“CAMPAIGNERS battling the impact of Waverley’s “excessive” housing targets are celebrating a landmark legal decision giving them the green light to appeal.
In a fresh twist threatening to undermine the borough council’s adopted Local Plan, which calculates 11,200 houses must be built by 2032, the Court of Appeal agreed last Thursday it would hear the joint challenge by Surrey Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Protect Our Waverley (POW).
The challenge centres on whether Waverley had to increase its housing target by 1,600 homes in order to accept Woking’s “unmet need”.
If the joint appeal succeeds – due to be heard later this year – it will anger residents forced to accept unpopular housing schemes driven by Waverley’s determination to meet its housing target, such as a controversial scheme for up to 200 houses agreed last week in Milford (see page three).
Last week’s Court of Appeal decision reverses a High Court decision in October 2018 rejecting POW and CPRE’s case that Waverley should not be obliged to take half of Woking’s unmet need.
Celebrating CPRE’s successful appeal against October’s verdict, Andy Smith, CPRE Surrey branch director, said: “We are pleased that the Court of Appeal wish to see the matter of Woking’s so-called unmet need properly addressed, as there are big question marks over it.
“In the housing requirement numbers for both the Waverley and Guildford Local Plans, this issue of Woking’s unmet need, lurks in the background. It will be good to bring this issue out in the appeal court, as it has profound consequences – not just for Waverley and not even just for West Surrey, but also county wide and nation wide.
“Our countryside is at risk from excessive, arbitrary and unsustainabule housebuilding targets, and that is why we needed to challenge the housing calculations.”
POW chairman Bob Lees highlighted that the appeal coincides with Woking Borough Council declaring it now has no unmet need, and new demographic figures released by the Office for National Statistics implying a much reduced need for new housing.
Welcoming last week’s decision, Mr Lees said: “This is great news. It provides Waverley Borough Council with a golden opportunity to significantly reduce the mandatory number of new houses to be built in the borough over the next 14 years.
“POW fought against the housing requirement at the examination of the Local Plan. POW fought again in the High Court. POW will fight in the Court of Appeal. POW is fighting to protect our Waverley against unneeded development of our towns, of our villages and in our beautiful countryside.”
Waverley has set aside a “fighting fund” of £300,000 to defend its Local Plan. Responding, borough council leader and Farnham councillor Julia Potts, said: “This news is obviously extremely disappointing for us, but we will, of course, be vigorously defending our adopted Local Plan; the plan we believe represents the best possible vision for the borough’s future.
“It means we can work in partnership with the borough’s towns and parishes to develop Neighbourhood Plans, so communities can mould new development where they live. It means we can safeguard our borough against inappropriate development.
“It should be remembered that Waverley did not bring this legal action, but we have to defend both the borough and town and parish councils, whose Neighbourhood Plans are now threatened by this action. We all want appropriate plan-led development and we did everything possible at the inspection to defend a lower housing number.
“It is extremely disappointing that a few determined individuals continue to raise these legal challenges, despite the High Court upholding the Local Plan following the hearing in October 2018 and despite it having been approved by a government inspector.
“We are committed to preserving and protecting the adopted Local Plan. It will remain our principal planning document and continue to guide our planning decisions.”