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Farnham Town Council rejects unorthodox request to drop High Court challenge

Exterior of Victorian red office building with church next door.

Councillors at Farnham Town Council were shocked to receive a highly unorthodox proposal from the President of a local private members’ sports club to drop a High Court challenge against a housing developer that wants to build on virgin green fields on the outskirts of Farnham. Farnham Town Council has learned from correspondence sent by the Bourne Club that the Bourne Club had been promised £200,000 from the developer of the site in Waverley Lane, Farnham – Wates Developments Ltd on condition that the Town Council withdrew its legal challenge.

The Council first decided to take a stand for local people in August 2023 when it lodged a Statutory challenge in the High Court against the approval of a scheme to develop 146 homes on green fields that were a candidate to become part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Council believed the Planning Inspector had not considered sufficiently the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan policies and the harm that this decision would bring in removing the proposed site and the surrounding area from protected status in perpetuity. This rural site is characterised as being of high landscape value and sensitivity and worthy of inclusion in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Councillor Graham White, Leader of Farnham Town Council says: “The decision to take legal action is not one that was taken lightly by Farnham Town Council but ultimately, councillors considered the principle of defending the Neighbourhood Plan as an extremely important community-led document. This Council will not be swayed by the offer of large sums of money to overturn an important principle.”

Farnham Town Council will defend its Neighbourhood Plan in the High Court on 16th and 17th July in order to ensure the local community’s efforts are supported in getting development in the right place and on brownfield sites, where possible. Farnham Town Council recognises the need for affordable homes for the local community but does not support inappropriate development on protected sites beyond the built-up area boundary. 

Councillor Graham White adds “Farnham Town Council was astounded that a developer of Wates’ standing and reputation would make such an approach to the Council via a third party. The Council believes it must be the voice of the local community in defending the adopted Farnham Neighbourhood Plan. This legal challenge could have wider implications for other AONB candidate areas and Neighbourhood Plans across the country. The extraordinary approach demonstrates that some developers are prepared to go to any lengths to get what they want, and totally ignore the views of the local community and destroy quality landscape and biodiversity to maximise profit”.

The local community has put in considerable effort in shaping the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan which was successfully defended by Farnham Town Council and Waverley Borough Council in a High Court Challenge by Wates and other developers before it was adopted in 2017.

The Town Council has recently commenced a second review of its Neighbourhood Plan, which has been through two Referendums to date, the most recent of which was supported by 95.5% of those who voted.

Editor’s Notes

  1. The letter from the president of the Bourne Club is at Annex 1
  2. The Council’s formal response is at Annex 2
  3. The release of this information was delayed until the General Election had completed
  4. The Statutory Challenge will be held in the High Court of Justice King’s Bench Division Planning Court on 16th and 17th July 2024 (AC-2023-Lon-000112)

For more information in relation to this press release, contact Farnham Town Council on 01252 712667.

Annex 1

From: Steve Matthews <>Sent: Monday, April 15, 2024 9:33 AMTo: David Beaman <>; Graham White <>; Iain Lynch – Farnham Town Clerk <>Cc: Julie Stafford-Jones <>Subject: Meeting Request – The Bourne Club, Farnham

Dear Mr Beaman and Mr White.

I am contacting you on behalf of the Bourne Club, a rackets Club (tennis, padel, pickleball, badminton & squash) established in Farnham in 1923 with currently around 1,00 adult members and 350 free junior members, to request an urgent meeting with you.

As I hope you will be aware, we have recently received planning consent for a partial redevelopment of our site, which will provide us with an additional two indoor tennis courts plus an additional two Padel courts. These new facilities will enable us to expand our membership and provide even more facilities to the Farnham community as well as ensure that the Club continues to thrive for the next 100 years and beyond. Although we are a members Club, we are a not-for-profit organisation and deliver benefits to the wider community as well as to our paying membership. We: have arrangements with a range of schools and charitable organisations (including Weydon and Ridgeway Schools and Stepping Stones); provide open access to all juniors playing racket sports with free junior membership; deliver high-quality, affordable junior after-school coaching in all or our sports; offer multi-sports junior holiday camps delivering a range of physical activities that also support working parents; and offer subsidised ‘back to sports’ courses to adult non-members  to encourage wider participation in sport and encourage the uptake of physical activity and healthier lifestyles.

