The proposal to build affordable homes at Orchard Farm has been rejected on appeal and developers English Rural Housing Association must now decide whether to re-apply with a scaled-down application or sell the site on.
The ERHA had applied to demolish the existing farmhouse and outbuildings and build 12 affordable homes together with five larger market-price houses and provision of open space for village use.
After much local consultation, and with concerns expressed over the size of the proposed development and drainage issues, the application went before Waverley Borough Council in May last year where members voted to reject the scheme.
The nine-acre site between Petworth Road and Wormley Lane is within the Green Belt and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Waverley councillors said that no special circumstances existed in the application to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and the AONB.
After considering the outcome for several months, ERHA decided to lodge an appeal to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate. This appeal has now been considered and dismissed, upholding the original decision by Waverley Borough Councillors.
Sheila Holden, the inspector appointed by the Secretary of State to consider the appeal, said in her ruling: “Notwithstanding the continued need to provide affordable homes, the supply of housing land is not a factor weighing in this scheme’s favour”, adding that the proposal would be an “inappropriate development within the Green Belt”.
She accepted that there would be “very significant benefits arising from the provision of 12 units of affordable housing and limited benefits associated with the proposed public open space.”
But she concluded: “However, these benefits do not clearly outweigh the harm by reason of inappropriateness and the other harms I have identified. The very special circumstances needed to justify the scheme do not, therefore, exist.”
The ERHA, which is a registered provider of social housing in rural areas, has not commented on what it will do next. It bought the site on the open market and had hoped that the provision of market-price houses in the scheme would help pay for the affordable homes, which would have been available for rent or shared ownership at below market costs.
It may return with a smaller scale development of affordable homes only as the inspector’s ruling seems to indicate that market price properties are unacceptable and do not meet the criteria for exempting the site from Green Belt and AONB restrictions.
Or it could consider putting the land, together with the existing farmhouse, back on the open market.
Hambledon Parish Council remains committed to attempting to find suitable sites for affordable housing in the village in accordance with wishes expressed by residents and contained within the published Parish Plan.