11th June 2019:
POW and CPRE have been working hard in the background to bring together the key parties ahead of the Court of Appeal case on the 24th June. That effort has resulted in a meeting convened today. Those present included Bob Lees POW, Anthony Isaacs CPRE, Waverley Borough Council’s new Deputy Leader Cllr. Paul Follows, WBC Cllr. Andy MacLeod and Tom Horwood WBC CEO.
WBC Deputy Leader Councillor Paul Follows stated today:
“I have now returned from my meeting with CPRE and POW (which was as frank as I expected).
I pledged before the election that if by some electoral miracle we were running Waverley (or part of running it) I would get everyone in the room to talk – and very proud to have started that dialogue and it was acknowledged by all parties that would have been impossible under the previous administration.
What I honestly want from this is a reduction in the housing numbers in the local plan (If you recall I voted against this plan in the first place).
That’s what POW and CPRE seem to want too. Where we had differences was how we go about that.
What they want:
– to get a judge to quash the policy that gave us the ‘unmet need’ from Woking and thereby reduce the housing numbers.
Fine – in theory.
What I’m worried will happen:
– If the court does that, the plan will have a gap in its figures that the court isn’t empowered to fill – and will refer it back to the the competent authority (in this case Waverley) to fix it. Which would (we believe) force the plan to be reassessed under current constraints and variables – which everything I am seeing means actually a big INCREASE in housing numbers. CPRE and POW currently dispute this interpretation but to me that is a huge risk.
– If successful, all the while we have not done that (and it would be a lengthy process) the plan would be materially undermined and subject to challenge and appeal from developers on individual planning applications.
What I proposed:
– stop the appeal, and the waste of money on all sides in entails;
– We commit to doing a proper risk assessment of what re-opening the local plan to reconsider the housing numbers would entail and crucially – if the numbers would be smaller or not. We would keep them closely involved in that.
– If it proved sensible to, reopen the plan.
– If we did that, also I would want then to reassess the affordable and social housing elements in full.
What they proposed:
– seek a deferral on the court case to give everyone more time
– That we share our respective interpretations of the housing numbers question.
Everyone has taken actions so hopefully we will have a meeting 2. So what it boils down to now potentially is trust and seeing if something can be done before we run out of time (and I’m told the early court date was something the previous administration agreed which has set this ticking clock in motion).
I just want to ensure that what is a genuine attempt to help reduce the housing numbers does not make things worse by orders of magnitude because at the end of the day my first duty is to the people of Waverley.”
Protect Our Waverley statement on the meeting:
We welcome the cordial discussions we had with WBC this afternoon. We, too, are trying to protect the people of Waverley from unneeded development.
However, we do not share WBC’s view of the risks of the Plan being reviewed, namely that WBC could end up with much higher numbers. WBC was not able to justify their views. Furthermore, we remain highly sceptical that the Council can re-open the Plan without a court order that would be provided by our appeal.
The previous administration at WBC requested an early hearing and there are now only eight working days before the hearing. However, we would, subject to agreement about costs, be prepared to accept a postponement if the Court agrees.