Jaundiced vs Jarndyce

court 2

Dear Neighbour

Sometimes it seems we are stuck in a time-shifted version of that interminable court case in Bleak House: Jarndyce vs Jarndyce. Jaundiced vs Jarndyce, more like.

You may remember in the distant mists of time the document from the secret meeting of the Local Plan Working Party on 3 September 2014 which was leaked to us. The Council was furious this document had been made public.

We asked to see other papers from this meeting. Spelthorne refused, saying they were draft documents and they were entitled to keep them secret. So we complained to the Information Commissioner. That process rattled on and on and on and we eventually took the case on Appeal to the First Tier Information Tribunal. We finally received the Tribunal’s judgement in early March 2016. The Tribunal agreed with us and gave Spelthorne 35 days to produce the documents.

The documents are not earth-shattering. You can read them here, here and here. One wonders why Spelthorne fought so hard to keep them secret.

But what they do show is yet another group who are involved in the Review of our Local Plan. We already know that developers, planning consultants, architects and surveyors will be involved in the Development Market Panel, which will consider which parcels of land should be developed. The most recent documents show that another group – the Surrey Leader’s Group (the political Leaders of all the Surrey Boroughs), which in practice means their Planning Officers  – will be involved in our Local Plan (and all the other Local Plans in Surrey). As usual, the one group still not involved in the Review of our Local Plan are the residents of Spelthorne.

And the Tribunal judgement proves another thing. Spelthorne is not entitled to claim draft status for aeons, on the justification that they need a “safe space” within which to work. The Judge mentions a period of seven months as being more than sufficient for this purpose. So the “draft” period is less than that.

Heaven forbid that anyone thinks Spelthorne keeps documents in draft form in order to keep them secret …

Kind regards
Keep Kempton Green

 

 

Bad banners

 

 

redrow5

Dear Neighbour

We have to say a few words about the banners displayed at the Redrow consultation at Kempton Park on Saturday 23 April.

Two of them in particular made a big issue of the current Local Plan Review.

“Spelthorne needs between 552-757 new homes every year until 2033” is splashed across one.

“The capacity for neighbouring Councils to take a share of Spelthorne’s housing need is minimal …” thunders another.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Those figures (552-757) are indeed the result of the recently conducted SHMA (the Strategic Housing Market Assessment). They represent the “need” (more about that below) for new homes in Spelthorne, in a world where there are no land or infrastructural constraints. But we don’t live in such a world. So those SHMA figures are just the start of a much longer process. Spelthorne will now have to consider whether it has the land to build those houses and whether the infrastructure can cope. Only then are housing targets produced.

It’s not just us saying that. At a recent Planning Appeal, the developer tried to use exactly the same argument as Redrow: the SHMA figures are the housing targets. The Planning Inspector was embarrassingly swift to dismiss the developer’s barrister’s attempt to pull the wool over his eyes.

As to the “need”: “Spelthorne Council has a duty to ensure there are enough homes available for its residents”, says Redrow, in high dudgeon.

Its residents? Not really. The SHMA numbers are based on extrapolated population data from the ONS. The breakdown of the ONS numbers shows that only one-third of the “need” is for Spelthorne’s residents. More than half of the 552-725 is due to people projected, on the basis of what has happened in the past, to move into Spelthorne from other parts of the UK – mainly London. So most of the “need” is actually as a result of other Councils not doing what Redrow is accusing Spelthorne of not doing.

And then, Question 2 of the form residents were asked to fill in asked:

“Are you aware of previous gravel quarrying activities at the site?”

This is the lead-in to another misleading line of reasoning which we are going to hear more of from Redrow in future: because there has been gravel extraction in the past, they will say, that means the Kempton Park is a brownfield site and not Green Belt. This is sheer nonsense. You can do all sorts of things on Green Belt – including gravel extraction – but the land remains Green Belt. However, since the primary purpose of Green Belt is to separate residential areas, the one thing you can’t do is build houses. Redrow knows this very well. If they’ve somehow forgotten, they can read the government’s Green Belt policy here.

And finally: Other banners promise schools, health centres, CrossRail 2, allotments, gyms, you name it. But, by way of example, have Redrow got preliminary agreement from Surrey County Council and the NHS to fund the ongoing costs of these new schools and doctors’ surgeries? One thinks of the schools and health centres promised by other developers. Where are they?

Beware developers bearing gifts.

Kind regards
Keep Kempton Green