POW and the Joint Parish Councils (JPC) were represented at all the sessions of the Examination-in-Public (EiP) of the Part 1 of the Draft Local Plan by Jonathan Bore, held in Waverley Borough Council’s (WBC) Council chamber. At most of the sessions, we were represented at the top table by planning experts Barton Willmore; we were also represented by Neil McDonald of NMSS and by core members of the POW/JPC team. We made significant contributions. WBC was of course also at the table, along with many others representing house builders Dunsfold Park and other groups including CPRE and the Cranleigh Society.
The Inspector did not accept that WBC was particularly constrained and indeed argued that of the three Boroughs in the Housing Market Area – Woking, Guildford and Waverley – Waverley was the least constrained regarding the provision of new houses, largely based on the amount of Green Belt each Borough had. Guildford Borough Council has not yet submitted its Local Plan for examination. However, Woking’s Plan was approved in 2012 and is now regarded as providing far too little housing, for which Mr Bore said Guildford and Waverley would have to compensate. There was much discussion of Mr Bore’s position and of the calculation of the housing need: the house builders were trying to talk the numbers up and WBC and POW/JPC were arguing the numbers down (for once POW/JPC and WBC were on the same side!).
Finally Mr Bore reached the preliminary conclusion that WBC’s OAN should be 590, made up as follows:
Demographic need 378
Plus an allowance of 4.7% for vacancies 18
Total baseline 396
Previously this figure was 493 and bringing it down by nearly 100 was largely due to Neil McDonald’s work for us. However, the Inspector then added:
A 25% uplift for affordability 99 – was previously 26
50% of Woking’s unmet need 83 – was previously 0
An allowance for London migration 12 – was previously 0
Total OAN 590
The 519 in the original Plan becomes 590, implying 11,210 houses over the 19 years, as opposed to the 9,861, an uplift of 1,349.
The Inspector clearly had doubts about the deliverability of DP and the WBC’s reliance on a single large site. He looked at alternative spatial strategies to using Dunsfold Park to find this number of houses. None of the developers present, and there were many, offered sites that could replace Dunsfold Park. Despite our and our advisers’ best efforts we ended up rowing alone and ultimately there were no takers for alternate spatial strategies. The consequence is that Dunsfold Park stays in the Local Plan because there is nowhere else to put that number of houses and everywhere is going to end up with a larger allocation to accommodate the higher OAN! WBC has to revisit its allocation of land for house building, along with a number of other key issues which will have to be revisited.
The Inspector also examined the Design of Dunsfold Aerodrome. The Inspector agreed with us that the Council should be more proactive and set out more clearly its design vision for the site, including phasing, with a lot more detail in the Plan Part 1 policies. Mr Bore helpfully emphasised the importance of public consultation. The Council introduced policy SS7A which was not well received by the Inspector, who agree with POW/JPC and others that the revised SS7 policy needed to have vision and to put the Council in full control of the process, which SS7A clearly did not.
At the final session, WBC circulated two documents setting out all the modifications due to be made to the Plan. These totalled some 50 pages! Of key interest to us are the proposed changes to policy SS7 (Dunsfold Aerodrome); to conserve the site’s heritage, to protect the nearby AONB, to mitigate the impact of the traffic on local roads, and to provide other sustainable transport options (including a bus service to be funded in perpetuity). Mr Bore commented that a lot more needed to be done to make policy SS7 sound.
Finally, the Inspector explained the next stages in the planning process:
- He would give WBC verbal indications of what changes would be required to make the Plan sound. WBC and the Inspector will have a dialogue, over the coming weeks, resulting in a modified Plan.
- WBC would have a public consultation on the modified Plan – which as before would take six weeks.
- The Inspector would read all the comments on the modified Plan. He would then make a final report.
- It would be for WBC to adopt the modifications required in order to make the Plan sound. If WBC does not accept these modifications, then the Plan would not be sound.
So this will run on for a few more months, and well beyond the Public Inquiry into the current planning application, WA/2015/2395.
Next stage for POW and the Joint Parishes:
Following the conclusion of the EiP, POW and the Joint Parishes are looking forward to the Public Inquiry on the planning application for Dunsfold Park starting on 18th July.
The Inquiry will provide the opportunity for a robust and detailed examination of the application for 1,800 houses and extensive additional industrial space. The EiP Inspector, Mr Bore, endorsed the inclusion of Dunsfold Park in the Local Plan because he saw no viable alternative way to provide for the increase in house building demanded. He did not assess the details of the proposal. He also pointed out that the Inspector at the Public Inquiry and the Secretary of State could reach different views about the acceptability of the development. Be in no doubt the inclusion of Dunsfold Park, in the Local Plan, in no way endorses the current planning application.
We remain confident that the planning application will be rejected.