Open letter to:
Waverley Borough Councillors
To the towns, villages and parishes of Waverley
Emerging Local Plan and Housing in Waverley
Now it’s public: Waverley Borough Council is accepting, without any challenge, the highly inflated housing target proposed by the Local Plan Inspector, and every community from end to end of the Borough will be impacted. In this letter we call upon the whole Borough to unite and make serious attempts to get the inflated housing figure down to sustainable levels. And, yes, it can be done, and has been in other Local Authorities!
Over the past 5 years or so, Waverley Borough Council (WBC) has been preparing the new Local Plan for the Borough. It has commissioned various reports and consultations to determine how many homes should be built each year – the Objectively Assessed Number (OAN) – and where they should be built. Unfortunately, in the process it has pitched different communities and parts of the Borough against each other and has totally lost sight of its obligations to the residents of Waverley as a whole. Following the recent Examination-in-Public (EiP) of the Local Plan, we have an OAN, which is 71 homes per year higher than WBC initially proposed and, as we will explain, 95 per year higher – almost 20% – than it should be!
What should WBC do now?
We now have an OAN of 590, made up of a baseline of 396, plus 99 to improve affordability, plus 83 (to cover half of Woking’s unmet need) and 12 added for London overflow. WBC failed effectively to challenge this at the EiP and is failing to challenge it now!
Affordable homes are much needed in Waverley and consequently the Inspector increased the OAN. However, he accepted WBC’s proposal that only 30% of each large development be affordable. Yet a higher percentage could deliver more affordable homes with a lower OAN. Other councils in the south-east ask for up to 40% of new developments to be affordable homes: why not WBC?
Woking’s unmet need arises because Woking’s Local Plan (Core Strategy) was adopted in 2012 and provides for far fewer homes than its currently assessed need. A review of Woking’s Core Strategy is now due, which should require them to satisfy their own housing need. The logical conclusion is that Waverley only has to meet Woking’s deficit until the Woking review and at that time it should fall away, thereby reducing Waverley’s OAN by 83 per year. (There is a recent precedent for this in Mid-Sussex).
London overflow: in Mid-Sussex, a similar distance from London to Waverley, the inspector specifically rejected the argument that there should be an uplift for London. So why should Waverley accommodate London overflow?
To conclude the sensible removal of Woking’s unmet need and the uplift for London overflow would reduce Waverley’s OAN to 495 per year: 396 plus 99 for affordability. So why isn’t WBC arguing to get the OAN down to a more realistic and sustainable figure for the Borough, with a higher affordable percentage?
We fully agree that Waverley needs more homes to meet local needs, and especially affordable homes. But it is not too late for WBC to challenge the inflated requirement. This must happen to safeguard the quality of life for its current and future residents, to protect this predominantly rural and beautiful borough, with its wealth of nationally designated features and landscapes.
We call on every town, parish and individual to make their views known on the OAN to WBC now, and in the forthcoming consultation on the modified Plan.
Thank you for your cooperation
Chairman, POWCampaign Ltd on behalf of Waverley Borough residents
cc. Anne Milton (Constituency MP), Jeremy Hunt (Constituency MP)