The recent Spelthorne Borough Council meeting was a defining moment in the run-up to next May's local elections. It showcased the clear dividing line between the Conservative administration and the Liberal Democrat opposition.
Liberal Democrats called for the Council to stop allowing garden-grabbing by developers now. The coalition government has junked Labour's definition of gardens as brownfield sites to make this possible. We also wanted the Council to reduce the rate of new housing as a response to the huge over-development that has occurred in recent years.
On both counts Lib Dems were outvoted by Conservative Councillors (Labour have no Borough Councillors). Tories will only stop garden grabbing 'if appropriate' and intend to continue with Labour's high house building targets even though the coalition government is abolishing them. The result is clear. NO CHANGE under the Conservative-run Council. They even claimed that there is NO over-development despite the fact that, shamefully, Spelthorne is in the worst 3% of all English local authorities for garden grabbing.
Amazingly, the Conservatives declared they were 'one of the leading planning authorities in the country'. We disagree.It was the Liberal Democrats who, last year, submitted damning evidence on the planning department's work. We asked for, and got, an independent review that led to a report with more than 200 recommendations to improve the planning service. Overhaul that is long overdue.
It was Lib Dems who, earlier this year, led a debate seeking developer contributions from small scale developments. Conservative Councillors said No. Unlike Spelthorne, next door Elmbridge Council have generated more than £1million from these extra fees. Money that is being spent to benefit the residents in their area.
And now the Conservative's failure over garden grabbing.
I can assure residents that Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign and fight for a better Spelthorne. Even though we are in coalition with the Conservatives nationally we are still in fierce competition with them locally. A Liberal Democrat-run Council would offer a very different set of policies and philosophy. Our priorities include openness and transparency, tackling the Council's budget deficit, sorting out the planning department and stopping garden grabbing.
Cllr Colin Strong
Lib Dem, Leader of the Opposition
Spelthorne Borough Council