Are Local Plan changes good for Haslemere or bad for borough?
The decision, reached at a special council meeting on Wednesday, September 22, came amid fierce opposition to the Red Court plans by residents - but was also set against fears it could increase the pressure to build on Farnham’s green spaces.
To the dismay of Haslemere residents, the woodland and paddocks between Red Court and Scotland Lane was initially proposed to accommodate 50 new homes in the borough’s Local Plan Part Two - setting out how Waverley plans to meet government housing targets over the next.
But at last week’s meeting it was removed, with The Royal Prep School site at Hindhead added in its place. It is hoped The Royal site will accommodate up to 90 homes, once the prep school joins the senior school in Farnham Lane.
The change has, however, been slammed by Tory councillor for The Bourne, Carole Cockburn, who claims it will set the Local Plan process back further - and potentially open the floodgates to unwanted development should the Royal School site not deliver.
At least 316 houses need to be delivered by 2032 in Haslemere, which has a population of around 17,000.
And defending the Local Plan changes, council leader Paul Follows (Lib Dem, Godalming Central and Ockford) said the addition of the Royal School site means Haslemere will be able to meet its targets without the need to build on the Red Court site, which he added "had been unpopular locally" and was the subject of a recent planning application that was refused permission.
But the revisions to the Local Plan, and the council’s refusal of Red Court, will be tested quickly, with Somerset-based developer Redwood (South West) appealing to the planning inspectorate to overturn Waverley’s refusal of its 50-home scheme.
Another change to Waverley’s Local Plan Part Two agreed last week involves increasing the number of suggested dwellings at the Old Grove, High Pitfold, Hindhead, from 18 to 40.
And land in the Witley and Milford area is set to accommodate around 200 dwellings, mostly at Secretts, Hurst Farm.
As of April, Godalming had already exceeded by 177 its minimum housing target of 1,520 dwellings, so no more allocations were required there.
Farnham was handed a minimum housing target of 2,780 for the period 2013 to 2032 during the Local Plan Part One (LPP1) process, and allocated strategic sites for these homes through the adopted Farnham Neighbourhood Plan.
Changes to Haslemere sites were made as a result of a public consultation between November 2020 and January 2021, to which 418 people responded.
Cllr Follows said: "I was a backbencher when LPP1 went through and it was palpable how many groups were ignored.
"The general planning system is geared towards developers at every stage. But this version is a good compromise between the needs that the planning system puts upon us and the wishes of people, particularly in Witley and in Haslemere, to have a plan that is complementary to their neighbourhood plan."
However, in a letter to this week’s Herald, printed in full on Pages 23 to 24, the driving force behind Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan, Cllr Cockburn, has again expressed her dismay at delays to the Local Plan process.
She writes: "After this week’s decision, we have returned to where we were in 2020. As a result, key policies on the amount and location of housing in LPP1 are considered to be out of date and, therefore, neighbourhood plan policies across the borough are also weakened in the planning process, including those in newly-made plans, unless they allocate sites."
The amended Local Plan was approved by 38 votes to four last Wednesday, with Cllr Cockburn, Steve Cosser (Con, Godalming Charterhouse), Jerry Hyman (Farnham Residents, Farnham Firgrove) and Anna James (Con, Chiddingfold and Dunsfold) voting against and Jenny Else (Con, Elstead and Thursley) abstaining. The public will be given six weeks to comment on the Haslemere changes before the Local Plan is submitted to government for inspection.
An inspector’s report is expected in September 2022. When the consultation opens it will be available at: https://waverley.inconsult.uk
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