Shock! Horror! The Green Belt Review …

 

Well, not quite. There is good news. But there’s also not-so-good news.

Arup, the consultants, have produced a Green Belt Assessment for the Council. It can be read in its entirety at https://spelthorne.gov.uk/article/13703/Green-Belt-Assessment . It is worth reading, particularly if there are parcels of Green Belt in your part of the Borough.

The study is not – yet – policy, a point which the Planning Officers at Spelthorne have been keen to make. There is further work to do in identifying which bits of Green Belt to protect, and which to abandon to developers. A public consultation on Issues and Options is due to be held in the spring of 2018 where this further work will be unveiled.

Nevertheless, one can easily imagine a developer’s barrister latching on to anything in this document which serves their desire to cover the entire south east in concrete and tar, as well as arguing vociferously and repeatedly against anything which does not.

The Assessment examines in detail every parcel of Green Belt in the Borough to see how far each piece fulfils the five purposes of Green Belt land:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

Each parcel of land is rated as either Strong, Moderate or Weak in terms of fulfilling these five purposes. These ratings can be seen on the following map (click here or see page 54 of Chapter 5). Each parcel of land is allocated a number on this map. An explanation of how the rating for each parcel of land was arrived at can be seen in Annex Report 2 – Local Area Assessment Pro-formas at https://spelthorne.gov.uk/article/13703/Green-Belt-Assessment .

But that is not the end of the story, about which more below.

The good news is that the whole of the Kempton Park estate has been rated as Strong.

The not-so-good news is that there are areas in Sunbury which are rated as Moderate or Weak – many of them open spaces that are very well used, and highly valued, by residents. Sunbury Park, for example, is rated only Moderate. And Sunbury Cricket Club is rated Weak.

And the other not-so-good news is that even land rated as Strong does not have protection. See Map 6.1 (click here  or see page 80 in Chapter 6 ). Area 32 is rated Strong, But that part of it north of Stirling Avenue, Park Avenue and Croysdale Avenue is recommended for sub-division and development. There are other examples in Sunbury, and elsewhere in the Borough.

Finally, there are other areas of open space which do not enjoy Green Belt Status. They have the lesser protection of Protected Urban Open Space. The old London Irish ground was such a site. As we found out, it turned out to be Unprotected Urban Open Space, and is now covered in 230-odd houses. How does the Council intend to keep other such areas safe from developers?

The current council leadership has been very public in stating its intention to protect the Green Belt in Spelthorne. But there are Councillors – no names for the moment – who would happily see Green Belt developed, particularly if there is money involved for the Council. The test will come next Spring, when we see what Issues and Options the Planning Officers put before us.

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The LPWP and the Arup Green Belt Assessment

As part of the Review of our Local Plan, the council is required to undertake a Green Belt review. Part of this Green Belt review is an Assessment compiled by Arup, the engineering consultancy.

Spelthorne’s Local Plan Working Party (LPWP) met last Monday to discuss, amongst other things, the Arup Green Belt Assessment. The Assessment considers each parcel of Green Belt in the Borough as to how each fulfils the five purposes of Green Belt laid down in the National Planning Policy Framework, which are:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

The LPWP  has forwarded this Arup Assessment to the Council cabinet meeting on 22 November, for them to decide whether and when to put this Assessment in the public domain. On the assumption that it would be extremely difficult for the Council not to make it available – other nearby Boroughs have made their Green Belt Assessments public – we will publicise it as soon as we are able to.

The LPWP also considered a request from LOSRA – the Lower Sunbury Residents Association – that members of Borough residents groups be allowed to attend meetings of the LPWP as observers. This request comes against the background that:

* KKG won an appeal to the Information Tribunal, against the Information Commissioner and Spelthorne Borough Council, who both said that the Council was entitled to keep the proceedings of the LPWP confidential indefinitely. The Tribunal judge disagreed.

“ Spelthorne Council’s own rules as to access to meetings contains nothing that entitles them to exclude members of the public from meetings of the LPWP.

As we have come to expect, however, the LPWP would not accede to what we think is an entirely reasonable request. Secrecy, as the denizens of Westminster are finding out, breeds suspicion and contempt.

This is not the end of the matter, We’ll keep you posted.