MORE than 300 houses are to be built on fields in Farnham, despite fears about sewage capacity and traffic congestion.
Waverley Borough Council granted permission in principle last night (Tuesday 18) to develop land north of West Street, near the Wrecclesham/A31 Coxbridge Roundabout.
The 320 homes, which will range in size from one to four-bed, must include 96 classed as affordable.
Planning committee member Jerry Hyman, who voted against the development, said: “We’ve found from the eastern villages how you get sewage coming up in people’s gardens, because the promises of improvement don’t get done.
“One real mistake in a decision like this can do terrible things for Farnham’s future.”
The council received 102 objections and one letter of support for building on the previously undeveloped land, currently used by its Coxbridge Farm owners for grazing.
Most objectors did not want to lose countryside and also anticipated further traffic congestion, saying West Street is “already at a standstill at peak hours”.
Cllr George Hesse, who represents the Farnham Castle ward where the housing is proposed, said he appreciated there had been a lot of “negative sentiment from residents, which is understandable”.
But he said Coxbridge Farm is allocated for housing in the Farnham neighbourhood plan, which was voted for in a referendum, and “is probably the only major bulwark we’ve got against uncontrolled development”.
Farnham Bourne councillor Carole Cockburn added: “I think we have no choice whatsoever. We’re in a parlous state in terms of five-year housing land supply.
“Of course we started off with the idea that Farnham was full and we didn’t want another house, but then reality dawned and we had to put them somewhere, and this is the largest site in the strategic plan.”
Hindhead councillor Peter Isherwood was concerned about viability studies coming in and ‘wiping out’ the affordable housing.
“We must ensure the 30 per cent affordable homes actually goes through,” he said. “I’m afraid developers have won too many of these battles of late.”
He added: “We have problems all over this borough with foul water. Within a couple of miles from my own home, Thames Water are unable to cope with the amount of foul water and tankers come in on a weekly basis. It’s simply not good enough.”
Cllr Jacquie Keen said: “Viability studies and foul water – this is where we came unstuck in Haslemere.
“Suddenly they came back and said, ‘Sorry you can’t have your affordable housing, because we’ve now got to put in extra foul water pipes’.”
Waverley’s planning officer Ruth Dovey said this was not a risk because Thames Water was paying for the sewage upgrade work, not the developer.
Cllr Hyman was not convinced. “We’ve got no guarantees that the sewerage is going to get done,” he said.
Another bone of contention was the single point of access to the new estate, from West Street opposite Bourne Wood Manor Care Home.
Haslemere East and Grayswood councillor Simon Dear said they should “split the burden of traffic” across two access points.
“It seems to me crazy to restrict a development of 28 odd acres to one single access,” he said.
“It must inevitably be the most enormous bottleneck emerging from the site.
“It irritates me, frankly, that something that appears to be so obvious has been disregarded.”
The housing proposal includes 634 parking spaces.
Cllr Hesse said the idea of a second junction had been discussed. He said: “We had a lot of representations from residents not to put the junction opposite their homes because of headlight problems at night.”
Surrey County Council officer Richard Cooper said: “We’ve assessed the capacity of that junction to serve the site and it’s shown to operate well within capacity.
“From a purely traffic impact point, it’s suitable to serve the site.
He said the fire and rescue service was also satisfied it was acceptable.
The housing proposed includes 41 one-bed, 64 two-bed, 77 three-bed and 42 four-bed properties. Buildings will mostly be two storey but could be up to three storeys where on a downhill slope.
Chris Lyons, director of planning consultancy Tetra Tech, said: “We believe it will create an attractive community on the edge of Farnham that residents too will be proud of.”
Officers recommended approval for the outline application, with conditions including £25,000 for an improved pedestrian crossing at the Crondall Lane junction with West Street.
The cost for this will be shared with Taylor Wimpey, the developer of Abbey View in Crondall Lane.
Twelve in the Western planning committee voted in favour and one against.
Approval depends on the housing, communities and local government secretary agreeing with council officers that an environmental impact assessment is not required.