Published Friday, 3 August 2018

We received eight emails making very similar points. As there is a local debate, in this reply, I cover the points that have been raised in these emails so that everyone has the same information.

1. WBC received a payment of £3.2m from Crest Nicholson

This is correct, but not the whole story. WBC has received an upfront payment of £3.3m. In addition, WBC will receive more than £2m for infrastructure in Farnham and a contribution towards the new Memorial Hall, all retained locally. Plus, WBC will receive an ongoing revenue benefit estimated to be between £0.7m and £0.9m per year which will help fund local services.

2. The payment was less than the £20m originally envisaged.

I don’t recognise a figure of £20m. For this scheme, the 2009 Development Agreement had a value of £8.76m. The May 2016 report describes how, post-recession, this value reduced to £3.19m before tax. This valuation was supported by the independent leading property company, GVA. As you can see, all of this was reported in public, with alternative options, and debated at a Full Council meeting before final decisions were taken.

3. 50% of this £3.2m is going to leisure provision in Godalming.

This isn’t quite right. The income from the upfront payment goes into WBC’s capital account. At the last Council meeting, the Council agreed that £2.5m of this would go towards leisure investment in Farnham and Godalming. The leisure investments for both would also draw from other capital receipts and Section 106 Developers Contributions to a total investment of potentially £3.22m. To provide you with the detail:

  • Leisure investment comprises: £1.48m for Farnham, £1.54m for Godalming, £0.20m contingency.
  • Funded by: £2.50m capital receipts (Brightwells), £0.12m capital receipts (other), £0.60m S106.
  • Of the £0.60m S106: £0.31m comes from Brightwells, the rest mainly from sites in Godalming and Milford.

I’ll leave it to others to argue how much of the Brightwells £2.50m comprises the £1.54m Godalming investment. That seems to be a red herring, as capital income is essentially one pot of money from a multitude of sources. I’m afraid we have to understand all the numbers above to see the accurate picture.

4. Cash should be spent where it is raised. This money was earmarked for the development.

While I understand the argument that money from property sold in one town should only be spent in that town, I don’t really agree, as that would stop us taking necessary decisions on facilities in one location, while holding on to a pot of money earmarked elsewhere. For example, in 2011 the Council’s £3.5m investment in Farnham leisure centre was funded from money achieved from across the whole borough. Legally, the borough council has to hold a single capital pot and allocate it by need as agreed through its democratic processes, which has happened here. Income from property sales is not earmarked.

In addition, the leisure investments will not only benefit residents who use the facilities in Farnham and Godalming, they will generate additional income for council services providing further benefit to residents.

5. Developers contributions (S106, CIL) should be spent locally.

As above, the £3.3m income from Brightwells is cash from sale and not developers contributions. On the separate issue of developers contributions, the S106 legal agreements normally identify specific infrastructure contributions in or near the location of the development, as is the case for the Brightwells S106 Agreement.

6. Will the investment in Godalming delay the Brightwells scheme?

No, this isn’t linked at all. The Brightwells scheme has planning permission, an unconditional development agreement, funding agreements and is now underway.

7. WBC has mismanaged the process.

As you can see above and in the attached report, the Council decided that the Brightwells regeneration scheme was a key priority. It commissioned the right type of  independent surveys and consultant reports, and reported information to councillors for public debate before decision.

During my time in Waverley over the last few months, I have observed some of the difficult debates and the strongly-held views about the Brightwells scheme. I have heard first-hand from some of those who have been disappointed by the process and the outcome of decisions. Now that the development is underway, I am really keen for there to be a further debate about the wider future of Farnham beyond specific sites, in harmony with the Neighbourhood Plan: about infrastructure, homes, the local economy, and the town’s links with other settlements. I know that the Councillor Leadership of Waverley is keen to continue these discussions with the Town Council, local societies, employers and communities, and the Local Enterprise Partnership, and I am keen to facilitate this.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain some of these issues. I hope that this level of detail is helpful as you engage in the wider debate about your town.

 

With best wishes,

Tom Horwood

Chief Executive