All posts by Keep Kempton Green

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The meeting to try and sort out the direction of our Local Plan took place last Tuesday evening (see https://keepkemptongreen.com/2021/07/09/time-for-the-fighting-to-stop/ )

To be frank, it is some time since KKG have listened to such a dis-spiriting display of political self-indulgence.

Rather than address the motion on the agenda (see the link above), an alternative “visioning” motion, emanating from, of all places, the new Leader and his Deputy, was put up for discussion.

This motion, on its own, would kick this particular can – getting the Local Plan moving again – down the road until October at the very least, so that yet another task group, an “envisioning” committee chaired by an outside facilitator, can generate a substantial contribution to global warming.

What a discussion ensued. Several hours of political manoeuvring and posturing followed (all in advance of the by-election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of the leader of the Green faction). Not by all councillors, but by enough of them to make a difference.

So, while the clock on our Local Plan is ticking very loudly, and we have already lost more than a year’s progress towards finishing it because of this council-wide faction fighting, the meeting last night eventually decided to adopt both motions, finally allowing the Planning Officers to get work moving again, but with the imminent threat that the whole thing could come to a standstill again in three months’ time. Perhaps sooner.

And as this is going on, councillors have been telling residents that it is possible to remove all Green Belt from the Local Plan process, at the same time as ruling out any high-rise blocks of flats, and all the while ignoring the housing targets sent down from central government. This is unadulterated snake-oil, and they know it.

Quite how the Planning Officers put up with this obstructionism is difficult to understand. The current planning team in charge of the Local Plan have done a highly commendable job in the face of what is simply juvenile behaviour by councillors.

In any decent system, those councillors who have been continually frustrating the work of the Planning Office would resign.

They know who they are. Just go.

Time for the fighting to stop

Next week, on 13 July, the Spelthorne Environment and Sustainability Committee will meet to address the question of the future strategy for OUR Local Plan. The motion before the committee will be to:

“Agree the revised strategy for the new Local Plan to meet our housing need by releasing a small amount of Green Belt, reducing the impact on Staines by not including an additional allocation, including opportunities to reduce some building heights in Staines if this is the outcome of the Staines Development Framework consultation and allow for more family homes with gardens to be built.”

The background is that the last year has been marked by party political fighting on a scale we haven’t seen in this borough for decades. As a direct result, within the space of a year, a year’s progress in the development of our Local Plan has been lost.

From the offices of the large landowners in this Borough, this must be most enjoyable viewing. For as we all know – even if some of us will not admit it – a council that is in such disarray that it can’t make any progress in completing its Local Plan is inviting the Planning Inspectorate to step in and do the work for it. For the developers, this looks like all their Christmas dinners come at once. You can almost hear them rattling the carving tools in anticipation.

It is no use hoping, as some have been, that Secretary of State Jenrick will suddenly have an overnight conversion to reducing the housing targets. It is no use pretending, as some have been pretending, that all Spelthorne’s Green Belt sites can be withdrawn from consideration for development. It is no use claiming, as some have been claiming, that this Borough can work up a Local Plan in a way which does not comply with the standard method. Any Planning QC will tell you that these options are not possible. So, too, the council’s own Planning Officers.

A Planning Inspector would make a simple ruling. At the very least, this Borough would be sent back to do the whole process again. Look what happened in Runnymede a few years ago. But the real risk is that the Inspector’s penalty would be much more severe: pretending we can go it alone is a sure way to lose even greater swathes of our Green Belt than we otherwise would – a decision the Inspector will make and against which we will have no possibility of appeal.

KKG urges the members of the Environment and Sustainability Committee to vote to approve this motion.

We also urge you all – the people who have followed what KKG has successfully done to protect Green Belt for nearly a decade – to contact the members of the Environment and Sustainability Committee and encourage them to approve this motion. This is urgent: this motion became public on 8 July, and the meeting is on 13 July.

