No Pause Necessary

In the email which four Councillors sent to the Planning Inspector on 19 May (click here) requesting a “pause” in the Examination in Public, the Councillors said:

“We believe a short pause now will give the new Council, especially our new councillors, the opportunity to understand fully what this means for the communities they represent.”

But no pause is necessary, and here’s why:

From the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2021, 80 Local Plans were submitted to the Panning Inspectorate for approval.

For those 80, the median time taken between a Local Plan being submitted to the Inspectorate, and the Inspectorate reporting back to the Council, was 17 months. The minimum time taken was eight months, and the maximum more than two years.

Our Local Plan was submitted to the Inspectorate on 25 November 2022. So, based on the median of 17 months, that would mean the Inspectorate reporting back in April 2024. But our Local Plan is “well constructed” (that’s a legal opinion), so it is unlikely it would take anywhere near that long. We can expect the Inspector to report back in the last quarter of 2023, if the Examination in Public is allowed to continue.

That means there will be plenty of time, before the Inspector reports back, for Councillors to undergo the Council’s in-house Planning Training.

But let’s look at the second part of sentence from the email: “… the opportunity to understand fully what this means for the communities they represent.”

No-one will know what the final version of our Local Plan will be (and therefore what it will mean for the communities the Councillors represent) until the Inspector reports back. The Examination in Public is not a rubber stamp: the Inspector, in his report, may well ask the Council to amend the Plan in some way(s).

So, “pausing” the Examination will, in fact, prevent Councillors from understanding fully what this means for the community they represent, because the Inspector will not be able to report back with any change he may recommend, unless the Examination proceeds.

The logic of the situation, therefore, is that the Examination in Public must be allowed to continue.


Contact your Councillor

You may wish to let your councillors know what you think about the plans to halt the vitally important Examination in Public at the Extraordinary Councill Meeting on 6 June. Click here for the background to this.

A lot of new Councillors were elected at the recent Council elections, so here are their names and contact details for your convenience:

Ashford Common
Cllr Simon
Cllr Naz
Cllr Katherine
Ashford East
Cllr Eizabeth
Cllr Rose
Cllr Joanne
Ashford North and Stanwell South
Cllr Sean
Cllr Med
Cllr Rebecca
Ashford Town
Cllr Michelle
Cllr Andrew
Cllr Olivia
Halliford and Sunbury West
Cllr Sandra
Cllr Lawrence
Cllr John
Laleham and Shepperton Green
Cllr Darren
Cllr Karen
Cllr Anant
Riverside and Laleham
Cllr Daniel
Cllr Michelle
Cllr Denise
Shepperton Town
Cllr Maureen
Cllr John
Cllr Lisa
Cllr Malcolm
Cllr Adam
Cllr Howard
Staines South
Cllr Chris
Cllr Tony
Cllr Jolyon
Stanwell North
Cllr Jon
Cllr John
Cllr Sue
Sunbury Common
Cllr Mary Bing
Cllr Harry
Cllr Suraj
Sunbury East
Cllr Kathy
Cllr Matthew
Cllr Buddhi

Petition – please sign

The most important stage in our new Spelthorne Local Plan – the Examination in Public run by the Planning Inspectorate – has just completed the first week of a total of three. Having a proper approved Local Plan will give the best protection possible to Green Belt in our Borough.

However, at an Extraordinary Council Meeting on 6 June, some local councillors are going to try and stop the Examination from continuing.

The financial cost to all Spelthorne Council Tax payers, and the risk to our Green Belt from not having a Local Plan, will be huge.

Please sign this petition to help stop the delay!

Astonishing behaviour

The Examination in Public hearings begin today, Tuesday 23 May.

KKG and LOSRA, who have briefed a very experienced planning KC, applied for, and were granted, an invitation to be represented at three of the sessions related to Lower Sunbury in general, and Kempton Park in particular.

A lot of work and a lot of money has been spent for these hearings – not just by us but by everyone else who is involved, not least the Inspector and the Spelthorne Strategic Planning team.

Yet last Tuesday (16 May) we began to hear stories of a last-minute attempt by some councillors to stop the hearings taking place. As days went by, the facts behind these stories began to emerge.

It boils down to the fact that last Friday, the leaders of the Greens, the Independents, the Labour Group and the Lib-Dems wrote to the Inspector via the Examination Coordinator asking for the hearings to be suspended to give “the new Council, especially our new councillors, the opportunity to understand fully what this means for the communities they represent.”

The various communications can be read by clicking on the following links:

Councillors’ letter to the Inspector

Inspector’s letter to Councillors

Chief Executive’s letter to the Inspector

Chief Executive’s letter to Councillors

A few points:

  • This draft Local Plan, the subject of the Examination, has been debated ad nauseam at committee meeting after council meeting for years. If the returning councillors haven’t got their heads around it already (which we don’t believe) then they never will. And how many of the new councillors knew this was going on on their behalf? Not all and it would be interesting to know more precisely.
  • During these debates it has been made quite clear what the consequences of having no Local Plan would be, in terms of opening the Borough to the free reign of predatory developers. It has also been made very clear what the cost implications would be. Almost £9 million pounds has been wasted already by the constant delays and moratoriums related to the redevelopment of the Council’s own properties. Delaying or re-doing the Local Plan would be very expensive indeed.
  • This isn’t about suspending or pausing the hearings for four months. Anyone who has had the misfortune to follow the progress of the draft Local Plan over past years know full well that that at least two of the four leaders want the draft Plan not paused, but thrown in the bin.
  • These four leaders know full well that there is a due process which has to be followed to establish decisions of the Council. You can’t just write to the Inspector off your own bat. A motion must be debated at a legal meeting of the council, and a vote taken. Of course, no such meeting or debate or vote had taken place.
  • These four leaders wrote to the Inspector without even telling the Planning officers or the Chief Executive. That is the kind of behaviour most of us left behind in our adolescence.