Fringe Box



Waverley Council Has ‘Little Evidence’ of a Housing Strategy

Published on: 4 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 7 Jun, 2023

Lower Weybourne Lane Image Google Street View

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

A planning inspector has slammed Waverley Borough Council for having “little concrete evidence” to demonstrate a credible housing strategy.

The inspector’s remarks came as he dismissed an appeal by developers Bewley Homes over the authority’s refusal of 140 homes in Lower Weybourne Lane, Badshot Lea.

The inspector said his decision was instead based on the strong Farnham Neighbourhood Plan that protects the green countryside gap between Weybourne and Badshot Lea.

Inspector Darren Mcreedy also criticised the borough council’s lack of progress in updating its Local Plan to address the shortage of suitable land for housing.

Councils across the country should be able to demonstrate enough sites to fulfil its housing requirements for at least five years.

His report read: “The shortfall has persisted over a considerable period.

“The adoption of the Local Plan Part 2 is a step in the right direction. However, its housing site allocations are geographically contained and relatively small in a wider borough context.

“There is little concrete evidence to demonstrate that the council has a credible strategy, including progressing through an agreed timetable for updating the Local Plan Part 1, that will address the housing land supply issues of the borough on a wider basis anytime soon.”

He added “the picture” was better when the borough council was assessed on housing delivery, noting an improvement over the last four years, but that it could not “be used to justify or offset what is a poor housing land supply situation”.

In a statement issued by the council, members at Waverley were said to have “expressed relief” that the inspector dismissed the appeal.

They added that Mr McCreery found the adverse impacts of granting planning permission “would significantly outweigh the benefits” and allowing “development that so clearly goes against the wishes of the Neighbourhood Plan would be a serious undermining of it.

Cllr Liz Townsend

Waverley Borough Council portfolio holder for planning and regeneration, Cllr Liz Townsend, said: “We’re very pleased the inspector has supported our view that the proposed development would have been harmful to this area and would go against the clear policy in the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan.

“Despite seeing historically high levels of new homes built in recent years, we have continued to struggle to meet the Government’s targets for five-year housing land supply (5YHLS), in the main due to the fact that we have very little ability to speed up delivery on development sites that have stalled or are building out at a slower rate than predicted.

“Approximately 92 per cent of the borough is rural, with 61 per cent of the land in the Metropolitan Green Belt and 77 per cent of the borough’s countryside also designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and,or, Areas of Great Landscape Value.

“This means that allocating sites that are sympathetic to our countryside and protect its biodiversity is extremely challenging.

“Our officers are updating our housing delivery action plan, which will identify what barriers are impeding housing delivery of the approximately 4,200 dwellings that currently have planning permission across the borough and we will also be updating our 5YHLS position statement to include any new consents granted since the last update early this year.

“We will continue to engage directly with housebuilders to understand if there is anything else we can do to support quicker delivery of new homes that have been granted permission and we also have the allocated sites in Local Plan Part Two, which was adopted in February and this will help to deliver further homes to meet the government’s housing target for the borough – which includes a substantial uplift of approximately 90 per cent to tackle affordability issues.”

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