A REFERENDUM on the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan will go ahead as planned this Thursday - after a consortium of developers withdrew an injunction claim at the 11th hour.
Three house builders - Bewley Homes, Wates Developments and Catesby Property Group - applied to the High Court last week to halt the May 4 public vote pending a judicial review of Neighbourhood Plan, setting out a community-led blueprint for development in the town up to 2031.
A hearing was hastily scheduled at the Royal Courts of Justice to determine the injunction claim on Tuesday. But, after an agreement was reached by all parties, a High Court judge has agreed to ‘vacate’ the hearing.
It means the referendum can now proceed unimpeded this Thursday, alongside the county council elections - and in the event of a majority ‘yes’ vote in favour of the plan, Waverley Borough Council will be duty-bound to adopt the document as planning policy.
A judicial review will then follow “no later” than June 15, to determine whether the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan meets the “basic conditions” for a lawful development plan, as challenged by the consortium of developers.
Central to this challenge is a belief the Farnham plan relies too heavily on Waverley’s “un-tested” emerging Local Plan and not the borough’s existing Local Plan adopted in 2002. The consortium also questions the level of protection afforded to the rare heathland Special Protection Areas surrounding Farnham.
The consortium’s motives have been questioned, however, with Bewley, Wates and Catesby each pursuing housing developments on sites excluded from the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan; in Lower Weybourne Lane, Upper Old Park Lane and Waverley Lane.
The Farnham Neighbourhood Plan, which has been led by Farnham Town Council and is the result of more than three years’ public consultation, is focused on “well designed development on brownfield sites within the built up area of Farnham” and preventing the “coalescence” of existing settlements.
It does propose a number of further greenfield sites for housing development - most notably 350 homes at Coxbridge Farm, and a new business site at Water Lane.
However, these sites have been identified and promoted in close collaboration with the community, and the Neighbourhood Plan has received universal backing from more than 20 of the town’s residents associations and civic societies.
The judicial review will come ahead of a separate examination hearing on the Waverley Local Plan on June 27. The Local Plan has been prepared alongside its sister Farnham document, setting out a borough-wide blueprint for development up to 2032.
More to follow in this week’s Herald, on sale Thursday.