The future of another tranche of Green Belt is in question.
You may have noticed, travelling along Fordbridge Road, that there are large signs advertising for sale the site of the former nursery that used to operate from there. Quite clearly, in big red letters, the sign says:
“Potential Residential Development Land”
Further information is available on the website of Chancellors, the estate agents promoting the sale. There are, in fact, three parcels of land, stretching back to Highfield Road, on sale for £2.1 million. And on a Chancellors’ advert on the Rightmove property website, they state quite categorically that:
“Informal discussions have taken place with the Local Planning Authority with (sic) its development potential.”
See Document 72 attached.
The problem is, all three parcels of land are clearly designated Green Belt, upon which residential development would be inappropriate. Perhaps this was just a case of estate agent exaggeration, we thought, so KKG and LOSRA wrote to Chancellors (see Document 75 attached.)
We received no reply. So we phoned Chancellors. They were not developers but estate agents, they told us, and therefore would not themselves have had any discussions with the Local Planning Authority. But, in advertising that the parcels of Green Belt land for sale had the potential for residential development, they said, they were acting on the instructions of the vendor. So, we assume, discussions did take place.
One of the councillors for that ward put in a formal question to the meeting of the full council.
“Can the Portfolio holder for Planning let me know if the owners of the site of the former Fordbridge Nurseries in Sunbury-on- Thames, or any developers, have been in discussion with the Planning Department regarding its possible use?”
Cllr Leighton, member of the Cabinet for Planning confirmed that the sites were indeed designated Green Belt (see Document 81 attached). But Cllr Leighton also made the staggering claim that even the fact of a meeting with an owner taking place was confidential, and would be neither confirmed nor denied.
“The Council has numerous ‘pre-application’ discussions each year where planning advice is given and the content of that is confidential, as is also the question of whether any particular developer has approached the Council for such discussions.”
First, the owner had already openly stated that there had been discussions with the Council.
Second, the law governing what information the Council must make public on request, and what it may keep confidential, is very clear.
a public authority may respond to a request by neither confirming nor denying whether such information exists and is held by the public authority, if that confirmation or denial would involve the disclosure of information that would adversely affect international relations, defence, national security or public safety; and the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.
Assuming, again, that there isn’t some secret French military facility hidden on that land, Cllr Leighton, put simply again, is wrong. As is whoever advised her.
Since the so-called “leak” of the Council’s plans for 8000 new dwellings in the Borough several weeks ago – we got so many copies it was more of a tidal wave than a leak – there has quite obviously been a Council-wide clamp-down on all information which might get into the hands of us pesky tax-payers. We are entitled to conclude that some members of the Council are scared of being found out – again. What other explanation could there be?
Recently released FOI documents confirm that a planning application is expected to be made by The Jockey Club after the general election in May 2015. At the same time we are likely to have to fight to ensure that swathes of Spelthorne’s open spaces are not released for development in the Review of our Local Plan. We will need funds to fight both.
Donations to the Keep Kempton Green Fighting Fund can now be made through PayPal. Just go to http://www.losra.org, scroll down a little, and click on the button marked “Donate to the Keep Kempton Green Fund”. You can also donate by cheque. Please make your cheque payable to LOSRA and send it to:
20 Green Street, Sunbury, TW16 6RN
As you would expect, the identity of all donors will be kept confidential.
Remember: Keep Kempton Green began as a campaign to protect Green Belt at Kempton Park. That campaign has now been forced to expand to protect Green Belt throughout Spelthorne, which is all at risk in a forthcoming review of our Local Plan, in which the Council appears to be planning the building of 8000 dwellings over the next twenty years. This threat is against the whole Borough. It has to be fought.
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.
Kind regards, and thank you very much in advance for your generosity.
Keep Kempton Green