Each of the settlements in the Plan area is surrounded by protected landscapes: Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (“AONB”) and Areas of Great Landscape Value (“AGLV”). The Wealden Heath Special Protected Area extends deep into the Plan area, so the settlements are all within five miles of this ecologically sensitive and protected region. To the south there is Blackdown and the border shared with the South Downs National Park. The value of the area’s ecology, landscapes and natural assets is unique and our responsibility to preserve it was emphasised repeatedly in responses to Haslemere Vision’s consultations.
The area combines this natural environment of great diversity and beauty with good local amenities, excellent access via the A3, a fast train line to London and surrounding retail and employment centres. It is regularly described as one of the best places to live in the United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, this makes it a very popular place to move to and property is in high demand. However, the protected countryside around the built areas, combined with past growth and a difficult topography severely limit the available land that can be used to accommodate the new homes called for by the Waverley Local Plan Part I.
This shortage of available building land, as evidenced by a survey of possible sites carried out by Haslemere Vision volunteers, the Waverley Borough Council Land Availability Assessments and the recent Waverley Borough Council ‘call for sites’, is compounded by the community’s desire to see the creation of more local employment during the Plan period. For instance, 65% of consultation respondents wished to see ‘as many houses as possible’ built ‘within settlements’ and 73% of respondents supported the retention of similar or higher levels of employment on four of the largest currently available sites in the Plan area.
This direct competition between use for housing, for employment and for parking and the lack of land means that the only way to accommodate these objectives is to use the existing space efficiently. As a consequence, any proposal for a change of land use must carefully consider what is being lost. This is particularly the case for any loss of employment land, already scarce in the town, or expansion into protected green spaces.
Given the extraordinary circumstances described above, a number of key principles were set out to guide development of the Plan policies. The policies are designed to give effect to these principles. Future development should be considered not only as to its compliance with the details of the policies but also with the overriding principles they are seeking to implement.
The fundamental purpose of the Neighbourhood Plan is to guide the use of land within the Plan area, whether planned or windfall development.
Delivering the required housing numbers
The National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) requires neighbourhood plans to accommodate, as a minimum, the houses allocated to the Plan area by the local planning authority. The Haslemere Vision Phase II consultation asked the community how many houses they thought were needed in the area: minorities wanted fewer and more homes, 59% of respondents favoured ‘no more than the minimum number of homes proposed by the (Waverley) Local Plan’.
The Waverley Local Plan is being delivered in two parts. Waverley Local Plan Part 1 (“LPP1”) set out strategic policies and the spacial framework (how many new homes per town) and was adopted in 2018. It recognised the constraints Haslemere faces in accommodating new development and, reflecting this, the LPP1 allocated 990 homes to the Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan area in the period to 2032. Taking into account what has already been built and approved (as at Jan 2020), and the anticipated future windfall opportunities, less than half of the allocation now remains to be met.
The Waverley Local Plan Part 2 (“LPP2”) will soon be published for Borough wide consultation and will recommend the homes allocated by LPP1 be built on ‘Allocated Development Sites’. Waverley Borough Council has taken on the task of assessing the environmental sustainability of potential development sites that have been proposed within the Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan area and allocating sites for development.
Reflecting the community’s expressed opinion, the Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan recognises the allocated 990 homes but does not propose that more homes be built within the Plan area during the Plan period of 2013 to 2032.
Setting a settlement boundary
Haslemere town and surrounding villages currently do not have formally recognised settlement boundaries, although there are informal boundaries based on the near complete enclosure of the settlements by protected green spaces (Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Areas of Great Landscape Value, land owned by the National Trust and the Wealden Heath Special Protected Area).
Therefore, to clarify the situation for future planning purposes the Plan proposes formal, defined and recognised settlement boundaries that maintain and contain the current urban boundaries, to protect the character of the area and prevent unrestricted growth into the countryside.
Balancing land scarcity and housing development densities
There is not enough suitable land identified within the existing built area to accommodate all the housing that the Waverley Local Plan Part 1 states is needed, unless the available sites are developed at reasonable densities and there continues to be a substantial level of windfall development.
