businessman and developer Tony Lawson went public hitting back at objectors quoted by The Herald, who oppose his three-part “hybrid” application for the town’s Sturt Farm site.
The application is linked to the outline planning consent Mr Lawson was granted in 2015 to build 135 homes at Sturt Farm – an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). A major prong of the three-part application proposes creating a 20-acre country park, by changing agricultural land to public open space.
The application also seeks consent to relocate an agreed access road to the 135 homes and to build 14 houses at Longdene House.
Haslemere Town Council has recommended the application be granted but the Haslemere Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have also objected.
“A few locals and apparently some councillors still want to stymy the original consent for housing,” Mr Lawson told The Herald. “One maintains we only want to move the access because it’s cheaper. The consented route was never the preferred one. It was the only one available at the time.
“Now we have options, it’s natural we seek to pursue the best one. If it’s more economic that can only help progress matters.
“The Haslemere Society has already argued the site isn’t deliverable because of problems. It’s true there are extraordinary costs, and savings would be helpful, but we remain determined to deliver all of the houses, including the 54-plus affordable homes. Let’s not forget there are 1,700 people are on the borough housing list.
“The new proposal will allow for a more efficient site layout and the possibility of building the maximum permissible number of homes thereon.
“Quite simply, if we cannot get all of the houses on Sturt Farm, others will try to make up numbers elsewhere in the town – more sites more disruption.
“The ‘antis’ argue the newly proposed route will affect the group of listed buildings there.
“It is self-evident to anyone that the original road plans cause more harm. You have to demolish much of the wall along Sturt Road, carve up the hillside behind and make island sites out of Sturt Farm and Sturt Farm Barn.
“CPRE argues our new proposal will affect the ‘amenity of the houses’. Without doubt the consented plan will affect them more. CPRE states there is no proven need for SANG, which is disingenuous. Failure to guarantee SANG could lead to WBCs Local Plan being rejected yet again by the Planning Inspectorate.
“The application is also for 14 homes at Longdene, in part a brownfield site. Haslemere Society objects as it is in ANOB. But Waverley are relying on 17 such sites for their housing supply. Two of them form the eastern frontage of Sturt Road, part of which sits on top of a 25-foot high wall, visible to much of Haslemere.
“The town plan called for our land to be protected as ‘a lung for Haslemere’. Our proposal opens up 20 acres of land, with an endowment to see it maintained as public open space in perpetuity.
“A minority of councillors, insist the whole SANG issue and us wanting to move the road is just an excuse to make more money.
“They forget I offered a large proportion of Sturt Farm to an independent trust, free of charge, solely on the basis it was developed 100 per cent as affordable homes for teachers, firemen, nurses and policemen. Key workers we needed to keep in the area.
“When I offer to give land away for free, the nimbys object.
“When we work to ensure the maximum number of affordable homes, those intent on stopping development object. However, when it comes to providing much-needed houses, it’s clearly wrong that those views should prevail.
Parents know something has to be done to secure homes for their children. Our MP Jeremy Hunt realises this and has come out in favour of more housing. Most reasonable people accept that we have to do something about the housing problem we face. Let’s hope reasoned argument prevails.”