WAVERLEY ADOPTS PLAN AT POTENTIALLY UNLAWFUL MEETINGS ‘WITH A GUN AGAINST ITS HEAD’
Tuesday (20th February) evening’s meetings of the Executive and Full Council in Waverley went ahead despite POW warning the Council that it was potentially breaching its Constitution and therefore committing an unlawful act. The Leader of the Council, Julia Potts, was at pains to tell the Executive (and the Council) that POW had raised the issue very late. Her tone implied that Of cers and the Council Leadership took POW’s comments very seriously. There was an attitude of bravado that the Council would prevail come what may and by any means possible.
So, ignoring any challenge, the Council pressed ahead and the Borough witnessed the surreal experience of Councillors expressing serious concerns about the new Local Plan, yet then voting in favour of it; as one Councillor put it ‘with a gun against our heads’. Incredulous members of the public heard Councillor after Councillor express their fears of the impact of the Report by Planning Inspector Bore who declared the Plan ‘sound’ with major modifications. This especially concerned a huge increase in housing numbers, yet Councillors then went on to say they had ‘no choice’ but to approve the Plan. As one put it ‘we have lots in the Officers report about the benefits of adopting the Plan and risks of not adopting it, but nothing about the risks of adoption and benefits of non-adoption’. It appeared as if the Turkeys were voting for Christmas!
POW has consistently challenged the decision to place 50% of unmet housing need from Woking in Waverley. Many Councillors agree with that concern; it is simple common sense. But, like the Council Of cers at the Examination in Public accepted the unsustainable target of 590 homes per year. Many said they did not believe the gure would even be deliverable – because houses actually built depend entirely on developers who choose where and when to build for maximum commercial gain. So if delivery of housing remains outside Waverley’s control – where, then, is the ‘taking control’ repeatedly referred to by Councillors, including the Leader, Julia Potts?
Hardest hit areas of the Borough, including Cranleigh and Farnham, are left blighted by the impact of this Plan. It imposes further building without improvement in infrastructure. POW supports residents in the whole Borough whose voices have not been heard in the Local Plan process; why did Waverley not take a more robust stand at the Examination carried out by Mr Bore?
One Councillor tried to comfort her colleagues by saying that the Council had ultimate control through the process of approval of planning applications; this ignores the fact that developers now have a widespread ‘green light’ to development established in the Plan, which local Councillors who object will have little or no power to stop. Residents living near identi ed strategic sites have 15 years ahead of them knowing that the bulldozers could move in any day. Yet there is no guarantee that local people who need affordable housing will be able to nd it where they want to live.
Despite having being worked on for years and years, the Council was faced with the choice of adopting this inadequate and inappropriate Plan on the basis that any plan is better than none. What a sorry state of affairs! Waverley residents have been gravely let down, not just in the nal decision to adopt the Plan on Tuesday, but in the distorted and confrontational process that has been followed to get here. This for reasons known only to Of cers and a core of in uential Councillors who have failed and still fail to listen to public opinion.
The time will come when this Council is called to account and it is long overdue.