The true cost of Waverley’s lack of a complete Local Plan has been exposed, after a Freedom of Information request by the Herald revealed the borough council has spent almost £900,000 contesting planning appeals in the past six years alone.
Councillors voted to adopt ‘Part Two’ of the borough’s planning blueprint on Tuesday night after a government inspector agreed the document “satisfies all legal requirements and meets all the tests set out in national planning policy”.
It comes a full five years after ‘Part One’ of the Local Plan was adopted in 2018 and means Waverley will soon have a complete, up-to-date local planning policy for the first time since the South East Plan was revoked in 2013.
This will put the borough in a stronger position to defend planning decisions at appeal, and will – Waverley hopes – stem the torrent of developers seeking to overturn the council’s democratically-reached planning decisions.
In Farnham alone, developers are currently seeking to overturn Waverley’s refusal of plans for a total of 456 new homes in the town area.
The FOI request by the Herald reveals just how costly fighting these appeals has been for the borough council – and taxpayers – since 2017.
According to the council’s response, Waverley has spent a combined total of £872,528.53 on legal fees, cost awards, consultancy fees and “miscellaneous” expenses relating to combating planning appeals between 2017 and 2023.
The highest legal fees were incurred in 2021-2022, when the council paid a total of £156,168 in legal fees alone, a cost award of £24,000 was made against the council, and a further £101,563.94 was paid out in consultancy fees.
This brings the total spend for that year to £281,730.94, which is significantly higher than the previous year’s total of £89,378.87, and ahead of the next most costly year, 2017-2018, when the council incurred a total bill of £212,937.75.
The figures released by the council do not include staff-related costs – meaning the real cost of combating appeals over the past six years is even higher.
Developers may appeal against Waverley’s planning decisions for a variety of reasons.
However, in recent years, the borough’s lack of an up-to-date Local Plan, and its shortfall against government housing targets, has become a key ground for appeal cited at hearings and inquiries.
Key planning appeals PENDING a decision (all in the Farnham area):
- Lower Weybourne Lane – 140 homes (original appeal dismissed by the secretary of state in June 2021).
- Waverley Lane – 146 homes.
- Summerfield Cottage – 30 homes.
- Land east of Green Lane – 131 homes.
- Oast House Lane – nine homes.
Key planning appeals LOST by the council in recent years:
- Hawthorns, Hale Road, Farnham – 65 homes, allowed at appeal in February 2023.
- The Old Mission Hall, Hookstile Lane, Farnham – 24 apartments, allowed in January 2023.
- Land east of Loxwood Road, Alfold – 80 homes allowed in March 2020.
- Waverley’s Folly, St George’s Road, Badshot Lea – 23 homes allowed in December 2019.
- Land at Firethorn Farm, Ewhurst – 49 homes allowed in February 2019.
Appeals WON by the council in recent years:
- Farnham Park Hotel – 97 homes dismissed at appeal in March 2018.
- Green Lane Farm, Badshot Lea – 50 homes dismissed at appeal in December 2020.