Fringe Box



Waverley Planning Approval for Green Field Site – A Decision Residents Were Dreading

Published on: 8 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 16 Feb, 2024

Protestors outside Waverley Borough Council ahead of the planning vote Photo: Daniel Husseini

By Daniel Husseini

Protestors rallied outside Waverley Borough Council yesterday evening (February 7) ahead of a planning decision vote they had been dreading.

The “Save Historic Binscombe” group led by local resident Stephen Clarke chanted outside the offices whilst holding placards as they pleaded for councillors to “Save Binscombe Now” and “Protect Our Heritage”.

The proposal for 27 homes to be built on a green field site near a conservation area in Binscombe had come under great opposition in the months leading up to yesterday’s vote. Some 600 objections were sent in to the council’s planning portal alongside 370 petition signatures against the development plans.

The controversial development plans had sparked anger in the community with one resident
commenting they “feel strongly that this ancient part of Surrey is worth preserving” and they fear
that, “If allowed, this new housing estate together with 57 car parking spaces, would permanently
scar the rural landscape.”

The current appearance of the site where houses are to be built Photo: Stephen Clarke

At the WBC Planning Committee yesterday, concerned Binscombe residents filled the public gallery as they watched Stephen Clarke argue on their behalf for the plans to be rejected.

Mr Clarke noted that the “site is highly sensitive being only 30 metres from the Binscombe
conservation area…the proposed large scale scheme would have a harmful adverse effect on
designated heritage assets and would result in a fundamental change to the character of the area.”

In his lengthy statement he claimed: “…the current proposal is even worse than the previous rejected scheme in terms of conservation alignment and visibility. It is simply a group of appallingly designed buildings, the most prominent of which is only 20 metres from the lane.

The site location is close to a conservation area. Photo: Stephen Clarke

“It will damage the historic environment and does nothing to respect the unique character of Binscombe a unique hamlet first recorded in 1227. Godalming Trust, CPRE and Compton Parish Council have all rejected it.”

Clarke went on to complain of: “…many factual errors in the [planning] officer’s report”. Noting that Historic England was not consulted he opined: “They are a heritage body that should be consulted when a proposal will cause harm to heritage assets and even the applicant’s own heritage statement admits there will be harm.”

Concluding, he reminded councillors that: “…they have an obligation in law to protect the environment for future generations. It would be a tragedy if this application were approved.”

Cllr Joan Heagin

But Cllr Joan Heagin told the meeting that Godalming Town Council’s supported the application: “On balance, when we considered this last August, we did decide that the additional housing is of significant benefit to the local community and therefore [we] could support the application…however we also caveated the support on the basis of safe vehicle entry and exit to the site…and we also expressed concern on the potential flooding risk.”

In response to the Binscombe residents, Cllr Heagin said, “I do want to elaborate on the reasons why on balance we feel on this is an application to support despite the level of local objections. Many of them are understandable but planning is about balance.

How the new development could look like from above. Image: Opus Works

“The site has a history that is relevant here, it used to be in the green belt but was taken out in 2018 and the reason for that was to provide housing. There are significant differences between this application for housing and the one that was refused in 2019. 2019 would have only given six affordable houses this one delivers 27. That’s a more than fourfold increase in the number of affordable homes.”

The councillor went on to make the point that “this is housing that we desperately need. There are over 100 Farncombe residents on the Waverley housing register those 27 new homes could make a huge contribution to meeting that need.”

Councillors from all parties then went on to make statements explaining their views on the proposals.

Cllr Steve Williams

Cllr Steve Williams noted the many letters of objection but countered that the housing scheme was a considerable improvement on the original proposal in 2018 and it was “one of the only schemes to have 100% affordable homes.”

Cllr Paul Rivers

Binscombe councillor Paul Rivers stated that supporting the development was an “easy and straightforward decision” as he stressed the council is “desperately short of affordable housing” with a “waiting list of over 1,000 families”.

The overall feeling in the chamber from councillors was that the need for housing outweighed theheritage concerns over the site and on balance the land would deliver a ”major public benefit”.

After the debate the application was put to a formal vote with all councillors that were present voting in favour apart from one abstention. The vote result was met with audible gasps from the public gallery and sighs of frustration.

Links to the planning application and the petition against it below.

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