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Spelthorne Council let down residents on Green Belt Petition

March 3, 2020 2:31 PM

A response from the Spelthorne Liberal Democrats

Dark clouds over Green Belt (Photo by Roger Bradshaw on Unsplash)Spelthorne Liberal Democrats are disappointed that the discussion of the releasing of Green Belt site as part of the development of the Local Plan will continue to proceed without full council input and a lack of public-facing information.

At the Council meeting on the 27th February, a petition of over 5,000 signatories was presented for council consideration. The Lib Dem team tried to reject the option 'to note the petition and keep the item under review' as thus far there has been little evidence from the Council that the Green Belt sites allocated will be reconsidered, given the great social and environmental value they have. The vote was 13-13, with the Deputy Mayor having the casting vote to support the proposed action called for by the Conservatives. On the evening, despite the importance of the meeting for the decision on the Green Belt and the budget, 10 Conservative Councillors did not attend.

Commenting Group Leader Cllr Sandra Dunn said: "Our group position has been consistent in that the current level of engagement on Green Belt as part of the Local Plan has been inadequate for residents, residents' groups and councillors. I made this clear in my letter to the Leader which I have still had no response to. To lose on a casting vote is not good for our local democracy, and the issue is now likely to be pushed aside, kept hidden away from public and opposition sight, in meetings with no opposition parties present and no public minutes. How can we have confidence in this administration to protect our Green Belt if they can't share with us their discussions so far?".

On the developments of the evening, Lib Dem Councillor Lawrence Nichols said: "We are disappointed that the notable omission of the option, as stated in the constitution, to send the item for consideration to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. We feel that we would have had even more cross-party support for this option. There was a lot of new information revealed in full Council, that had this been a committee meeting with this item on the agenda, we could have had in informed discussion. This would help to avoid misconceptions, set the record straight on points and could instil confidence in the process for Councillors and residents.".

The Lib Dems maintain that the Green Belt has an immense social and environmental value to our area. The group will maintain that the discussions of the Local Plan Working Group, with our MP and central Government on the negotiations of housing figures, Local Plan Policies and Site Allocations should be more transparent to Councillors and residents. We maintain that the approach taken thus far consolidates the belief in many residents eyes of a 'Secret Spelthorne' with many discussions hidden away behind closed doors and lacking any scrutiny. On a decision this important, the Council cannot afford to make mistakes and Spelthorne residents deserve far more information to feel this Local Plan does work for them.

Photo by Roger Bradshaw on Unsplash