Three Developers to Challenge Farnham Neighbourhood Plan because of Lack of Conformity to Emerging Local Plan

Planning developed a protocol for these situations 30 years ago – the ‘permitted assumption’ that a structure plan was adopted in applying the general conformity test – why not the same principle qua local plans and neighbourhood plans?

Local Government Lawyer

Three developers have threatened a legal challenge to a neighbourhood plan while a referendum on its adoption is in progress.

Bewley Homes, Wates Developments and Catesby Property Group want to halt the plan for Farnham, based on legal advice they received last winter.

A Waverley Borough Council spokesperson said: “The council has received a threat of a legal challenge and is currently seeking legal advice.

“However the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan referendum is proceeding as planned [on 4 May]”.

Advice to the developers from Rupert Warren QC, tabled during the inquiry into the plan, said its approach of allocating sites using a new Built Up Area Boundary was “contrary to the strategic policies of the adopted local plan, and is likely to fail against at least two of the basic conditions.

“It is also liable to a legal challenge on the additional freestanding basis of failure to undertake a compliant strategic environmental assessment.”

Mr Warren explained: “The central problem with the [neighbourhood plan] as currently drafted largely stems from the way its emergence falls between the saved policies of the Local Plan for the area and the as yet untested replacement local plan.

“[It] understandably seeks to provide for the prospective housing needs of the area, but in circumstances where those needs have not been tested and incorporated into a set of strategic policies at the local planning authority level.

“The courts have held that neighbourhood plans may allocate housing sites in the absence of strategic policies in the adopted plan; however, the case law does not appear to deal with situations like the present one.”

Development strategy is described in Farnham’s plan as focussed on “well designed development on brownfield sites within the built up area of Farnham whilst proposing further sites for housing development and a new business site on a range of greenfield sites”, though avoiding areas in the green belt, at risk of flooding or within the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty.

It also aimed to prevent towns coalescing and said “housing development should be directed away from Farnham”.



Basildon plots doomed to fail plan to hire consultants to slash housing numbers

Reducing housing numbers simply to arbitrarily cut Green Belt Loss on suitable sites – that really worked well for Castlepoint didnt it.  All this will do is very expensively tell the cllrs what they already know – a classic stalling exercise.  The reason why local plans take years longer in the Green Belt.

Yellow Advertiser

HE APPROVAL of Basildon Council’s ’Local Plan’ could be delayed, its leader has announced.

Tory chief Phil Turner has suggested calling in independent analysts to go over the plan, which allocates land for development across the borough until 2034.

Cllr Turner said he hoped to ask experts to go over the plan’s policies on green belt and infrastructure.

He said he hoped the move would help him cut the number of planned houses in the borough, which currently sits at 15,260.

He said: “We can’t review the whole plan but those two points are areas where we think there may be opportunities about reducing our housing numbers.

“During the consultations, we’ve had a lot of feedback about how people don’t think we are working hard enough to to save the green belt. We don’t want to build on the green belt and we have avoided it as much as possible but I don’t think the public actually believes us.

“So what we are thinking is we should call in some independent people to scrutinise the plan and tell us where we can maybe use the evidence to put up an argument to challenge the housing numbers.”

Cllr Turner was due to present the proposal to all councillors in a secret meeting last night.

If approved, he said the process could cost a six-figure sum and take up to six months.

Cllr Turner conceded that reducing the number of homes could prove detrimental to the council’s budget in the future, as the New Homes Bonus – a Government scheme where councils receive extra funding for every house they approve – is key to the authority’s plan to become ’self-funding’.

He said: “That is the downside. We may run into a financial issue further down the line but I would like to at least give residents the assurance that I have done everything I can, turned over every stone, to see if we can keep the borough greener.”