History of changes to East Street development

In 2002, Waverley Borough Council prepared a Development Brief, setting out what should be provided to the people of Farnham through redevelopment of the area south of East Street, around Brightwell House. The redevelopment required Brightwell Gardens to be retained as a public space, along with the bowling green and clubhouse. A new Gostrey Centre was to be provided within the development, close to its current town centre location. The scheme was to include a mix of housing, comprising privately owned flats together with social rented and affordable housing. The brief required limited commercial space to be included within the redevelopment. In the Farnham Herald of 12 December 2003, it was announced that the developers, Crest Nicholson Sainsbury (CNS), were to pay Waverley £20 million for the land under the scheme proposed at the time, and Waverley did not deny or challenge this. However, the scheme has been changed progressively over the years, to the economic benefit of the developer and to the detriment of Farnham. The scheme was subsequently reduced in scope, the Bowling Green was removed and the clubhouse marked for demolition. CNS were to be allowed to build over these sites, as well as part of the Brightwell Gardens.  A development agreement with CNS in 2009 gave a land value of £8.76 million. These changes in combination offered substantial economic benefit to CNS. The loss of public amenities and the reduced payment from the CNS are to the detriment of the people in the Farnham area. Further changes to the plan, approved by Waverley on 24 May 2016, relocated the Gostrey Centre to the Memorial Hall, thus moving it out of the town centre where it is needed by those who use it. The changes also removed the social rented and affordable housing (which made up 30% of the housing) replacing it with shared ownership housing, to the disadvantage of those on lower incomes and on the housing waiting lists. In addition to this, the Land Value was reduced to £3.19M. Once again, the changes are intended to benefit CNS to the detriment of Farnham. Unable to obtain funding from commercial lenders – who, it must be assumed, considered the scheme too risky – Waverley has now obtained funding from Surrey County Council, thus putting taxpayers’ (i.e. our) money at risk.  

4 thoughts on “History of changes to East Street development

  1. I note your ambition to seek a Judical review concerning Waverley’s decision to proceed with the East St/Brightwells scheme because it fails, in your opinion, to comply with a Development Brief written 15 years ago. I would gently offer a suggestion that things have changed a lot in that time.
    Your Background paper on your website gives reason to believe that this development has only been debated since 2002 when it has actually been a major issue almost from the time that the dreaded Woolmead was built, which is, quite likely, the one development that the Farnham Society DIDN’T object to.(It would be interesting to know what their stance was–I freely confess I might well be wrong in my assumption). Like every development in Farnham–Sequel House (ex Craven House), Lion and Lamb, St Georges Yard, Borelli Yard, and others I was not involved in, the Objectors have shouted “this will only happen over my dead body”. Sadly it is Farnham that dies not the objectors and schemes like EastSt/Woolmead/Brightwells lurch from one delay to the next and –surprise, surprise, the costs escalate, the returns to ratepayers diminish and we might eventually end up with a camel. When will objectors realise that “appropriate” development also has to be practical and affordable and that a constructive dialogue with developers and Council is the only way forward–not a judicial review which will cost both sides a very great deal of money and produce an even worse scheme than you think the present one is.
    I note that you failed, disingenuously, to advise Members what the real cost of your judicial review will be. This is not a transparent way to present a call for funds. You should also give an estimate of the cost to ratepayers and an estimate of the further delay that such a move would occasion. You cannot criticize the Developer and the Council for their presentation if you are operating in this fashion.

    1. Taking the points raised in the comment:
      The Farnham Society is supporting the current proposal to redevelop the Woolmead. Where is the evidence that The Farnham Society did not object to the existing building?
      We agree that things have changed a great deal since the 2002 Development Brief, for example the rise of internet retailing. This is one major reason for wanting the present scheme abandoned and replaced with a viable alternative.
      The Farnham Society did not object in principle to Lion and Lamb, and to Borelli Yard. Comments were indeed raised on some of the early proposals to these schemes. These comments related to specific issues, which, when addressed, helped to give the developments we know and appreciate today.
      The fourteen year wait for Brighwells has arisen because the developer has been unable to obtain funding from commercial lenders.
      A constructive dialogue with Waverley would be welcomed. However, throughout the last fourteen years Waverley has taken decisions behind closed doors, ignoring any dissenting voices. More than five thousand local residents objected to the 2008 scheme. How much notice did Waverley take of their views?
      Alternative schemes for redevelopment have been discussed over the years, and there has been no suggestion that these are ‘even worse’ than the current proposal.
      With regard to a public declaration of costs and funding levels – is it sound practice to declare to one’s opponent how much ammunition one has in one’s locker?

  2. Why have you not mentioned that the scheme was scaled back.

    The residential property was scaled back to a maximum of three floors and not the originally proposed four.

    The underground car park was removed.

    The council from what I understand changed the terms originally offered to the developer. But no mention of this above.

    Why? You’re carefully playing the facts just as much as Waverley. Therefore you are just as bad as Waverley.

    1. Response to comments
      1. The article notes the reduction in scope between the 2003 scheme and that of 2008.
      2. Refer to the 2008 scheme in planning application 2008/0279. See building D8, which will cover the site of the existing Dogflud car park. The building is four storeys high, with a car park below.
      3. The council has changed the terms in favour of the developer. The price of the land was reduced from over £8M (the value set in 2008) to just over £3M, in a decision taken in May 2016. The scheme was not reduced in scope after 2008. Regulations governing public contracts require that the contract be retendered after this change. This is the subject of the current Judicial Review.

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