At the recent Surrey County Council election, you may have noticed that in the run-up to polling day, mysteriously, money suddenly became available to produce a rushed programme of patchwork road repairs throughout the Borough. Rather than producing a proper thought out programme of work, Tory-run Surrey County Council went for a cynical "look good in the short term" approach. They also promised further investment in our roads and to address the poor state of our pavements too - finally acknowledging there is a serious problem with the condition of both.
Liberal Democrats welcome long-overdue investment in these areas which have deteriorated continually throughout the entire time the Conservatives have been in charge at Surrey. We will hold them to account for these election promises made to our residents and will continually monitor the neighbourhood.
For over a year now progression, albeit slow, has been made in respect of the Local Plan. It is not without controversy and very soon some difficult choices will have to be made.
Liberal Democrats have long been critical of the unrealistic housing target being foisted upon Spelthorne Council by the current Government, with a completely inflexible approach from them on the matter. If not reversed or amended this situation is likely to force the Council into making a very unpalatable choice; releasing some Green Belt land for housing together with significant high rise development in Staines to meet these imposed targets. Even if the Council were to max out building in Staines this still might not be enough.
Liberal Democrats do not believe that unrestricted development right across Staines town is the right answer. It would dramatically change the face of the town, for the worse in our view, and fail to capitalise on the Town's best asset, the river frontage, for the benefits of its residents. Local Councillor Chris Bateson is being pragmatic on the subject. In an effort to win cross-party support he is promoting the idea of zoning Staines so that any high rise building if agreed would be placed well back from the riverfront. This would protect the Town's most precious area which can then be looked at to develop as an attractive place for people to visit and utilise.
Chris states that right across the political spectrum of the Council, people have expressed immense dissatisfaction at the failure of the Government to recognise that the housing numbers they seek cannot be delivered. Apart from infrastructure issues, the idea to cram as many people into the town in a mass of high rise flats is not what I believe local people want. Whilst some high rise building may be inevitable, they should be proportionate and other areas of the Borough taking their fair share.
Commencing on 18 May and running through until 29 June, Spelthorne Residents will have a chance to have their say, on how they would like to see a future Staines look. Many agree that the Borough's major town needs both revitalising and modernising to take it forward for future years.
Spelthorne is developing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) following a Government strategy to improve walking and cycling across the country. The process involves developing walking and cycling networks which can be developed over time. Including:
"Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs), as set out in the Government's Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, are a new, strategic approach to identifying cycling and walking improvements required at the local level. They enable a long-term approach to developing local cycling and walking networks, ideally over a 10 year period, and form a vital part of the Government's strategy to increase the number of trips made on foot or by cycle" (DfT, 2017)"
We came within 7 votes of winning the by-election in Staines South
May I take this opportunity on behalf of Rob Millist and myself, to thank all those in Ashford, Staines and Laleham who voted for us and for change at the local elections on May 6. In the Staines South and Ashford County Division I was pleased to gain a very creditable second place securing 1,238 votes and increasing my vote share from 12.4 % in 2017 to 33.3 % in 2021. This represented a swing away from the Conservatives of 12.4 %
Rob Millist was even more unlucky and came so close to winning in the Staines South Borough by-election, losing by just 7 votes after a recount.
We are indebted to those who placed their faith and trust in both of us at this election. We will both continue to be active in the community and I remain a Borough Councillor for the Staines South Ward on Spelthorne Borough Council. I am here as always to act for and in the best interests of my residents and Rob will continue to campaign alongside me in the Staines South Ward.
Local Liberal Democrats believe that adult learning is a valuable and important service that cannot be allowed to disappear from Sunbury. Surrey CC have a track record of removing facilities from Spelthorne and neglecting the needs of residents. We shall be seeking to defend the site from inappropriate development and resisting any reduction in locally delivered adult learning opportunities. We asked Spelthorne Council a question about this in 2018 - you can find the question and answer below or see the minutes of the meeting.
The Adult Learning Centre in the Avenue in Sunbury is a well-used and important facility. It offers a wide range of courses that both provide valuable learning opportunities and are part of the local social glue.
As part of the Surrey County Council "service review" a number of buildings have been earmarked for potential redevelopment including libraries and youth centres as well as adult education facilities. A total of seven sites have been identified in the Spelthorne Local Plan as having potential for new housing.
The site is earmarked for 24 housing units in the Local Plan, but if this site is re-developed it is quite possible that more units would be built. The plan Allocations Document says "The site is considered suitable for redevelopment and could accommodate medium to high densities" and goes on to say that "flatted development could be provided on-site". There is also a comment that "the site could accommodate residential use or a care home". A development of this type would be completely out of character with the surrounding area.
This is the question asked by Liberal Democrat Activist Caroline Nichols in the council meeting on 19 July 2018:
"It is being mooted that Surrey's Adult Education Centre in Sunbury, the last of its type in the Borough, will be sacrificed in the bid to meet housing targets.
What is Spelthorne Borough Council's position on this proposal? Is Spelthorne Council aware that the centre provides an essential function as a source of relaxation, wellbeing and self-improvement for different social groups, including the increasing number of carers who are looking after young, disabled or elderly relatives for whom engagement in classes represents a valuable respite activity? What does Spelthorne Council see as its role in respect to users of the centre and will it be lobbying on their behalf for the centre's retention?"
Response from the Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing, Councillor M. Attewell:
"Thank you for your question Mrs Nichols. The site at Sunbury Adult Education Centre is included in the Council's Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA). This is the document that identifies land in the urban area that could be developed for housing, employment or other uses. Surrey County Council identified this site, together with many other SCC sites in the borough, as part of their service review, and it was put forward to the Strategic Planning team at the Council as 'developable in the next 6-10 years'. However, the SLAA makes it clear that the site is only developable on the basis that the existing use is re-provided, either on-site as a mixed use scheme, or elsewhere nearby, as the loss of a social/community use would be contrary to planning policy. It should also be noted that the SLAA does not allocate sites for development nor does it grant planning permission. It is simply an evidence base of land availability that will be used to inform the preparation of our new Local Plan.
As a former Surrey County Councillor as well as a Spelthorne Borough Councillor, Mrs Nichols will understand that Spelthorne Borough Council has very little control over the use of this site, as well as understanding the difficult financial pressures imposed upon Surrey County Council by re-distribution of Local Government funding via the so-called 'Fairer Funding' formula."
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