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.
History of changes to East Street development
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