Tom Horwood’s response and Bob Lees on BBC Radio Surrey

September 1, 2018

WBC’s Chief Exec. Tom Horwood has now responded to the Open Letter from POW:

Original Open Letter 29th August 2018:

For the attention of Mr Tom Horwood, Chief Executive

Dear Mr Horwood

Open Letter to Waverley Borough Council (WBC) regarding the challenges from CPRE and POW to the Waverley Local Plan Housing Numbers

POW and the council tax payers of Waverley are asking why WBC is wasting so much money defending the challenges from CPRE and POW, which if successful will reduce the housing requirement for the whole of Waverley Borough. Yes, of course, more houses are needed. But in line with Government policy they should be the right houses in the right places. Why should Waverley take Woking’s overspill? Reducing the housing requirement will relieve the pressure to build, build, build; in greenfields and at unsustainable locations, putting pressure on Waverley’s already over-stretched infrastructure.

WBC has budgeted £200,000 for the defence of the s113 claims, even though, much has been made by WBC itself as to how that money could be better spent. Yet nowhere in their meetings has WBC considered the “do nothing” option – not defending POW’s and CPRE’s challenges.

Furthermore WBC voted to allocate £100,000 to defending the s288 challenge to the Secretary of State (SoS) despite only being an interested party. Why does the SoS need WBC’s help, after all the SoS declined to spend any money as an interested party to the s113 claims? Again, the Council appears to have blindly signed up to this money, without considering the “do nothing” approach.

As tax payers of Waverley we should have comprehensive answers to the questions belowe

1. According to para 2.1 of WBC’s Governance statement it has a duty to make “sure that public money is … used economically, effciently and effectively”, and to act in the public interest (para 3.1). Is allocating £300,000 to defend these challenges an economic and/or an effective use of public money?

2. Why is WBC proposing to spend £300,000 on supporting a single developer. In whose interest is it to continue this defence, the council tax payers of Waverley or the developers of Dunsfold Park?

Yours sincerely

Bob Lees
Chairman
POW Campaign Ltd on behalf of the PROTECT OUR WAVERLEY (POW) Campaign

Reply to Open Letter 30th August 2018:
Dear Bob
 
Thank you for your “open letter” of 29 August 2018 on behalf of POWCampaign Ltd.
 
The Local Plan was adopted in February by the Full Council following years of public consultation and a public examination by the Government’s Inspector, who found that it conforms to the National Planning Policy Framework.
 
A sound, adopted Local Plan helps the Council to reject or approve planning applications in the most sustainable way possible while conforming to Government policy.
 
The absence of a Local Plan – which would result from your suggestion that the Council “do nothing” – would weaken substantially the Council’s ability to defend the area from poor development, while housing demand continues. It would also lead to more planning appeals by developers costing substantial amounts of tax-payers’ money.
 
Therefore, the Council debated in an open meeting and decided to defend the Plan and the borough. The best way to avoid the expense would be for your company and for CPRE Surrey to stop your legal cases. I hope that you will reconsider your legal action.
 
With all good wishes
 
 
Tom
 
Tom Horwood – Chief Executive, Waverley Borough Council
The Burys, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1HR
Tel: 01483 523238

POW consider that Tom’s reply avoids many of the points in the Open Letter:

  • Tom’s reply focuses entirely on the “we must have a local plan” argument. (the threat used to bully councillors, along with a 3 line whip in February to vote the Local Plan through)
  • Tom fails to justify why WBC accepted Woking’s “unmet need” in contrast to Guildford BC’s negotiated down approach.
  • Tom makes the uninformed assumption that court challenges will bring down the Plan and render Waverley plan-less – which isn’t necessarily true at all.
  • Tom conspicuously fails to address the point about the s288 appeal and offers no justification for their action nor the £100,000 set aside to defend the Secretary of State.
BBC Radio Surrey 1st September 2018 – Interview with Bob Lees, Chairman of POW:

To summarise Bob’s points:

  • Waverley Borough Council has a duty to act in the public interest. It is not clear that defending these appeals is in the public interest.
  • The higher housing requirement was imposed by the Planning Inspector. Why is WBC defending the Planning Inspector? It is not in the interest of Waverley to take Woking’s unmet housing need.
  • On Dunsfold Park: The SoS over-rode WBC by calling-in the planning application to develop Dunsfold Aerodrome.  It is the SoS that is being challenged. Surely he is fully capable to defending himself? And the developer is supporting the SoS too. WBC is just an “interested party” – so why is WBC spending taxpayers’ money to support a developer?
  • The two claims are inextricably linked. In 2009 the then SoS refused permission to develop Dunsfold Aerodrome. In 2018 it was approved because houses were needed – that’s what the Inspector said. Contrary to Government policy to build the right houses in the right places.
Response to Tom’s reply7th September 2018:

For the attention of Mr Tom Horwood, Chief Executive

Dear Mr Horwood

Open Letter to Waverley Borough Council (WBC) regarding the challenges from CPRE and POW to the Waverley Local Plan Housing Numbers – Response to the Councils reply of 31st August 2018

POW and the council tax payers of Waverley note the response you sent to the original POW letter on the above subject.