The councillors’ contact emails are:

Councillor Ian Beardsmore  (Chairman) cllr.beardsmore@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Olivia Rybinski  (Vice-Chairman) cllr.rybinski@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor John Doran   cllr.jdoran@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Tom Fidler   cllr.fidler@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Nick Gething   cllr.gething@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Michele Gibson   cllr.gibson@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Kathy Grant   cllr.grant@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Naz Islam   cllr.islam@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Thomas Lagden   cllr.lagden@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Vivienne Leighton   cllr.leighton@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Jim McIlroy   cllr.mcilroy@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Sinead Mooney   cllr.mooney@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Bob Noble   cllr.noble@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Joanne Sexton   cllr.sexton@spelthorne.gov.uk

Councillor Veena Siva   cllr.siva@spelthorne.gov.uk

And we urge councillors of all stripes to end this ceaseless fighting and put the people of this borough first.

Open gardens and other things

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Just a short note to let you know that we have had to postpone (again…) the KKG Open Gardens until Sunday 12 June 2022. We will keep you posted about details of this, and other fundraisers, closer to the events.

Spelthorne Council has now moved to a new regime – a committee system, rather than the “Cabinet” government of the past several years. Committee chairs have now been apportioned by a negotiated proportional system, (until, of course they are changed because of the inherent instability of the current coalition control of the Council).

We have already been in contact with the members of the Local Plan Working Party – now renamed the Local Plan Task Group – to press our case that the lack of progress in drawing up our Local Plan over the last year means that a number of risks have increased, not least the possibility that a Planning Inspector could be sent in to write our Local Plan for us if the Council do not get a move on. We have been assured by the Chair of the Party/Group that progress will be made in short order.

We look forward to seeing the hard evidence of that.

Make a note in your diaries for 7 November 2020 and 13 June 2021 …

As you will be aware, we have postponed our Open Gardens event until 13 June next year for obvious reasons. Please make a note of the new date in your diary.

We are also planning to hold some other fundraising events in the meantime.

The first event to be confirmed is a piano recital by the international pianist Panayiotis Gogos in the award-winning Riverside Arts Centre in Lower Sunbury on Saturday evening, 7 November. 

Full details will be provided shortly, but, again, please make a note in your diary.

 

The Schwarzenegger gambit

The Jockey Club announced today that they have asked Spelthorne Council to consider an application for a smaller development – 550 dwellings – on the Kempton Park estate.

“The Local Plan process continues and a new submission at the Preferred Options Consultation stage has seen a much smaller part of the site highlighted by The Jockey Club and Redrow Homes for the Council’s consideration, alongside the original proposals. This would involve only previously developed land and would retain all racing facilities to continue as today, including both the Jumps course and All-Weather Track.”

This latest brass-neck manoeuvre is aimed more at placating that substantial membership of The Jockey Club who oppose the planned closing of Kempton Park racecourse. And it assumes local opinion will be mollified by a smaller development. But both groups should beware. We don’t believe for one second that this will be the end of it. The Jockey Club and Redrow will be back.

Our position remains the same: We don’t want ANY houses on Kempton Park.

Arup and Spelthorne Council have twice assessed Kempton Park, and twice concluded it is “strongly performing” Green Belt. And that includes the area taken up by the racecourse, the grandstand, and all the other buildings – “the previously developed land” as The Jockey Club puts it. Green Belt does not mean green space, as they well know.

As the Jockey Club itself says, this schoolboy wheeze of theirs has been submitted alongside their original proposals for 3000 dwellings on Kempton Park. i.e. they still want the Green Belt status of the entire estate to be lifted. And always remember, they could build far more than 3000 dwellings even given current density guidelines, and those guidelines will rise in the future. The Jockey Club has been playing with the numbers they want to build for years, saying one thing to some people, and another thing to others.

Our message to Spelthorne Council is clear: Don’t let The Jockey Club terminate our Green Belt and home.

https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/2020/02/smaller-scale-residential-development-option-for-kempton-park-that-retains-both-turf-and-all-weather-racing-put-forward/