HOUSING developer Berkeley Homes has lodged an appeal against the borough council’s refusal to allow alterations to the basement layout at The Woolmead development.

Waverley borough councillors rejected Berkeley Homes’ initial bid in June 2020, with the developer citing the value of its retail element and need to deliver a “viable” profit margin as reason to reduce the number of spaces from 141 to 80.

A spokesperson for The Farnham Society said they “strongly objected” to Berkeley Homes’ bid to reduce the number of spaces by “over 40 per cent”, commenting: “The Society supported the original Berkeley Homes application despite many in the town objecting to it.

“The site is allocated for housing as part of the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan – as Berkeley Homes know.

“They are holding the town to ransom, as I believe some councillors implied in the Western Planning Committee Meeting which determined the application on June 23 last year.

“The society’s planning committee objected to the current application on 26 grounds, yet the developer’s statement of case regurgitates the same weak reasons for justifying the proposal to reduce the number of parking spaces.

“For example, they say to provide much-needed housing – as we know – and to improve highway safety by not providing car parking spaces will reduce the number of vehicle trips (really?) resulting in a minor improvement in air quality (well, maybe, but realistically I doubt it).

“Residents, both in local streets and in the development, will be circling the area looking for parking space.”

A Waverley Borough Council spokesperson added: “The applicant proposed to reduce parking provision within the scheme to a level significantly below Surrey County Council’s guideline minimum.

“The planning committee took the decision to refuse the application, on the grounds there would be insufficient parking, and this would have a detrimental impact both within the scheme and on surrounding areas.”

Farnham Town Council leader John Neale, said the council “hopes the matter can be resolved urgently so the site, which is currently disfiguring the town centre, can be built out as soon as possible”.

* Berkeley Homes did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment by the time we went to print.Harry Lewis, Managing Director of Berkeley Homes Southern, later commented: “The proposal to reduce the basement at The Woolmead was made following discussions with Waverley Borough Council around ways to get the project off the ground and help regenerate Farnham town centre. The reduction of the basement serves three main purposes in the context of a declining retail market. "Firstly, it reduces the cost of delivering the scheme to make it financially viable. "Secondly, it maintains 4,000m2 of active retail space, delivering high street activity for Farnham and supporting Brightwells. "And finally, it improves the development’s sustainability credentials and reduces air pollution in the town centre. We believe it is the right solution for the site and for Farnham.”