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.

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