Last week’s decisions by two separate government planning inspectors to dismiss appeals against Waverley Borough Council’s refusal of planning permission to build a total of 271 houses in Green Lane and Lower Weybourne Lane is a positive outcome for these local communities – and for the importance afforded by both inspectors to Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan (FNP).

The FNP is not intended to prevent all new housing development. Quite the opposite.  

Created through a collaborative process involving residents, community groups and Farnham Town Council, it is designed to reflect the unique qualities and priorities of the area, therefore giving the community a greater say in determining both where future housing developments take place and the nature of the housing provided.

Indeed, the active participation and involvement of local residents and community groups in the planning process is crucial to ensure development aligns with our community’s vision and priorities. 

By providing evidence and voicing their concerns at both appeal hearings, the councillors and residents of Farnham made a significant contribution to the planning inspectors’ decisions to dismiss both appeals.

Despite the shortfall of housing delivery against the national targets set for Waverley, both inspectors agreed the harms arising from these proposed developments to the character and appearance of the area, would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposed extra housing.

In these cases, the FNP was not impeding housing delivery – indeed, the allocated sites within the plan would supply Farnham’s share of Waverley’s housing target, providing a positive vision for the future. 

The inspector in charge at the Green Lane hearing, Inspector D Wallis, said: “The site once formed part of the designated strategic gap between the settlements of Hale, Badshot Lea and Weybourne and it remains part of an important gap identified in the FNP.”

At the Lower Weybourne Lane hearing, inspector Darren McCreery said: “A grant of planning permission for the proposal would seriously undermine the creditability of the FNP as the conflict with it could not be clearer. 

“I am also mindful of the role neighbourhood planning has as part of ensuring the planning system is genuinely plan led, as a consequence, the clear conflict with the strategy in the Neighbourhood Plan is a matter that attracts considerable weight”.

Andrew Laughton, the new Farnham Residents councillor for Weybourne, said: “The commitment and dedication of local councillors and residents’ groups in standing up for their local community interests is commendable. 

“The contributions by Farnham Residents councillor Catherine Powell, together with local residents Cliff Watts, David Howell and Janette Gallini, are heartening and demonstrate how communities can come together to protect and enhance the areas of Farnham they call home.”

By Councillor Peter Clark

Deputy leader of Waverley Borough Council and Farnham Residents councillor for Rowledge