Therefore, in order to minimise the land take outside the built area, all developments in the Plan area should consider land as a ‘scarce resource’. The Plan policies seek, through their housing density guidance, to ensure any new development makes the most efficient and best use of the land (design standards permitting). This is intended to minimize the total land take required to accommodate the number of homes or employment land needed, both now and in the future.
Preserving the character of the town
Haslemere is an attractive market town. It benefits from several areas of countryside that come right into the centre of the settlement, a Conservation Area, many buildings of significant age and character and high housing quality. Together this creates a valued residential environment which underpins property values in the area as a whole. The characteristics and resources that create this positive environment have been laid out in the Haslemere Design Statement (ref the Glossary page 64). The Neighbourhood Plan builds upon the objectives of the Haslemere Design Statement which has already been adopted as a material planning consideration.
Achieving a suitable housing mix
Waverley’s Housing Needs Assessment indicates that 78.5% of affordable housing need and 46.3% of market housing need is for one-bedroomed or two-bedroomed dwellings. Haslemere Vision’s community consultations consistently highlighted support for greater provision of housing affordable to those who work in the area and for first-time or younger buyers. A growing need for smaller properties suitable for residents wishing to downsize was also identified. The Haslemere Community Land Trust research adds further evidence of local housing needs which should be considered with any planning application.
Therefore, the Plan seeks to encourage the development of fewer large executive houses and a greater proportion of apartments and smaller properties.
Managing our road network and parking needs
Whilst the Neighbourhood Plan legislation relates only to land use, it is recognised that many of the roads in and around Haslemere are narrow with steep banks, sharp bends and no footpaths, creating problems for all road users. In the centre of Haslemere these problems are compounded by the number of station users parking on streets in a wide radius around the station with limited land available to accommodate increased off-street parking.
Haslemere station has the highest number of passengers of any station in Waverley. The station currently attracts 3,000 rail users and 900 cars every weekday, of which over 550 use four nearby car parks and the remainder park in roads near the station. Rail commuters travel from Fernhurst, Midhurst and other adjacent towns and villages, not served by a station. Some come from as far away as Chichester and the outskirts of Southampton. Many school children use the train during term times to travel to Guildford, Godalming, Liphook, Petersfield and Portsmouth.
The next 10 years is anticipated to see increasing demand for the station and consequently in commuter traffic and parking because of the growth of housing, including that caused by major out-of-town developments in the station’s large catchment area both inside and outside Waverley Borough. Based on Network Rail’s South East Route Utilisation Strategy, Haslemere may have as many as 450 more commuters and significant growth in off-peak rail travel by 2032.
Unless enhancements are made to our roads, cycle ways and footpaths to facilitate and encourage the use of non-motorised transport the town will suffer worsening congestion due to the planned increases in housing and population during the Plan period.
Therefore, where possible under the provisions of planning policy the Plan seeks to encourage development that promotes a balanced use of our road space and sustainable non-motorised forms of transport.
Whilst many of residents’ concerns about access and transport identified in the community consultation cannot be addressed by neighbourhood planning policy, specific proposals for future community actions are listed in the Opportunities section of this document (see Section 5: Opportunities – Traffic, parking and non-car transport). We hope the community will continue to play an active part in taking these forward.
Protecting the local environment
The Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan area contains areas of Metropolitan Green Belt, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (“AONB”) and Areas of Great Landscape Value (“AGLV”). It also contains or borders a wealth of important nationally and internationally protected wildlife habitats (ref maps in policy H14; pages 43 and 44). These include the Wealden Heaths Phase II Special Protection Area (“SPA”), an extensive area of lowland heathland as well as two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (“SSSIs”) (the Devil’s Punch Bowl and Stockstone Quarry).
The area contains 20 Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (“SNCIs”), one Local Geological Site and significant ancient woodland which play a vital role in supporting a number of rare and threatened species as well as connecting green corridors. It is also part of a network of Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (“BOAs”) aiming to deliver a coherent and resilient ecological network across the county.
