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Elmbridge Council Criticises Spelthorne’s Draft Local Plan

Published on: 3 Sep, 2022
Updated on: 5 Sep, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Spelthorne councillors are “not behind” their own council’s plans to allow 9,000 homes to be built in the borough, according to a neighbouring council.

A response to Spelthorne’s draft Local Plan from neighbouring Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) raised concerns surrounding the wording of the plan, and claimed it would make Spelthorne “a less attractive place to live”.

Neighbouring councils have a duty to co-operate on each other’s plans for homes, with Elmbridge focussing its response on the areas of the plan which could have cross-boundary implications for their borough.

At an individual cabinet member decision-making – planning and environmental health meeting at EBC on Thursday (September 1), portfolio holder Cllr Karen Randolph agreed the wording of a letter to be sent to Spelthorne Borough Council regarding its Local Plan, which is currently going through public consultation.

Cllr Randolph’s letter said that Elmbridge appreciated there was a “balance to be struck” when preparing a Local Plan, and that, like Elmbridge’s, the Spelthorne plan “centred around place-making and responding to the climate change emergency”.

She added: “However, it would appear that Spelthorne councillors are not behind the draft Local Plan and have been led by a continued over-emphasis on the perceived requirement that its housing need must be met in full.”

The letter went on to quote Spelthorne’s plan, for 9,270 new homes in the borough, which says: “Whilst it is appealing to consider producing a plan that does not meet our need in full, this will not be a sound strategy and would be rejected by the planning inspector.”

Elmbridge’s Local Plan went through its regulation 19 representation stage up until the end of July, and will now be sent to the planning inspector for feedback.

A spokesperson for Spelthorne said since June 2020, a “collective team” of officers and councillors from every ward had spent more than 100 hours in task group meetings and debated the plan at cabinet and environment and sustainability committee meetings.

They said this was to ensure the draft Local Plan and draft Staines Development Framework were “the best, most robust and most defensible they can be”.

The letter from Elmbridge said they would query how Spelthorne’s approach to meeting its housing requirement was consistent with central government policy, and how, overall, it had been “positively prepared”.

In a letter that reflects some concerns recently expressed in Guildford it was said the plan outlined that development within the town centres would consist of “sterile, high-rise blocks”, something, according to the letter, “that no councillor wants to support”.

Catriona Riddell was brought in last September by the then leadership at Spelthorne to do three workshops with councillors on developing a shared vision around not just the local plan but working with local communities.

The document she had worked on with councillors was not voted through for inclusion in Local Plan documents at a full council meeting on December 9, 2021.

Speaking before this week’s Elmbridge meeting, she said in terms of a council’s Local Plan being “positively prepared”, this would include community responses to consultations, the plan’s approach to growth and its “overall vision for a place”.

She added: “It’s very much about when a local council gets to an examination, they’re sitting there saying: “This is the plan we want, this is our plan.

“This is going to make a difference to the local area in a positive way. And it’s ours.’”

The plan releases around 0.7 per cent of the borough’s green belt for development.

The Spelthorne spokesperson said: “Between them, the [draft Local Plan and draft Staines Development Framework] have been considered by councillors at either cabinet or committee on six different occasions to ensure that members were comfortable with the direction of travel and the progress being made at every stage.

25 of Spelthorne’s 33 councillors at the authority’s full council meeting (May 19) voted to send the plan to public consultation.

The council spokesperson added: “The Local Plan strategy proposed seeks to meet Spelthorne’s housing needs in full and is considered to be a measured approach that takes into account the views of stakeholders and the evidence developed through the Local Plan process.”

Public consultation on the plan has been extended up to September 19.

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Responses to Elmbridge Council Criticises Spelthorne’s Draft Local Plan

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    September 3, 2022 at 8:24 pm

    No mention of drinking water, enlarged sewers, extra sewage treatment capacity or adequate electrical supply for the 9,000 houses. I wonder what reserves they have over there?

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