Waverley Borough Council is to bring a legal challenge over a decision by a planning inspector to grant planning permission for a scheme to build 99 homes on a greenfield site off Loxwood Road in Alfold.
The local authority said there had been significant local opposition to the application, which was originally refused by the council in March 2021, due to its excessive scale in comparison with the location.
In stating their reasons for refusal, the planning committee concluded that the 99 homes would not be sustainable, either on their own, or in combination with other recently permitted development locally.
There would also be no legal requirement for the developer to make contributions for affordable housing, sustainable transport, infrastructure or the on-going maintenance of sustainable drainage systems, which could have helped to make the development more sustainable, Waverley added.
However, the inspector, Harold Stephens, agreed with the developer’s claim that the council could not demonstrate a five-year land supply and gave great weight to this factor in granting planning permission for the scheme.
Waverley said it believed that in reaching his overall conclusions, the inspector either mis-applied or misinterpreted key adopted policies in the development plan, as well as the national policy on sustainability.
It added: “Waverley believes it has a legitimate claim that the appeal decision should be quashed on legal grounds and, given the significant planning implications for the borough arising from this appeal, it is determined to challenge the appeal ruling in court.”
Cllr Liz Townsend, Waverley Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economic Development, said: “This appeal decision bulldozes straight through the wishes of the local community and completely ignores our spatial strategy. Alfold clearly cannot take development at this level as there simply isn’t the infrastructure or local services to support it.
“Part 1 of our Local Plan, which was endorsed by an independent inspector for adoption in 2018, sets out a very clear spatial strategy for the delivery of the 11,210 new homes required in the borough by 2032, based on delivering these in the most sustainable locations, where there is the necessary infrastructure to accommodate such growth. It is very disappointing that an inspector can allow permission for a development of this size in a rural area, without giving due consideration to our adopted policies or to national policy on sustainability.
“We have taken legal advice and we believe we will be able to make a robust case that the inspector has erred in law in his decision-making. We feel we must challenge this ruling and defend our communities from overdevelopment.”
Cllr Paul Follows, Leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: “We work very hard to get our Local Plans in place, to allocate sites in areas where homes are sustainable and needed, and to approve planning permissions for suitable new housing. There are more than 5,000 existing permissions for new homes, but as-yet, more than half have not yet commenced.
“It is a clear failure of the current planning system, that once we have granted planning permission, the council, as local planning authority has no ability to influence the delivery of homes – and that local communities are entirely dependent on the goodwill of property developers to build out the homes, in order to protect them from more speculative and inappropriate development.
“National planning policy, set by the UK Government, continues to allow developers to effectively bypass Local Plans, water down their obligations to provide genuinely affordable and social housing and to put huge strain on local infrastructure. The only people benefitting from this system are the property developers.”