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Lib Dems express concern with aspects of the new Local Development Framework

August 6, 2007 10:36 PM

This is the text of a letter sent by Colin Strong, the Leader of the Opposition, on the new Local Development Framework published in June. This was sent to the Surrey Herald in time for publication on 19th July but was not actually printed until two weeks later.

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Robert Ferguson's criticism of David Wilshire's attitude to housing policy (letters 11th July) highlighted an issue that is not receiving sufficient coverage in the Borough, namely the new Local Development Framework (LDF).

The LDF is a large set of documents that together form the plan for Spelthorne for the next 20 years and in particular set out the Council's approach to housing and development.

The problem with the LDF is that it formalises Council policies in a way that will do nothing to arrest the current decline in the general environment. In the past five years the Borough has allowed more than 600 houses to be built above the Government's requirements. The LDF continues this trend by promising to exceed annual targets for each of the next 8 years.

The problems for Spelthorne in terms of limited space for housing are obvious: the high risk of flooding in some areas and the decision to preserve Green Belt reduce the land available for further development to about one third of the Borough. According to the LDF the only way to build more is to increase the density in already developed areas. In reality this will mean knocking down houses and building flats on back gardens. This practice, encouraged by the Council, is changing the character of the residential parts of the Borough.

There are positive aspects of the LDF, for example the requirements for affordable housing on all larger developments, as highlighted by Mr Ferguson. But the problem with this is that developers can avoid the requirements by building homes in quantities of less than 10. So small in-fill developments will become the norm.

The LDF will no doubt be welcomed by developers who already have their eyes on any back garden bigger than a postage stamp.

The LDF should have been a chance to map out a better future for Spelthorne, instead it is a developers' charter. Residents have until August 2nd to comment on the LDF. All comments will then be scrutinised by a government appointed planning inspector later this year.

Cllr Colin Strong

Lib Dem, Leader of the Opposition

Spelthorne Borough Council