Doublethink

cartoon doublethink 4

KKG – Document 50   KKG – Document 60

Dear Neighbour

To know and not to know. Simultaneously.

Not Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

See Document 50.

“Whilst you are correct that the Council ‘is looking to meet its target for affordable housing’, Kempton Park does not feature as a place where we could currently discharge that responsibility, as, amongst other considerations, as you point out, Kempton Park is in the Green Belt.”

That was the Chief Executive on 4 November last year, replying to a resident protesting about the plans for Kempton Park.

Here he is a week later. (See Document 60.) In response to the following message from the then Head of Planning:

“I have been asked by the master planning consultants (David Lock Assoc) for some dates for them to come in and discuss with me/others the principles of what we would like to see on the site”

He said:

“Ok Heather thanks

I am happy to fit this in, in due course.”

There are, of course, redacted lines which we are not allowed to see, on the grounds they are “internal communications”. But the sense is clear.

Did that meeting ever take place? David Lock Associates asked for it on 25 October, but it isn’t on the list of meetings which took place in 2013, which was revealed at the last meeting of the Council. Whether it took place or not, the Council officers weren’t reluctant to attend.

The weasel word, of course, is “currently”  in the first quote above. We know that a review of the Local Plan is underway. The housing target is being revisited. And if it is revised significantly upwards, then land is going to have to be found to build those houses on.

Kempton Park is “currently” Green Belt. But if that were to change …

It isn’t just The Jockey Club who are pressing hard for the housing target to be increased. Other developers are also pushing and prodding for it to happen, and for Green Belt to be “released” for development.

But why should our Local Plan be hijacked by developers. The risk is that the review of the Local Plan will be the battleground where the future – not just of Kempton Park – but of the whole Borough, will be won or lost.

Visit us at http://www.keepkemptongreen.com, Like our Facebook page, and Follow us on Twitter (links to both on the website). Leave your comments at all three.

Regards, as always

 

Alan Doyle
for Keep Kempton Green

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Sniffin’ around

air quality monitor 1

A month ago it was traffic monitors. Now Mouchel are testing the air. These two gentlefolk were spotted by an eagle-eyed resident last evening placing an air-quality monitoring device on a lamp post at the junction of Staines Road East and Kenton Avenue.

They didn’t really have to bother – anyone who travels or lives along that road could tell them for free that the air quality is bad, very bad. But I suppose they have to know how exactly how bad it is, so they can calculate how much worse it will be with an extra 3000 cars added to the traffic round here. Especially since Spelthorne Council decommissioned their much more sophisticated air quality monitor at Sunbury Cross recently.

Mouchel are fully entitled to do this, of course. So why were they so coy about it? The man in the brown T-shirt removed his hi-vis jacket (with the word Mouchel across the back) when he saw he had been noticed. And Mouchel are a big company – surely they could run to giving their monitor-placers a step-ladder?

There are almost certainly more of these about. Have you seen any?

Please send photographs to  keepkemptongreen@hotmail.co.uk together with the location where you found them. It’s important that we know.

air quality monitor 3

They must remember this …

cartoon amnesia 1

KKG – Document 53   KKG – Document 53a   KKG – Document 59

Dear Neighbour

More than a year ago there was what Spelthorne Council refer to as a “Kempton Park High Level Meeting”. It was held at Kempton Park, and was attended by:

Roberto Tambini – Chief Executive, Spelthorne Borough Council
Lee O’Neil – Assistant Chief Executive, Spelthorne Borough Council
Heather Morgan – Head of Planning, Spelthorne Borough Council (then)
Councillor Robert Watts – Leader, Spelthorne Borough Council
Councillor Suzy Webb – Spelthorne Cabinet member responsible for Planning and Housing (then)
Mark Boyes – Aspire (property development management consultants to The Jockey Club)
Peter Hopson – Aspire (property development management consultants to The Jockey Club)
Mike Street – Steward, The Jockey Club
William Gittus – Managing Director, Jockey Club Estates

They must all remember that meeting, as there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing before it even took place. It was originally scheduled for 27 March, but, although other attendees had had to cancel meetings to make that date, it had to be rescheduled because Heather Morgan could not be there. Then it had to be pushed back by an hour to accommodate Councillor Webb. (See Document 59 attached.)

So they must remember it, surely?

No.

“I would point out, that at no time has the Council ever been given any plans detailing the proposals or ideas of the Jockey Club. … As I said earlier, the Council has never seen any plans from the Jockey Club for any of the proposals (initial or later).” Spelthorne’s Chief Executive 13 May 2014.

Notes were taken, so you might expect those to have jogged the memory. (See Document 53a attached.)

‘Fraid not.

“… I am advised that at none of these meetings has any plan whatsoever been developed for the scale of housing that you allude to …” Spelthorne’s Chief Executive 14 November 2013

Then what about the presentation given by Aspire at that meeting? (See Document 53 attached.)

Note that the word “plan” is mentioned three times on just the first slide, and “planning” twice, so no mistake as to what this meeting was about, even if all the Council representatives immediately put their hands over their eyes, and repeatedly chanted “La la la … ” so as not to be tainted by the evil words.

