Venue: Council Chamber - Farnham Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Email: Town.Clerk@farnham.gov.uk
To receive apologies for absence.
Disclosures of Interest
To receive from members, in respect of any items included on the agenda for this meeting, disclosure of any disclosable pecuniary or other interests, or of any gifts and hospitality, in line with the Town Council’s Code of Conduct.
(i) The following councillors have made a general non-pecuniary interest declaration in relation to being councillors of Waverley Borough Council: Cllrs David Beaman, George Murray, Tony Fairclough, George Hesse, Andrew Laughton, Mark Merryweather, Kika Mirylees, John Ward, and Graham White.
(iii) The following councillor has made a general non-pecuniary interest declaration in relation to being a councillor of Surrey County Council: Cllr Michaela Martin;
(iv) Members are requested to make any declarations of interest, on the form attached, to be returned to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on the day before the meeting.
Members are reminded that if they declare a pecuniary interest they must leave before any debate starts unless dispensation has been obtained.
There were no disclosures of interest.
To sign as a correct record the minutes of the Farnham Town Council meeting held on 27th July at Appendix A.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 27th July were agreed.
Questions and Statements by the Public
In accordance with Standing Order 10.1, the Town Mayor will invite members of the public present to ask questions or make statements.
At the discretion of the Town Mayor, those members of the public, residing or working within the Council’s boundary, will be invited to make representations or ask questions in respect of the business on the agenda, or other matters not on the agenda, for a maximum of 3 minutes per person or 20 minutes overall.
1 Zofia Lovell of the South Farnham Residents Association and had been involved with the Neighbourhood Plan since the start said the discussion on a statutory challenge was very important. Neighbourhood Plans were meant to give communities direct power and be able to choose where housing in Farnham should go. The Neighbourhood Plan was delivering in Farnham and it was important the community protected the fully Made Neighbourhood Plan.
2 Noel Moss, representing the Farnham Biodiversity Partnership had written to the Planning Inspector before the public Inquiry underlining the damage this application would cause to the environment and biodiversity in Farnham. Given climate change and the global threat, he felt there was a case and as the Chief Executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust said, the problems arising in Surrey are not n the future, but here and now. The likely damage to the fields, from the building work and making the SANG and the car park together with the increased movement after the houses were built would be an intolerable threat to wildlife. There were 1300 different species recorded in these fields. The development was a threat to fields and a threat to the wildlife corridor. The Bourne Stream corridor was vital in South Farnham connecting the Surrey Hills to Alice Holt and would be affected. These arguments seem to carry no weight with the Inspector who only mentioned biodiversity once in the report.
Cllr White responded by thanking the public for their support. He had made a note of their comments which would be referenced in the discussion in the report from Strategy & Resources. Cllr White said the decision had been shocking, was carried out in a cavalier way and was unacceptable.
Town Mayor's Announcements
To receive the Town Mayor’s announcements.
As it was an extraordinary meeting, the Town Mayor had no specific announcements for Council.
To consider whether there appears to be sufficient grounds for Farnham Town Council to make a legal challenge to Planning Appeal APP/R3650/W/22/3311941 - Land West of and Opposite Old Compton Lane, Waverley Lane, Farnham.
The questions regarding a challenge may include:
1) Farnham Town Council supporting Waverley Borough Council as a Rule 6 Status supporter (entitled to appear at the inquiry and to ‘cross- examine’ other parties)if leave to appeal were given and if Waverley were to lead the challenge;
2) Farnham Town Council to lead a challenge;
3) No further action being taken.
Legal advice received from Counsel will be considered in exempt session as legally privileged information.
Cllr White introduced the report from Strategy & Finance attached at Appendix B to the agenda. The site was not included in the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan and was for a greenfield development on land that had been designated for an extension of the Surrey Hills AONB.
Council’s decision was sought on whether or not there were sufficient grounds to make a legal challenge having weighed up the advice received on the prospects of success and the likely costs of a challenge.
Waverley officers initially advised that apart from grammatical errors in the decision letter which was badly phrased, there was no plan to make any challenge but FTC officers have been separately exploring all opportunities to see if there was any prospect of FTC challenging the decision separately. An initial meeting took place with Steve Tilbury, FTC’s external planning advisor and discussions have taken place with the Director and Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB and its planning advisor.
