Finally, after years in production, the new Local Plan will soon be going through its final stages. The last public consultation on the completed Local Plan is scheduled for April/May this year. Thereafter, the Plan and the responses to the consultation will be sent to the Planning Inspectorate, who will prepare the final leg of the Local Plan’s journey, through the Examination in Public.
KKG have not been standing idly by. Over recent months we have been busy preparing where we can for this last consultation and the Examination in Public. Our QC has been very helpful in this, and we fully expect that he will be representing KKG, and all of us, in that public forum.
However, there are still a few councillors who are intent in further delaying this already long-delayed Local Plan process. They appear to have got it into their minds that there exists a silver bullet, whereby the outside pressure on this Borough (and every other Borough in the country) to build large amounts of housing can somehow be made to disappear.
Like all magical solutions, this is an illusion.
It matters not that a number of national politicians have said that the housing targets set by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will be reduced. Such political pronouncements have no force in planning law, and there is no sign of any change emanating from the Department. Indeed, a previous approach by Spelthorne to the Department to argue for a reduction in housing targets was rebuffed.
In the meantime, because Spelthorne is so far behind schedule in producing a Local Plan, it is unable to demonstrate that is has a five-year plan to meet these housing targets. Which means that this Borough has little defence against developers wanting to build in this Borough.
The huge risk which the Borough is taking by not having a new Local Plan is clearly demonstrated by the very recent case of the planned Inland Homes development of 206 dwellings at the Old Telephone Exchange in central Staines. The planning application was refused by the Council’s Planning Committee. The developer took that refusal on appeal, and the Planning Inspector handed down his decision on 17 January. We quote from paragraph 76 of the Planning Balance section of the Inspector’s decision:
76. The benefit of providing homes in an area of under-delivery of housing and where there is not a five-year supply of housing land, adds significant weight in favour of the scheme. Making beneficial use of a prominent town centre site which has been unused for a number of years and which detracts from the character and appearance of the area, also adds significantly to the case for the proposal. I have set out a number of other benefits of the proposal which add varying degrees of weight in the overall balance.
Much as we might not like it, that is the reality.
Silver bullets? Please…