WAVERLEY Borough Council started the week on the front foot.
After six days of gruelling examination, council barrister Clare Parry gave a spirited defence of the council’s contention that it is on top of its 590-homes per annum government housing target on the final day of an appeal inquiry to determine the fate of Red Court in Haslemere.
But just 24 hours later, the council’s arguments were left in tatters, as an inspector overseeing a separate appeal, for 99 homes in Alfold, ruled the council was some 885 homes short of its housing target, and a full year shy of its required Five Year Housing Land Supply, rendering its Local Plan ‘out of date’.
“Dunsfold Park should not be considered deliverable [within five years] due to the lack of clear evidence,” said the inspector Harold Stephens. And nor, he added, should “any of the disputed sites... suggested by the council”.
“The implications of not having a five-year housing land supply are significant,” added Mr Stephens, and he wasn’t kidding – with planning decisions in the borough now set to be judged against the National Planning Policy Framework and its controversial ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ – regardless of local policy.
It could yet get worse for Waverley too, with a decision pending on another appeal against the council’s refusal of planning permission for 50 homes at Red Court in Scotland Lane, Haslemere, in which the developer Redwood Ltd questioned the deliverability of yet more schemes across the borough.
Responding to the Alfold ruling, Carole Cockburn, deputy leader of Waverley’s Tory opposition and councillor for The Bourne, said the inspector’s decision was “a total disaster all round” and was in no doubt as to who should be blamed.
She continued: “Waverley now has to bring forward and grant permission for developments that comply with the development plan. Until the borough begins to grant permissions on suitable sites, it will lose appeals on unsuitable ones.
“The borough needs and deserves a robust five-year housing land supply and a fully adopted Local Plan.
“This is not the government’s fault. The Lib Dem administration has got to stop playing politics with planning policy and accept responsibility for its lamentable performance on planning as a whole.
“The current state of affairs will be disastrous for the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan but the Farnham Residents have supported the executive without question.”
Paul Follows, leader of Waverley Borough Council (Lib Dem, Godalming Central and Ockford), said: “We are, naturally, disappointed with this appeal decision, which does not pay sufficient regard to our spatial strategy and fails to give proper consideration to the fact Alfold, like many other areas of Waverley, has already taken more than its share of housing and the additional demands this will place on local services.
“The appeal decision was received at 5pm yesterday (January 11) and we have therefore not been able to consider the Inspector’s findings in detail, but we will be going through this thoroughly over the coming days, particularly around the conclusions reached on the deliverability of various sites in our 2021 Five Year Housing Supply position.
“We are doing all we can to meet our housing need, including developing our own housing sites and submitting Local Plan Part 2 for examination. Furthermore, there are existing permissions for more than 5,000 new homes, however, we rely on the development industry to deliver the vast majority of these new homes but, as yet, more than 50 per cent have not yet been commenced.
“National planning policy, set by the UK Government, continues to put councils all over the country into a position that allows developers to effectively bypass local plans, ignore the need for genuinely affordable and social housing and put strain on local infrastructure. The only people that benefit from this system are developers – and yet again we see local planning decisions overturned by the national planning inspectorate.”