borough Council’s western planning committee on Tuesday (June 28) granted permission for the 23 flats, none classed as affordable.

The vacant East Street site, last used as a car showroom, is to be demolished.

When the showroom was built in the late 1980s, they reinstated the building that featured in George Sturt’s 1923 book The Wheelwright Shop and the council’s conservation officer said: “It is the last tangible connection with this trade once so essential to the economy of Farnham”.

But the historic buildings officer said that although the building was the same design as originally constructed, only the roof structure was likely to be original.

The council received 45 letters of objection to the development, with The Arts in Crafts Movement in Surrey saying there “could be further burials of human remains” after a burial ground was uncovered when the showroom was built.

John Lomer, who lives on an adjacent street, said at the meeting: “The opposition to this scheme is massive.

“The Lionsgate project was passed on the basis that the buildings at the west end would be retained. Instead the developer left the building site surrounded by ugly hoardings and mess for the last four years.

“They now seek to intensively develop that area in a manner that was not what was agreed either by the council or by those that bought the apartments in Lionsgate.”

An agent for the applicant Farnham Estates, which developed the Lionsgate apartments next door, said: “Surely if there was any apparent heritage value in the existing building then it should be on your buildings of merit list, which it’s not.

“This is a real opportunity to provide decent homes for local people who want to live close to the town centre, which will ultimately take the pressure off developing on greenfield land.”

The development will have 12 car parking spaces and commercial space on the ground floor, with flats to the first, second and third floors, mostly with balconies.

Six members voted for the application, four against and one abstained.

Last Wednesday, the same committee unanimously refused an application for 65 houses, including 40 per cent affordable, at Hawthorns on Hale Road.

It is not a site allocated for housing in its development plan or the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan and the application attracted 71 letters of objection.

Councillors decided it would  cause material harm to the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside beyond the green belt.

But elected members clashed with council planning officers, who recommended the application be granted approval arguing a refusal would be hard to defend at appeal while the borough lagged behind on its government housing targets.