Haslemere is unusual in that completely undeveloped open land penetrates closely into the town centre. These ‘green fingers’ of damp woodland, water and small fields with adjacent hedgerows (such as at Swan Barn) are immensely valuable and characteristic of the town. The whole area is very wooded and the undulating topography helps to hide the built-up area. This has led to certain areas of the town being designated as Areas of Strategic Visual Importance (ASVIs), seeking to prevent the coalescence of the settlement and to protect areas of open land that penetrate into the urban area. Examples include the wooded area between Weydown Road and Bunch Lane and the woodland between Buffbeards Lane and Vicarage Lane, south of Holy Cross Hospital.
The Haslemere Hillsides (wooded area to the south of Haslemere High Street) has been designated an Area of Special Environmental Quality to protect the verdant character forming an important backdrop to the town centre.
The Haslemere area has been a popular destination for literary and artistic talent including Tennyson, John Tyndall and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used Hindhead Heath as his inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles. Much of the land is among the earliest land acquired by the National Trust and the area remains a popular place to walk and enjoy the countryside.
Haslemere is surrounded by hills, with Blackdown at 920 feet (280 m) to the south and Gibbet Hill at 894 feet (272m) to the north. The Waverley Local Plan Part I recognises their value and specifically protects these views, which highlight the area’s unique environment.
All in all, Haslemere encompasses a natural environment notable for its diversity and biodiversity assets. The Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan seeks to protect the environment and biodiversity assets from damage and loss for future residents, visitors and wildlife.
Therefore, the Plan seeks to ensure that any development taking place during the life of the Plan:
- if within the existing built area, is developed in line with appropriate building standards using the Haslemere Design Statement (ref Glossary page 64) and the principles of the Building for Life Standards (ref Evidence list page 68).
- if outside the built area, is developed in a manner that meets the Neighbourhood Plan sustainability standards. These standards have deliberately been set higher than national norms because of the sensitivity and unique value of the surrounding environment.
Promoting and encouraging a vibrant local economy
Waverley’s Economic Strategy 2015 – 2020 (ref Evidence List page 69) sets out the borough’s characteristics which include a higher than average economic activity rate, a higher level of self-employment than the rest of England, a business base dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises, high levels of outward commuting and only modest levels of employment growth since 2001. Based on the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2012, the percentage gap between the mean wage of those who live in Waverley, but work outside the borough, versus those who live and work in Waverley was 85% (£46,064 vs £24,900). In the 2011 Census, 69% of Haslemere residents were employed or self-employed; 15% were self-employed compared to only 12% in Waverley.
Land constraints and demand for new homes in the area have resulted in the redevelopment of many employment sites for housing. The five major sites¹ consulted on (ref Haslemere Vision Consultation Phase II results) employed at least 110 people historically. Several other recent development sites were previously employment sites.
The Waverley Employment Land Review Update 2016 (ref Evidence list page 69) recognised a lack of flexible B class premises that can accommodate small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). Haslemere should encourage the development and siting of SME commercial office space in the town so as to take advantage of the excellent railway connections between London and Portsmouth, increase the number of residents working in the town and increase the average income earned by residents.
Waverley’s Local Plan Part I recognises that retail is a key sector of Waverley’s economy and important to the continued vibrancy of its town centres. Waverley’s strategy is to continue to support Haslemere’s role as a convenience and service centre that meets local needs and to continue to ensure that a balance is maintained between Wey Hill and the High Street. The Neighbourhood Plan area also includes Hindhead and Beacon Hill. While the area of Hindhead close to the Devil’s Punch Bowl has gained some new smaller retail units since the building of the Hindhead tunnel, Beacon Hill has lost a significant amount of its retail offering.
The South Downs National Park Authority has already identified Haslemere station as a public transport gateway to the National Park and there are opportunities to grow the visitor economy further.
Therefore the Plan will seek to promote the retention of existing local employment and the growth of new employment opportunities in order to sustain a healthy vibrant community.
¹ The five major sites which were consulted on are Baron’s garage, Andrews of Hindhead, 5-21 Wey Hill, Land North of Wey Hill (Youth Campus) and West Street (town centre car park).