Council accused of ‘rolling over’ to developers as second Farnham scheme gets approval despite no affordable homes

WAVERLEY COUNCIL has been accused of ‘rolling over’ to developers, after a second major town centre scheme was approved without any affordable housing provision for the 1,500 waiting on the borough council’s housing register.

Hard on the heels of Farnham’s Woolmead development of 138 appartments, which was approved in July despite having no affordable housing, Waverley’s joint planning committee gave the green light for 45 flats in Wey Hill with no affordable housing included, on Monday.

Waverley’s new Local Plan stipulates 30 per cent affordable housing should be included on qualifying new developments.

But both the Woolmead and Wey Hill developers successfully argued the profit margin for each development was too small to cover the additional cost of providing affordable housing and therefore their schemes didn’t qualify.

In both cases, the developers’ supporting figures were subjected to further scrutiny by independent consultants, who also concluded the schemes would be financially unviable if they included affordable housing.

The experts reported the redevelopment of the former Clement Windows and motorcycle site between Majestic Wine and the railway bridge to provide two blocks comprising 45 flats and parking, carried a higher financial risk as it was flats rather than large houses.

They said the expected profit margin of 17.5-20 per cent without affordable housing was ‘fair and reasonable”’and in line with government guidance.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Brettenwood Investment Holding, David Butcher told committee members: “Four financial companies have assessed the site and affordable housing is not viable.”

The application was deferred by Waverley following concerns it might be in breach of an EU habitats directive concerning the way mitigation measures had been assessed due to the site’s proximity to a Special Protection Area.

Officers were satisfied the scheme did not breach guidelines and recommended it should be granted. Brettenwood is paying £230,000 towards various infrastructure projects in mitigation.

Committee members agreed it was high time the prominent site’s ‘ugly and run down’, which has stood empty surrounded by hoardings for 12 years, was replaced by a ‘quality’ building, but most voiced grave concerns about the lack of affordable housing.

Haslemere Tory councillor Stephen Mulliner said the town needed the apartments but councillors needed to ‘become much smarter’ earlier in the process if they were to get affordable housing included on larger sites.

Farnham Residents’ councillor Jerry Hyman said: “When the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is introduced developers will pay three times the amount Waverley takes in section 106 agreements.

“We will find a lot more developers are saying it is unaffordable to provide affordable housing. We should make a stand at some point. If we are prepared to roll over when the market is like it is now, I shudder to think what we will do in the future.”

Mr Hyman also criticised the infrastructure contribution of £40,000 to pay for a part-time National Trust parking warden at Hindhead in mitigation and was supported by Hindhead Tory councillor Peter Isherwood.

Godalming Lib Dem councillor Paul Follows said: “When we have CIL it will allow almost everyone to claim a site is not viable.

“We have had Woolmead. We should reject this and they can come back with at least one affordable home. ”

Members voted 14-5 in favour of the plan.

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