In total we need to raise in excess of £1m to deliver this project in full. We are currently raising funds and, as you may be aware, we recently sought support in the form of CIL funding, which unfortunately was turned down in Feb 2023. We are not seeking to re-open that issue or to question or change that decision. However, we have been approached by one of our members with a proposal that would deliver significant financial support to the Club towards the fundraising for this project on a matter that involves the Town Council.  

The proposal we have received concerns a legal dispute of sorts between the Town Council, the Secretary of State for Housing and Wates and the Surrey based development and construction company.  Our link with Wates is that one of the company’s senior executives is an active member of the Bourne Club and, via this link, Wates has previously supported the Club via sponsorship of one of our club teams. We do not, as a Club or as committee members representing the Club, have or seek to have, any view on the specifics of any local planning or development issues.

The proposal relates to the Town Council’s legal challenge to the planning consent granted on land off Waverley Lane in Farnham (146 homes) which secured a consent by Planning Appeal in 2023. From publicly available minutes, Wates has presented the case to us that the legal challenge that the Town Council has launched has low prospects of success based on the Town Council’s own legal advice. Wates, and of course ourselves representing the Bourne Club, recognise the Town Council’s right to raise this legal challenge. However, given their understanding of the chances of success, Wates would like to explore an alternative approach that would save precious resources for the Town Council as well as deliver all-important funding for our project.

The proposal centres around the concept that if the Town Council were to withdraw from legal proceedings then Wates has pledged to use the money that would be spent on defending the legal challenge in support of the Bourne Club, with a commitment to make an immediate donation to the Club amounting to £200,000.  Wates will also meet the Town Council’s legal expenses to this point as a gesture of goodwill so that this matter could be closed. 

 Clearly, this is a significant sum of money for a Club like ours and we therefore must consider the proposal and investigate the matter openly. We have seen legal advice to Wates confirming the legitimacy of such an approach to resolve the legal dispute as being entirely within the law and we are happy to share this with you.  

At this stage we simply seek a meeting, including representatives from Wates as they have brought the proposal to us, to discuss the matter and explore whether there is a potential opportunity. We are currently in the process of applying for very significant levels of LTA funding (with an application to be submitted by the end of April 2024). The support of our Town Council would significantly enhance our LTA application and, together with existing funding promises from members, enhance our much needed funding promise. We would love to be able to tell the good news story to our members and the wider Farnham community that the support of the current Farnham Town Council has proven to be a key enabler to unlock an LTA loan that would enable us to complete our fundraising and deliver our Club Centenary development project.

We recognise that you are busy people and that this is relatively short notice, but we would be most grateful if you could find the time to meet with us before the LTA application has to be submitted as we believe that this proposal has the potential to make a significant difference to our project. 

It goes without saying that the majority of Bourne members are local to Farnham and many, including myself, live within the Bourne itself.  Members are conscious of the refusal of CIL funds and will shortly understand the Wates proposal that is in front of the Bourne Committee. The support of the Town Council for our project, and its role in successfully completing the funding for this project, would generate huge goodwill.

Thank you for your time in considering this request for a meeting. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.


Stephen Matthews


The Bourne Club

Annex 2

Dear Steve

Thank you for your email and sorry not to have replied sooner. From initial soundings I have taken, this is not something that is appropriate to consider.  If Wates had wanted to make an offer for the Town Council to consider they should have done it directly and not via a third party.

This is a matter that affects the whole town and nothing could be decided without formal consideration by the Full Council and the wider needs of the town. 

As a matter of note, if FTC had a capital sum to allocate to support a community facility (for example via funds available from the Community Infrastructure Levy), it would make allocations having considered the wider needs of the whole community via an application process rather than prioritising one facility directly.

Iain Lynch

Farnham Town Clerk

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