Farnham Town Council is heading back to the High Court this spring in a bid to block plans for almost 150 new homes on a key ‘green gateway’ into the town.

Councillors have refused to call time on a nine-year battle against Wates Developments’ plans to build 146 homes either side of Waverley Lane in south Farnham.

An appeal inspector gave Wates the green light to build the homes at ‘Compton Fields’ in July last year, overturning Waverley Borough Council’s refusal of planning consent.

But just a month later, Farnham Town Council agreed to seek a High Court review of the ruling – arguing the inspector had not given sufficient weight to the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan.

This community-led planning blueprint was developed by the town council and twice voted through at referendums in 2017 and 2020 – but was dismissed by inspector Lesley Coffey as a “permissive policy” to be used as “guidance” only.

At the time of Wates’ appeal, government rules stated neighbourhood plans would only carry full weight for two years in areas behind on their housing targets, as is the case in Waverley. 

But in December, Michael Gove increased this to five years, affording Farnham greater protection from unwanted development.

And in another boost for the town council, councillors heard at last Thursday’s full council meeting that High Court judge, Mr Justice Julian Knowles, had agreed to hold a one-day hearing to consider Farnham’s request for a statutory review of the appeal.

This ‘rolled up’ hearing is likely to take place sometime after April, and will consider the “substantive merits of the request for leave to appeal”, as well as the costs the town council could be liable to pay should it lose its case.

Farnham Town Council hopes the judge will apply the Aarhus Cost Capping Convention, which would limit any claims for legal costs against the council to £10,000. If this is not applied, Farnham could be ordered to pay many tens of thousands to Wates.

Councillors debated the challenge behind closed doors last Thursday.

But addressing members at the beginning of the meeting, Zofia Lovell of the South Farnham Residents Association thanked the council for pursuing the review and pledged her support.

She said: “Residents are well aware that housing is very much top of the agenda with all political parties and the pressure will be high for budgets, land supply and delivery.

“But a Neighbourhood Plan is about the community view of where housing is wanted, how we protect the environment and the willingness of the community to support it. To residents it is about the principle on which it stands.”