Case Study: 1,800 new homes, Waverley Borough Council

Dunsfold

Background

Our client sought consent for a mixed-use development, including 1,800 new homes, on a former airfield in the Surrey Borough of Waverley.  An earlier application to redevelop the site had been turned down for housing by the Council and at Appeal on traffic and access grounds in 2009.

Challenge

In March 2015 SP Broadway was instructed to bring new life to communications after the previous scheme had failed at committee and at Appeal, and to consider how to support a second standalone planning application to run alongside discussions on the allocation of the site in the Council’s Local Plan.

Solution

  • We suggested holding off instigating a communications campaign until after the 2015 general election, to avoid the scheme becoming a political football in a key battleground.
  • We began by raising the profile & availability of the site and outlining traffic & access solutions in a briefing letter sent to all Waverley councillors.  This letter intimated that a planning application may be brought forward ‘to help deliver the Government’s and wider communities’ aspirations for new homes in the area’, and focused on explaining the 10 key advantages of new homes on the airfield.
  • We organised a public exhibition to introduce the new proposals in July 2015.  Feedback showed that 69% of attendees were supportive / unopposed to plans for 1,800 new homes on the site.
  • Following the public exhibition we sent an update letter to councillors reminding them of the key advantages of consenting new homes on the site, and set up briefings with key Cabinet Members.
  • In November 2015, the Council published its Local Plan Draft Spatial Strategy, which suggested that a new settlement on the airfield ‘may offer the best opportunity to meet the Council’s housing needs’.  This was a significant u-turn, and resulted from a sustained and carefully targeted communications campaign.
  • We kept up communications with councillors throughout 2016, defending the site’s place in the Local Plan, and in December 2016 the Council approved the Plan with an allocation of 2,600 homes on our client’s site.

Result

We provided crucial pre-committee communications in the run up to the Planning Committee decision in December 2016.  After addressing traffic and access issues with Surrey County Council, the development gained an officer recommendation for approval, and despite last-minute lobbying by the anti-group and pressure from an articulate group of councillors on the Planning Committee, the scheme was consented by 10 votes to 8.

The Secretary of State subsequently called the application in, and after a lengthy examination granted consent in March 2018.

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