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Spelthorne Borough Council to make crucial decision on new Local Plan strategy

8th July 2021

Spelthorne Council’s Environment & Sustainability Committee is due to make a crucial decision on the new Local Plan at a meeting on Tuesday 13 July 2021. This is an important step as we prepare for a further public consultation in February 2022 on the final draft of the Plan before it is submitted to the Secretary of State for examination, after which it can be adopted by the Council and then form the policy basis for future decisions on planning applications.

The report sets out that meeting our housing need of 611 homes per year, set by Government, provides the best protection for the whole Borough against applications for developing our most important Green Belt sites. The proposed strategy would see a small amount of Green Belt released for development, just 0.6% or approximately 24 hectares, and would not rely on an additional allocation for Staines upon Thames on sites not already identified for development. This would be a significant reduction in the number of sites previously consulted on at the Preferred Options[1] stage from November 2019 to January 2020, which proposed releasing 19 sites equating to 1.6% of Green Belt or approximately 53 hectares. It also allows us to set policies that could limit the height of buildings in some areas of Staines upon Thames and provide more family homes with gardens across the Borough, rather than a Plan that would have delivered 98% of new homes in the form of flats if no Green Belt were released.

Spelthorne has listened to its residents and removed sites that attracted some of the highest levels of objection in the last consultation, for example in Charlton Village. We will also be considering all the responses to the recent Staines Development Framework consultation[2] and with this approach we give ourselves the opportunity to limit the impact of development, particularly high-rise buildings, on Staines. The report includes an indicative list of 12 proposed sites that could be taken out of the Green Belt for housing and comprises smaller sites, those that already have built development on them, that could deliver community benefits such as enhanced sports and recreation facilities, and are not performing an important Green Belt function.

At the meeting on Tuesday, the report will be considered and it is recommended that councillors on the committee agree the revised strategy so that the Local Plan can proceed without further delay. This will enable us to robustly defend against inappropriate development and speculative Green Belt applications, and prevent the Plan being completed by Central Government or another body so that Spelthorne maintains control of its future. All local plans must be in place by the deadline of December 2023. The Plan will be supported by the Staines Development Framework and the two documents will be adopted together, plus an Infrastructure Delivery Plan will set out the need for new school places, healthcare facilities and improvements to roads and public transport to provide much needed services for existing residents and the additional growth in population.

Chair of Environment & Sustainability Committee, Councillor Ian Beardsmore, said “We continue to heavily criticise the Government for our extremely high housing need figure and we will fight for what is right so that development is not concentrated in areas like Spelthorne. We are bringing in outside help to try and make this happen and that will be our priority as Plan A but there are no guarantees this will work. We must not delay our Local Plan as time is now against us so this revised strategy is our Plan B and needs to be progressed in tandem. The consequences of further delay puts other sites at risk, or worse we would face the threat of our Plan being taken away from us and produced without consideration for our residents and that would be negligent. I fully appreciate that the Green Belt is a controversial issue, but this Council must deliver a strategy that causes the least harm and provides the most benefits for our residents.”