And on the last slide there is the following sentence:

“Jockey Club keen to assist SBC planning team on emerging policy”

That wasn’t just a wishful offer. You may remember our update on 12 June (available on www.keepkemptongreen.com – just search for Softly, softly). It contained an email exchange between Heather Morgan and one of The Jockey Club’s consultants in which Heather Morgan gave a little gentle coaching as to what language to use in The Jockey Club’s submission to Spelthorne’s Draft Local Economic Assessment, so as “not to set hares running”.

So, any memories? Even very faint ones?

Nope. Zilch. Nada. Not a sausage.

“ … it [the Council] has not seen or discussed building plans for any development on this site.” Spelthorne’s Chief Executive 18 December 2013

So. An amazing case of collective amnesia. How on earth can you run the Council if you can’t remember anything?

Visit us at http://www.keepkemptongreen.com, Like our Facebook page, and Follow us on Twitter (links to both on the website). Leave your comments at all three.

Regards, as always

 

Alan Doyle
for Keep Kempton Green

Lead us not into temptation

 

cartoon temptation

KKG – Document 57

Dear Neighbour

How on earth could they resist it?

There’s the Covenant, worth £14m plus. See our update of 13 Feb.

There’s the Carrot (the New Homes Bonus) worth just short of £8m to Spelthorne. See our update of 26 June.

And then there’s the CIL.

The current arrangement for extracting money from developers is based on Section 106 agreements. So much compensation for the deterioration in air quality, so much mitigation for the added pressure on school places, quite a lot in order to have affordable homes built as far away as possible.

That system will be replaced quite soon by a new apparatus. The CIL (the Community Infrastructure Levy) will set out in advance how much developers are expected to pay, It’s based on the floor area of residential developments and supermarkets, with certain types of development – affordable homes, non-retail commercial premises, charitable enterprises – exempt.

Most of the cash raised will go into a single pot, although a small bit of it will be ring-fenced to be used to the advantage of the local community in which the development is sited. There is, though, no definition of the word “local”, and there will be no restriction on how and where the bulk of the money can be spent.

Spelthorne will be split into three charging zones. The charge in the Stanwell area north of the A30 will be £0/m² for developments of more than 15 units. The area between the A30 and the M3-A316 will attract a charge of £40/m², and the area south of the M3-A316 £60/m² . These are starting charge levels – they will increase year by year. (See Document 57 attached.)

So what would Kempton Park be worth? Let’s assume that the Council hits the 40% affordable homes target in the current Local Plan (subject to change in the imminent Local Plan review). That means 600 social housing units out of the 1500 total, which would attract no CIL charge.

For the remaining 900 open-market units, the charge will depend on their floor area. A recent study by Cambridge University found that the average size of new build houses in the UK was 76 m² – the smallest in Europe by a considerable margin. On that basis, the CIL charge would total £4.1m. But the houses planned for Kempton Park are unlikely to be that small. So, assuming they are the same average size as another very recent planning application in the vicinity (The Ridings) – 122 m² – then the CIL charge would be worth £6.58m to the Council. At least.

So there’s the whole tempting smorgasbord on offer:

Covenant    £14.2m

Carrot (New Homes Bonus)  £7.99m

CIL     £6.58m

Total     £28.77m

The Jockey Club will try to reduce this total for all the “community benefits” their new suburb will bring to the area. For example, we know that at the end of last year the Council and The Jockey Club were haggling over how much of the cost of the major re-hashing of Sunbury Cross roundabout could be deducted from the Council’s share of the Covenant.

But that doesn’t change the essence of it – especially for a Council which is so broke it is considering leasing out – or even selling – its own Council offices to try and balance the budget.

As the joke cards put it:

“Lead us not into temptation. We can find the way ourselves.”

 

Visit us at http://www.keepkemptongreen.com, Like our Facebook page, and Follow us on Twitter (links to both on the website). Leave your comments at all three.

Regards, as always

Alan Doyle
for Keep Kempton Green

Mr Concrete

cartoon beauty

KKG – Document 55

Dear Neighbour

Thanks to the vigilance of one of our neighbours, we had strongly suspected for some time that The Jockey Club had been conducting a beauty contest to find their Mr Concrete – the preferred construction partner for their planned 1500 units at Kempton Park.

You can just imagine the proceedings in the carpet-tiled splendour of the Kempton Park Banqueting Suites. A contestant fidgets nervously on a chair outside the main room, wondering whether the Chippendale-style collar-and-tie and mankini combo – the brain-child of his Corporate Affairs Director – really was such a good idea. In he goes. A quick sashay up and down the catwalk, and then the interview by a 1980’s game-show compère who has managed so far to evade the criminal courts.

A quick run through the bullet points on his cue-card, which he had managed to secrete somewhere about his person: Environmental Construction Methods, Green Energy Initiative, Design for Sustainability, the Advancement of World Peace, and, most importantly, the guarantee of a Superlative Return for the Stewards of The Jockey Club. And out he goes to polite applause, thinking he has probably done enough to secure the contract. Only to find, waiting on that same chair outside the room, a sleeker and more muscular version of his former self, sporting the kind of half-thong made popular on the beach at Marbella earlier this summer. His heart sinks.

