Not for the first time matters fundamental to the future of the Borough are being discussed and decided behind closed doors. Not for the first time, documents from these meetings are being shared with other local authorities, but not with the residents of Spelthorne.
As before, we have received a number of copies of the documents from people who view this issue, and the manner in which it is being kept secret, with concern. And so, also not for the first time, Spelthorne and other local authorities are proving to be more leaky than the Welsh Guards on St David’s Day.
You will remember the last “leaked” document in September 2014, in which Spelthorne officials let it be known that Spelthorne’s housing targets were going to be raised from the current 166 dwelling p.a. to a minimum of 400 p.a.
Some minimum. At a closed-to-the-public meeting of the Local Plan Working Party on 1 June this year, the Final Draft Report from GL Hearn – the consultants paid £28 000 to produce housing numbers for Spelthorne and Runnymede – was approved. The members of the LPWP are:
John Brooks, Head of Planning
John Devonshire, Planning Officer
Geoff Dawes, Planning Officer
Cllr Ian Beardsmore
Cllr Tim Evans
Cllr Alfred Friday
Cllr Vivienne Leighton
Cllr Tony Mitchell
Cllr Richard Smith-Ainsley
Cllr Robert Watts
Voting was, we believe, along party lines.
And the new housing figures? Not 400 p.a., but a range of between 543 p.a. and 725 p.a.
That’s a more than four-fold increase on the current figure: 14 500 new dwellings over the 20 year life of OUR new Local Plan. Where are they going to put them? We’ll leave that to you to work out. Try looking at an open space near where you live, for starters.
Of course, there was a caveat to sooth the consciences of the members of the LPWP:
“It should be noted that the OAHN (Objectively Assessed Housing Need) figures are not housing targets and should not be treated as if they are. The Council will need to take a number of other considerations and constraints into account when determining the level of housing which the Borough could sustainably meet over the Local Plan period.”
But the Councillors would be foolish to take comfort from those words. If, indeed, they actually find these figures uncomfortable. Here’s what the officials said last September:
“The initial findings suggest that a future housing need could be in the order of 400 net additional dwellings per annum over the next 15-20 years. This contrasts with the 166 per annum in the current Core Strategy as required by the South East Plan. However, it must be stressed this is an initial figure requiring further testing and therefore at this stage it is vital this figure is not treated as final or used as if it were.”
It seems there is a ratchet attached to these housing figures – they can only go up.
What price all the assurances about Green Belt and Kempton Park now?
Keep Kempton Green