A developer has finally been given the green light to build 56 new homes by a government appeal inspector – over-riding a previous dismissal by the Secretary of State.
Inspector Jonathon Parsons' decision to over-turn Waverley Borough Council’s rejection of the homes on the corner of Weybourne Road and Farnborough Road off the Six Bells roundabout also flies in the face of strong objections by Farnham Town Council, residents and elected members.
But crucially it comes at a time when Waverley, the local planning authority, remains short of its government-set housing target.
More than 70 people objected to the latest plans for 56 homes at Monkton Lane put forward by Cove Construction, with strong objections also submitted by Farnham Town Council and elected members.
These focused on the site’s location outside Farnham’s Built-Up Area Boundary, potential environmental impact, loss of green space and harm to wildlife corridors, traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure – in conflict with the wishes of the community as expressed in the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan.
The county councillor for Farnham North, Catherine Powell, echoed these concerns – as well as lamenting the loss of potential playing field space.
She said: “This field was reviewed and rejected for the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan. It is a much needed green space that also had potential to be used for additional grass pitches to address the lack of sports facilities to support the town’s growing population and increased interest in girls’ and ladies’ sport.
“The Waverley Infrastructure Delivery Plan, last issued in 2021, identified many essential infrastructure requirements based on the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan, including four forms of secondary school places – none of this has been delivered.
“At what point will inspectors take infrastructure into consideration?”
It comes just a month after Cllr Powell and several of the town’s sporting clubs and organisations co-signed an open letter calling for more sporting and leisure facilities.
A planning application was first submitted for a housing estate on land behind Monkton House (formerly Bindon House) next to the Farnborough Road allotments in Monkton Lane back in 2016.
This was refused by Waverley Borough Council, but allowed at appeal in 2018 after an inspector cited Waverley’s “persistent under-delivery in the provision of new housing”.
However, the original appeal decision was called in and overturned by the then housing secretary Sajid Javid, alongside two other schemes totalling more than 350 homes in the town, after the cabinet minister gave “substantial weight” to the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan which excluded the three locations from housing.
Fast-forward five years, and another appeal inspector has once again reviewed the plans and reached the same verdict as his predecessor – ruling that as Waverley is under-delivering on its target to deliver 590 new homes per year, local planning policy is “out-of-date” as a result and the homes are needed to meet local demand.
The inspector also stated “little weight can be given to the council’s attempts to address this [shortfall] through a new local plan”, handing a blow to Waverley’s claim that its new joined-up Local Plan adopted this year would fend off unwanted homes.
The inspector also stated the Monkton Lane proposal would “boost housing supply and provide affordable housing”, with 40 per cent of the 56 homes to be ‘affordable’, meeting an “urgent need”.
He added “there would be a small level of harm to the character and appearance of the area” and concluded “the benefits of the development would weigh substantially in favour of the proposal”.