So it was intriguing to have our suspicions confirmed earlier this week. (OK, OK – not quite the way we imagined above, but you get our drift.) It happened at a meeting of the Spelthorne Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held in public every second month.

A2Dominion, a very large charity whose purpose is to provide and manage social housing, had been invited in to discuss that subject with the Committee.

A2D have a long association with Spelthorne. They have 7000 homes in the Borough, and they waved the carrot of £350m which they have available to invest, limited only, so they said, by the planning laws, and the release of land to build on. With the grant regime of past years (from which they used to derive their income) now much reduced, they have also gone into the property development business to generate their income.

And then up popped a PowerPoint slide (Slide 7 in Document 55 attached) which set out their Future Prospects. The last of the bullet points states “Kempton Park”.

The Committee’s Deputy Chair asked the A2D man to expand on that final bullet point. He explained that A2D had put in a bid for the option to buy, subject to the granting of Planning Permission, some 70 acres of land on the Kempton Park estate. The A2D bid had been unsuccessful, however. They had lost out to a rival bid from the volume house-builder Redrow.

So far, exactly along the lines of one of the options The Jockey Club have been considering, as we were told almost a year ago by some of The Jockey Club’s consultants.

Then, however, according to the notes of someone who attended the meeting, the Committee’s Deputy Chair, a little surprised, reminded the A2D man that no Planning Application had been received by the Council, no consultation had been conducted, and that the whole project is very far from being a certain outcome due to a number of planning obstacles, not least being the Green Belt status of Kempton Park.

The A2D answer came back in a most relaxed and casual manner. “That may be your opinion, Councillor.”

So, we have two more organisations, A2Dominion and Redrow, who have gained the impression (strong enough to put in bids for an option on land at Kempton Park) that the removal of the obstacles standing in the way of granting planning permission for Kempton Park is a done deal. Mouchel, The Jockey Club’s transport consultants are another such organisation. They put in writing some time ago that they fully expect Spelthorne’s housing targets to be raised to provide a justification for the number of units planned for Kempton Park.

But it is much more than that. That remark by the A2D man is actually a very serious allegation. And since the business of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee is to, well, scrutinise things like this, we trust that as a matter of urgency they will conduct an investigation, in public, as to how all these people in the property development business have come to gain this impression of planning permission being a done deal; from whom they gained this impression; and holding those people, if there are any, to account.

We will be only too happy to make all our FOI evidence available to assist the Committee in their deliberations.

Visit us at http://www.keepkemptongreen.com, Like our Facebook page, and Follow us on Twitter (links to both on the website). Leave your comments at all three.

Regards, as always

 

Alan Doyle
for Keep Kempton Green

In God we trust

cartoon honesty 3

Colnbrook Views June 17 2014 and Get Surrey July 2 2014 Surrey Herald June 26 2014 KKG – Document 52

Dictum meum pactum, as they said in Rome. My word is my bond.

You may remember last month we asked all the Spelthorne councillors whether Kempton Park should retain its Green Belt status.

The Leader replied, presumably on behalf of all his colleagues (or, at the very least, on behalf of his Cabinet):

“Council policy on the Green Belt is set out in a document called ‘Spelthorne Borough Local Plan 2001 – Saved Polices and Proposals’ – updated December 2009 and Policy GB1 states specifically:

‘ The Green Belt on the Proposals Map will be permanent and within it development will not be permitted which would conflict with the purposes of the Green Belt and maintaining its openness’. The policy goes on to identify such development that would be allowed but this does not include housing.

The policy is entirely consistent with national planning policy guidance and provides the starting point for considering any proposal on any Green Belt site in the Borough. Any changes to a designated Green Belt can only be made through a formal review of a Council’s Local Plan.”

(our emphasis)

Quite clear and unambiguous.

Last week, however, the Spelthorne Cabinet approved the sale of a parcel of land near the Fordbridge Roundabout on Staines Road West to Surrey County Council, for the purpose of building the highly popular new Fire Station. See the attached cutting from the Surrey Herald. That parcel of land is most certainly Green Belt – it is clearly shown coloured light green on the definitive Proposals Map. See Document 52.

But we don’t remember seeing any “formal review” of Spelthorne’s Local Plan. We must have blinked and missed it.

Another contentious issue is heaving into view. See the attached cuttings from Colnbrook Views and Get Surrey. That parcel of land, proposed as the site of another incinerator in Spelthorne, is also most definitely Green Belt. Maybe not the most pristine Green Belt, but Green Belt nevertheless, and definitely more beautiful without an incinerator on it. See Document 52.

This is what Spelthorne said in their press release on 17 Dec last year:

“We recognise that providing additional airport capacity in the South-East presents huge challenges. However, we are very pleased that this interim report will give much more certainty for the residents of Stanwell Moor as the south-west runway option at Heathrow has been ruled out. This removes the blight on the area.”

Not quite.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could trust the Council to defend our Green Belt, whether at West Bedfont or the Fordbridge Roundabout or Kempton Park. Or at least follow due process.

But unfortunately, as the Romans said:  deo confidimus

In God we trust (and no-one else).