Spelthorne Borough Council urges Government to re-think excessive ‘housing need’ figures on the day the Council starts consulting on next stage of new Local Plan

The Leader of Spelthorne Borough Council, Councillor Ian Harvey, is to meet senior officials from the Ministry of Homes, Communities and Local Government on the day the Council launches a public consultation on the new Local Plan. At the meeting, Councillor Harvey will express the Council’s deep concerns to the Ministry over the very high housing figure calculated for the Borough using the Government’s standard method for calculating ‘need’. Using this method, the figure for Spelthorne is 603 homes per year. Like many local authorities in Surrey, it is incredibly challenging to find sites to meet that need. Spelthorne is 65% Green Belt and 17% is water. In fact, 26% of our Green Belt is made up of the reservoirs. Much of the remainder of land is at risk of flooding or subject to other planning constraints which make it unusable. The scale of development demanded will irrevocably change the face of Spelthorne. 

Leader of the Council, Cllr Harvey said: “We need a Local Plan that protects our Borough from development of our most important green spaces but have been left with no choice as a result of the Government imposed target but to propose releasing some of these sites in order to help meet the demand it has identified. We will continue to push the Government to bring this figure down so we can deliver a Plan that is acceptable to our communities.”

Our Green Belt is precious to us and our residents, and we have always fought very hard to protect it from development. As part of our Local Plan we have commissioned a review of the Green Belt that has identified some land that is ‘weakly performing’ against the purposes of the designation. Whilst officers will understand that a weakly performing Green Belt site without any overriding planning constraints means it should be considered for development, our residents will see this as the obliteration of its open spaces, its ‘green lungs’. This is in combination with pressure from airport development related to Heathrow Expansion and further urban intensification of our towns and villages means we are being pressed from all sides.

Spelthorne is urging the Government to think again about how it calculates housing need and to reduce the figure that Local Plans have to aim for. A letter setting this out will be handed to the Ministry at the meeting on 5 November 2019.

The Local Plan consultation will run from Tuesday 5 November 2019 to Tuesday 7 January 2020. All aspects of the Local Plan will be communicated in a manner of ways to ensure all residents have the information available to them. The Bulletin, distributed to residents (some 45,000 households) the first week of December, will be a bumper edition with 8 pages of Local Plan news. Copies of all the documents will be available at our local libraries as well as at the Council Offices in Knowle Green and also available online www.spelthorne.gov.uk