Borough councillors defied officer advice by voting to refuse Monkhill’s application to build homes on an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) in July – and on Tuesday, Waverley’s portfolio holder for planning, Councillor Andy MacLeod, announced Red Court has been replaced as a key housing site in its Local Plan Part Two (LPP2).
Instead, Waverley will promote housing development at a site at The Royal School in Hindhead – despite it sharing similar AGLV sensitivities and also sitting within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The borough council’s current administration has long sought to promote The Royal School site over Red Court as a key housing site in its Local Plan Part Two (LPP2), only to meet resistance from Natural England.
However, speaking to the Herald after Tuesday night’s executive meeting, Waverley leader Paul Follows said Natural England has now “reached a position that is close to where we need them to be” – and promised a further consultation on LPP2 as a result.
Cllr Follows added: “The consultation on the previous draft of LPP2 highlighted significant opposition from residents in regards to the proposed site at Red Court, opposition that was also expressed when they put in the planning application that was refused by the western planning committee.
“The executive has been for some months trying to find an alternative site that would allow us to remove Red Court from the plan that was also (as far as possible) more acceptable to the values of this council and to the people of Haslemere.
“As such we have been working with the community to identify a scheme that would be more compatible with the Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan whilst being on previously developed (brownfield) land in a sustainable location (and especially sustainable in terms of water supply).
“The site in Hindhead owned by the Royal School has come forward as a possible solution and will be the focus of an additional round of consultation that (pending council approval) should begin in October for six weeks.
“All being well we should be able to pass LPP2 before Christmas.”
As suggested by Cllr Follows, the switch also represents a boost for the emerging Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan, which resists development at Red Court. But Monkhill owner, Tony Lawson, has hit out at Waverley’s decision.
Mr Lawson said: “In planning terms, it is illogical that Waverley should prefer to support development at The Royal School over better, eminently more sustainable sites (with similar AGLV/AONB designations ) right here in Haslemere.
“The Royal School is remote for the town and its important railway connections. You can’t move from there without a car. Any development there certainly won’t benefit Haslemere’s shops or use its services.
“There is only one real reason for this decision. And it’s a simple one. There are less people living next to The Royal School who can raise a complaint, as compared to the better sites closer to town.
“It may be political expediency go with the ‘crowd’, however, it is certainly not good planning. It’s planning according to uproar, rather than planning by design.”