A group of twenty Farnham business leaders debated the future of the town in terms of employment, economic growth and town planning at a meeting with representatives from Waverley Borough Council and Farnham Town Council.
The group of business leaders, brought together by commercial property expert Wadham & Isherwood, listened to presentations from Waverley’s Chief Planning Officer, Matthew Evans and Katie Webb, the local authority’s Community Development Officer, Town Clerk Ian Lynch and Councillor Carole Cockburn, before a lively discussion regarding the challenges faced by local employers and businesses.
Matthew Evans told the meeting that Waverley Borough Council is keen to actively engage with the business community and highlighted that Waverley is a “Borough of small businesses” many of whom in the past have grown to become market leaders in their chosen fields.
“The Local Development Framework is a community focal point,” he said, stressing that the Council’s policy has a focus on regeneration within town centres rather than greenfield development.
“The Council also has a policy towards protecting existing employment land,” he added, accepting that some such sites have reached the end of their viable economic life.
One of the biggest concerns of the assembled business leaders was the cost and provision of car parking in the town centre and the impact this had on businesses both looking to recruit staff and also looking to attract customers.
Rod Barratt of Farnham Estates said: “Ill-considered and historic car parking policies in past planning decisions has led to a massive under provision in both private and commercial development projects. There has also been a misplaced belief that the car would be replaced by pedestrian and cycling traffic combined with the politically motivated research that came to the view that public transport would be both a cheap and good alternative for car users.”
Geoff Reeve of Wadham & Isherwood confirmed his concerns that there is still a total lack of provision of fresh land for business expansion in the Farnham area: “The idea that Dunsfold Park near Cranleigh is to be for business expansion was of no assistance to companies in the Farnham, Haslemere and Godalming areas. It has always been our experience that companies wish to remain in Farnham particularly and home grown businesses need to be nurtured to ensure future growth and protect the town from stagnation.”