Developers Berkeley Homes has submitted a fresh planning application as it feels its original plan is no longer financially viable. Instead, it wants to reduce the parking allocation – originally 141.
Berkeley says reducing residents’ reliance on cars will help reduce pollution in the town centre – and the reduction of spaces is seen to “have a positive impact on air quality” by Waverley Borough Council’s environmental health officer Holly Appleton.
And Berkeley says the new development is in such a “highly sustainable” location the need for residents to have cars is reduced.
To counter that, there are fears the new residents will still keep their cars – and find the nearest road they can to park them without charge, clogging up roads.
Councillors are worried, though, that if they don’t grant permission, the Woolmead site will be allowed to remain as it is now – a pile of sand and rubble.
Cllr Andy MacLeod, Waverley’s portfolio holder for planning and a Farnham councillor, said: “The council is in a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ position.
“The decision will be taken by the independent Joint Planning Committee (JPC), most likely at its April meeting.
“The committee will have advice from the Waverley planning officers, including advice from Surrey County Council as the highways authority.
“If the application is approved, Berkeley Homes has stated development will resume shortly after the decision, probably in June.
“If it is refused, work on the development will continue to be suspended until market conditions change to make the development again financially viable in Berkeley Homes’ view.
“Berkeley Homes would also have the right to appeal against a refusal to the planning inspectorate.
“The consequences of the continued suspension of the development would be:
The loss of 138 dwellings towards the housing supply of Waverley’s Local Plan, which could contribute to Waverley failing to satisfactorily meet the government’s housing delivery test. This could have negative consequences for the borough’s five-year housing supply and thus its ability to successfully defend planning appeals; and
An unfinished building site at a key location in Farnham for an indeterminate period.
“This would have adverse effects on Farnham’s whole town centre and would largely negate the plans to improve East Street.
“This would have negative consequences for the success of the Brightwells development – and it should be noted a great deal of public money is invested in Brightwells.
“The consequence of granting the application would be 62 car parking spaces would be lost for residents in the development.
“Any residents who have a car, but not a parking space, would have to find a space either in a car park or on the unrestricted local roads within walking distance of the Woolmead development.
“Residents of the development would not be allowed to apply for an on-street parking permit in the nearby controlled parking zone.
“The Waverley executive is well aware of the strength of the public opposition being expressed to this application. However, the Berkeley Homes application has put us in a difficult position.
“Our key objective of putting the interests of residents first where we can is just not compatible with our inherited obligations to improve Farnham town centre, to make Brightwells a success and to safeguard public funds.”