Dunsfold Park WA/2015/2395 was granted permission by Waverley’s Joint Planning Committee (JPC) on 14 December in a recorded vote of 10 Councillors in favour and 8 against.
Before the application went to committee there had been several reports of the application being called-in to the Secretary of State by Anne Milton MP, and the 11 Parish Councils, which form the Joint Parishes.
Subsequently on Thursday 15 December it was confirmed that a planning inspector had in fact been appointed to carry out an inquiry into the granted application. The inspector will report their recommendation to the Secretary of State who will then make the final decision on Dunsfold Park.
This is where an application goes to The Secretary of State (SoS) for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, for his final consideration and determination.
Applications are called-in where planning issues of more than local importance are involved. This can include applications which:
- Are of national significance.
- Conflict with government policy.
- Impact on long-term economic growth.
- Have significant effects beyond their immediate locality.
- Are controversial.
- Raise significant architectural and urban design issues.
- Involve national security or foreign governments
Where an application is called in, a planning inspector is appointed to hold an inquiry into the application and the Secretary of State takes the findings of this inquiry into account when they make their final decision.
The Dunsfold Debate
On the night of the JPC meeting, Surrey County Council Highways Department and the Environment Agency maintained their objections to the application on traffic impact and water quality.
The debate lasted over four hours. Points in favour of the application included the total number of dwellings, including 30% affordable housing, which would meet a significant percentage of the borough’s housing need, as well as significant employment opportunities being provided on site (Dunsfold is already one of the biggest employment sites in the borough), a new primary school and a local bus service funded in perpetuity. Cllr Foryszewski said:
“This is a development we can be proud of, that can be exemplary, built for the future, to address how we live and work.”
Cllr Cockburn, also spoke in favour of the application saying that:
“We have been saying for years, use brownfield sites first, especially in Farnham and Cranleigh.”
However, councillors also voiced concerns about traffic. It was pointed out that significant impacts on the surrounding highways had led to the dismissal of the previous planning Appeal in 2009. Furthermore, the robustness of traffic modelling was brought into question and was said to be “more of an art than a science” . The extent of objectors and the evidence they had submitted, including a professional transport study, should, it was noted, be taken seriously. Although it was recognised that there would be considerable contributions from the applicants, amounting to a package of approximately £40M, which is proportionally far higher than those negotiated with other Cranleigh developers, the opportunity to deliver extensive road improvements, due to the limiting characteristics of the A281, was questioned.
Cranleigh Civic Society would stress that we feel that these same characteristics should apply to the over 1,500 dwellings being proposed for our village too.
Cllr Mulliner (Haslemere East and Grayswood Ward) pointed out that this was the most significant site in Waverley and highly contentious, having had over 5,000 objections submitted against it. He disagreed with officers on the point of prematurity with regard to the Local Plan, which he pointed out was at an advanced stage, having been agreed by full council two weeks previously, and was being submitted for examination by the inspector two days later on 16 December 2016 (the Local plan has 3,500 objections against it).
Dunsfold Park is listed as a Strategic Site in the Local Plan with a total of 2,600 dwellings proposed for the site. Cllr Mulliner expressed his concern that the application should not be determined until the Inspector had rigorously examined the Local Plan and agreed that the Dunsfold site should be included. Otherwise, he said, this could be predetermining the scale, position and phasing of 25% of Waverley’s entire housing allocation. He went on to state that this was “clearest possible case of predetermination and pre-emption of the Inspector’s role”.
The Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) figure of 519 dwellings per year for the Waverley borough was also commented on. This figure has already been challenged by the Neil MacDonald Report (September 2016). The report concluded that the OAN figure should be reduced by approximately 120 dwellings per year. Over the lifetime of the local plan this could equate to a total decrease of 2,280 dwellings.
The MacDonald concludes that:
“The key issue emerging from this report is the significantly different picture painted by the most recent projections and population statistics from that set out in the SHMA. Whilst the SHMA suggests that the full objectively assessed need for housing in Waverley is 519 homes a year 2013-33, the analysis in this report indicates that an up to date estimate would lie in the range 400 +/- 30 homes a year.”
( SHMA = Strategic Housing Market Assessment. The last assessment was carried out in September 2015 by GL Hearn and set the annual housing need for Waverley at 519 dwellings – see page 117)
GL Hearn, authors of the SHMA, in their response to the MacDonald report in November 2016 accepted the main point of the report.
“5.13 In conclusion we recognise that if repeating this work today a different figure is likely to emerge, particularly as we would have a different starting point. This reflects the availability of data. However our approach is one that reflects the NPPF and PPG and remains a sound basis for planning.”
We now await the Inspector’s report to the SoS, which may take a couple of months to be issued.
You can watch the full Waverley meeting from 14 December 2016 here on YouTube.