Despite overwhelming local opposition, Spelthorne's Planning committee passed the application to build 143 flats on the Council owned Bridge Street car park site, right next to Staines Bridge. The seven-storey block will be sited only 4 metres from the bridge and will totally dominate the entry to Staines from the West.
The development is totally out of keeping with any other building in Staines and would be far more at home in an inner city location rather than on a prestigious Thames-side site. The Council has development control policies that require developments to enhance and to be in keeping with the local area. This development does neither of these things - it will be ugly, huge and ruin this part of the riverside.
So why did the Tory controlled planning committee pass this application? The answer is simple - money. The Council owns the site and has wanted to sell it for development to the highest bidder. Since the Council is cash-strapped they are desperate to sell valuable assets to balance their books. They are quite happy to sell the future for some quick cash now.
Only one maverick Tory Councillor spoke and voted against the proposal, with two others abstaining, including a local Ward Councillor who did not speak at all during the discussion . The final vote was 7 in favour with 4 votes against. All the Liberal Democrats on the committee spoke and voted against the development.
The key point against the development were:
- That it will be out of keeping with the area
- 143 flats is too many
- The 96 allocated parking spaces is far too few
- There is no proper amenity space or children's play area, contrary to Council policy
- The sizes of the flats are too small, with some private units being below the minimum standard for affordable housing
- The development will ruin the appearance of Staines Bridge
- The site will become a ghetto of the future
The development was strongly opposed by Runnymede Council who recognised that it would dominate and ruin the Thames riverside. LibDem Councillor Ian Beardsmore compared the poor design of this development with the care that had been taken at other Thames bridge locations both up and down the river.
The Council owns the site and could have chosen to make much more of it. Councillor Lawrence Nichols said "This is a lost opportunity for the site. I have no objection to a redevelopment but why does it have to be like this? This is a prestigious gateway site and the Council has chosen to do this so that it can get cash now. This is a short-sighted decision which we will come to regret".