Developers may “seize” on Waverley’s new target of building nearly 200 extra homes a year as a result of a planning policy review, a councillor has warned.

Waverley Borough Council adopted ‘part one’ of its Local Plan, the document that sets planning policies in an area, in 2018 and has a statutory requirement to review it by the end of this month.

It estimates the cost of updating its plan would be £850,000.

National guidelines set the number of homes the borough council must provide each year. This currently works out to 549, but grows to 590 as it must also provide additional homes that cannot be met by Woking Borough Council. 

But revisions to national planning policy means Waverley’s new target would grow to 743 homes a year.

If Waverley chooses to adopt this new target, it could render all neighbourhood plans – including in Farnham and Haslemere – and the borough’s newly-made Local Plan Part 2 out of date immediately.

The updates were discussed at Waverley’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting on January 24.

Farnham Residents’ Group Councillor David Beaman raised concerns over the adoption of the 743 homes figure as part of any review saying it would “inevitably be seized on by developers to argue the case for further speculative development” because the current plan would be seen as “out of date”.

Officers told the meeting that any updates would not “give developers ammunition” and that the full council would need to provide “substantial reasons” if it decided not to update the plan.

The review has been recommended for approval and will be put before Waverley council’s executive committee on Tuesday, February 7.

During this period, the Local Plan will “remain the starting point for decisions on planning applications while an update is brought forward”, officers said.

The topic of Waverley’s Local Plan also reared its head at Farnham Town Council’s meeting last Thursday, when councillors unanimously agreed to write to Waverley requesting a ‘light touch’ review ahead of anticipated changes to national planning policy.

A written ministerial statement was published by the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities on December 6, 2022 which outlined forthcoming changes to planning.

A formal consultation on reforms to national planning policy began on December 22, 2022, with the government saying it intended to publish a revised national planning policy framework in spring 2023.