Following the Council meeting on 27th July, FTC also commissioned a King’s Counsel to check independently whether there were grounds for challenging, and if so, what would be the estimated likelihood of success on the grounds available. Ideally the commissioning of a legal opinion in terms of questions and costs would have been shared with Waverley, but the questions and answers were shared and had only been summarised for FTC.
The most significant issue centred around the site allocations and environmental protections in the Neighbourhood Plan, and whether or not the Inspector gave sufficient consideration to Farnham Neighbourhood Plan Policies 14 and 10c. The South Farnham Residents’ Association (SOFRA) had put in an enormous amount of work over several years in demonstrating the negative impact development would have, and the harm that would be made to the local environment which was designated as being of high landscape value and high sensitivity in the landscape study undertaken by HDA on behalf of the Town Council in preparing the Neighbourhood Plan.
Unfortunately, the Neighbourhood Plan no longer retained the 2 year protection for Made Neighbourhood Plans and the proposed NPPF changes (announced by Rt Hon Michael Gove in a Written Ministerial Statement in December 2022) extending this to 5 years had still not come into place. The Borough was short of its five-year land supply because approved sites were not being built out, which puts sites allocated in Neighbourhood Plans in a worse position than sites allocated in Local Plans. Cllr White said that effectively, this meant that communities are being held to ransom by developers.
In discussion, Cllr Wards said that if Farnham proceeded to get Leave to Appeal it would be acknowledged as having standards. He sought clarification on the likely costs and the Town Clerk advised this depended on whether Farnham could be a Rule 6 contributor (not applicable to Judicial Reviews) or whether the Aarhus Cap would apply. This principle limited the maximum payable ny individuals or small organisations like parish councils.
Cllr Merryweather endorsed the comments from Zofia ... view the full minutes text for item C47/22
Date of Next Meeting
To agree the date of the next meeting as 14th September 2023.
The date of the next meeting was agreed as 14th September 2023 at 7pm.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
TO PASS A RESOLUTION to exclude members of the public and press from the meeting at Part 3 of the agenda in view of any confidential items under discussion. These will usually relate to exempt staffing matters, legally privileged information or contractual matters which may be commercially sensitive.
In order to consider the legal opinions taken by Council, which were privileged information, the Mayor proposed, Seconded by Cllr Murray, that the Council move into confidential session. This was RESOLVED unanimously and the press and the public left the meeting.
Discussion on the Legal and professional advice provided to Farnham Town Council
To discuss any legal and other advice received in relation to the potential challenge.
In confidential session, councillors reviewed the Counsel’s opinion and the key matters that would form the case if a decision were made to progress with a Judicial Challenge and consideredwhether or not it wished to a) instigate a Judicial review on its own; b) support a Judicial Review led by Waverley Borough Council as a Rule 6 (or equivalent) supporter, and with a financial contribution; or c) not to pursue a further legal challenge having considered the potential prospects of success.
After further discussion, the preferred position was for Farnham Town Council to support a challenge by Waverley, but if Waverley were not to take the lead, then Farnham Town Council was prepared to take the lead.
Cllr Ward acknowledged the very clear and valuable advice given by officers and the Town Clerk on the risks of a challenge. The view of Council was that if there was a chink in the armour of the Inspector’s arguments then this should be pursued and this was not just a fight for Farnham, it was a fight for all candidate areas for an AONB extension, and for all Neighbourhood Plans.
On putting the matter to a vote, it was RESOLVED unanimously to support a Judicial Challenge on the Planning Inspector’s decision on Planning Appeal APP/R3650/W/22/3311941 led by Waverley Borough Council, with Farnham Town Council as a Rule 6 supporter (or equivalent), and with a financial contribution.
It was RESOLVED by 10 votes to 2 that Farnham Town Council should take the lead on the judicial challenge if Waverley did not do so.
It was RESOLVED unanimously to authorise the Town Clerk to negotiate the best way to progress decisions agreed by Council in consultation with the Co-Leaders and Mayor.