As you should know, neither POW nor CPRE are seeking to have the adopted Local Plan set aside. They are challenging the number of houses to be built in Waverley each year imposed by the Planning Inspector and accepted by WBC who should have robustly challenged that number. If POW and CPRE succeed in their challenge it will not be the planning disaster as postulated by WBC, it will just be the annual housing number and allocation of those houses which will be questioned. In all other regards the Local Plan will still be valid and the policies which constrain unacceptable development will still be in force.

Both the Council Leader, Councillor Potts, and now yourself are peddling the myth and consequent fear that it will be a planning free-for-all rather than coming clean and explaining the facts as set out above. Furthermore, the planning free-for-all that you say will descend on Waverley will only come about if WBC, as the Local Planning Authority, allow the pipeline of deliverable houses to fall below what is technically known as the 5 Year Housing Land Supply (5YHLS). To calculate this number, the 5YHLS, there is a standard methodology in the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and associated Planning Practice Guidelines (PPG). Should the challenge succeed, the housing requirement against which the 5YHLS will be assessed will be Waverley’s own policy-of Objectively Assessed Needs (OAN), excluding any housing requirement from neighbouring Local Authorities. In other words, the housing requirement will likely fall and Waverley’s Housing Land Supply (HLS) will likely increase. In addition, Waverley’s OAN will likely fall shortly in any event, come publication of the DCLG’s updated housing projections post-Brexit.

Moreover, your letter failed to address why WBC thought it was right and proper to spend £100,000 supporting the developers of Dunsfold Park.

As you were unable to answer our original questions, we will simplify them:

  1. How can WBC justify spending £200,000 defending a section of the Local Plan that would, if they did not contest the case, most probably provide a beneficial reduction to their housing allocation?
  2. In what sense is this in the public interest?
  3. How can WBC justify spending £100,000 merely as an interested party defending the Secretary of State – for the ultimate benefit of the other interested party, the wealthy owners of Dunsfold Park?

Yours sincerely

Bob Lees
Chairman
POW Campaign Ltd on behalf of the PROTECT OUR WAVERLEY (POW) Campaign


Cllr John Gray (Audit Committee Chairman) , 
Graeme Clark (Chief Financial Officer)
Bea Philpott (Haslemere Herald)
Daniel Gee (Farnham Herald)
Andre Langlois (Surrey Advertiser)
Jaik Fiehn (BBC Surrey)
Tom Cantoni (Eagle Radio)

Many people have followed up with a personal email to Tom Horwood.  If you feel that pressure should be brought to bear on Mr Horwood to account for WBC’s actions in defence of a developer’s scheme then do ask your Council’s Chief Executive to answer such reasonable questions.  So please do write directly to Mr Horwood at  tom.horwood@waverley.gov.uk

 

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    Roger Wood

    Keep fighting Bob. This isn’t over yet. The fundamental issue is that WBC and its councillors are being led by developers rather than the correct way – the other way round. The result is new housing developments which are UNSUSTAINABLE because WBC and its councillors fail year after year to plan housing needs properly and to plan infrastructure needs prior to or at a minimum alongside the housing developments.
    If WBC – or central Government or the Secretary of State or the Inspector – insisted on the developers paying for a substantial part of the new infrastructure costs to support the housing developments, and WBC implemented the required infrastructure before completion of the developments, many of the objections to the Developments such as Dunsfold Park would fall away.

    1. Reply
      Web-master

      Hi Roger, Thanks for your comment and your support. The WebTeam here are receiving comments from many locals across the Borough on this subject – via the website or other social media. Bob sees the comments too. The thing that will make a difference is the direct response by residents to Tom Horwood. Write to him and ask those questions. He is the CEO and with that comes responsibility to be able to account for the actions of his Council – if, when audited, the Council are seen to be spending money without reasoned justification for their support of a section of their Local Plan, or in defence of the SoS, or indeed their blind support for a developer of £1bn worth of housing, then one can hope they will be brought to account.

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