Waverley Borough Council has decided to proceed with the East Street/Brightwells development. A Special Executive Meeting on 24 May, recommended proceeding, and this was followed by a full Council meeting which approved the recommendation.
The proceedings can be viewed as a webcast via the WBC website
Following the approval in June of a Non Material Amendment, the Tennis Club pavilion was demolished at the beginning of August. This allowed both Waverley Borough Council and Crest Nicholson to claim that work on the Brightwell site started before the planning consent expired, thus eliminating the necessity to submit a further planning application.
Some clearance work along the northern side of the A31 was undertaken in August, and red marker posts have appeared in the grass verge alongside the carriageway, at the site of the proposed temporary access bridge. However there has been no anouncement relating to funding, leading to speculation that Crest Nicholson are considering proceeding without construction of the bridge (to save money).
The Waverley website page on the East Street/Brightwells development has not been updated since 15 January; Making Waves no longer mentions the project and the Waverley Executive will not answer questions about the funding situation or the potential starting date of the development.
In October, Waverley applied for Listed Building Consent for demolition of the Redgrave Theatre, along with boundary walls, the toilet block and the cottage. As of 28 December, the website shows the application as ‘Pending Decision’. English Heritage raised an objection, calling for the walls and cottage to be retained as they form part of the setting for Brightwells House. In spite of this, part of the garden wall was demolished shortly before Christmas, to be replaced with fencing.
There is no mention on the website of the demolition, nor of English Heritage’s objection. Waverley councillor Julia Potts is quoted as claiming that “.. the wall presented a danger to the public ..” and that “emergency repairs, which included partial demolition, were immediately carried out”. The Farnham Herald of 26 December quotes Jerry Hyman’s response – “Brightwell House was constructed 220 years ago, yet the council expects us to believe that the need for demolition became urgent three weeks after English Heritage asked for the East Street project to be redesigned to retain the walls. The Heras fencing that is now in place would have been sufficient to ensure public safety. Following on from the commencement of the East Street project at Riverside without EIA or planning consent, this act is sacrilege, and councillor Potts’ talk of Waverley’s responsibilities is an insult to our intelligence.”
On 3 January, the Herald reported that an unnamed spokesman from Waverley had stated that the damage was caused by the root system of a nearby tree; that the bricks removed from the wall had been retained for rebuilding of the wall; and that the emergency work was unrelated to the pending application for Listed Building Consent. However, Waverley have not published any details of structural surveys, nor have they explained why the wall had suddenly become dangerous – the nearby tree has evidently been growing next to the wall for some considerable time. We await details of a schedule for rebuilding of the wall.
Waverley were not quite so reticent at the time of the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) inquiry in January 2013, when the project was regularly described as “shovel ready”. Their Statement of case, dated September 2012 stated
“Crest Nicholson wishes to proceed with the Scheme as soon as possible following confirmation of the Order. The Council, having taken professional advice, is satisfied that the Scheme is viable, the developer has the financial resources to deliver it, and that upon completion of site assembly there will be no other impediments to implementation of the Scheme.”
“The Brightwells scheme is viable and can be delivered. It is the intention of Crest Nicholson to progress the development immediately on securing the Order Lands. The Scheme will be funded with a mixture of equity provided by Crest Nicholson and forward funding investment from a financial institution.”
Planning Inspector’s Conclusions
The Planning Inspector at the CPO inquiry was of course obliged to regard statements from Waverley as reliable evidence, but we have to wonder what he would now think about the conclusions that he came to in granting the CPO application based on the evidence from Waverley and Crest Nicholson.
“Objectors question the viability of the scheme, but an independent financial appraisal commissioned by CN shows conclusively that the scheme is viable in demand, value and commercial terms. There are substantial third party commitments, with significant pre-letting secured to key tenants. While they may have been attracted by significant incentives that Is an entirely normal approach for a development of this kind. It can be expected that their presence would lead to an increase in demand when the remaining units are marketed.
Negotiations are also in train to release the affordable units to a social landlord . Up-to-date construction costs and development revenues have been independently assessed and are current and reliable. CN anticipates a 15% profit on turnover which, given the degree of ‘derisking’, is an appropriate level of return for this development. I consider that all this demonstrates convincingly that the development scheme is viable.”
“Funding would be a joint venture between CN, who would fund the infrastructure and residential elements of the scheme, and an institutional lender, who would fund the commercial elements. CN is a secure and substantial organisation with considerable experience of similar town centre redevelopments. While the funding partner was not named at the inquiry for reasons of commercial confidentiality, the draft ‘Heads of Terms’ of an Agreement under discussion gives an indication of the attractiveness of the project to external funding institutions.Additional public funding has also been granted to enable the development timetable to be brought forward.”
“There are no financial impediments to implementation and, given that detailed planning permissions are in place and funding is available, there is every prospect that, upon completion of the land assembly, the scheme would proceed. I consider that the financial viability of the scheme has been firmly established.”
So we can’t say what the current funding situation is on the development or when it is likely to start.
However in terms of the accuracy, reliability and credibility of what we were told about the availability of funding and the starting date of the development two years at the CPO inquiry the quotations above speak for themselves.