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No room for affordable housing in new Spelthorne Council 14-storey development

April 23, 2020 10:36 AM
By Lawrence Nichols

Despite the Council's policy of requiring 40% of new homes on major developments to be affordable, not a single unit will be for affordable housing

Impression of new development at Thameside, Staines (Spelthorne Borough Council)Spelthorne Council have announced a major planning application to build 140 homes plus commercial office space at the site of the old BUPA building. Details of the announcement can be found here.

According to the Council this will be a development that represents a "… significant step in Spelthorne Council's wider plan to rejuvenate Staines-upon-Thames". Whilst there is much in the scheme that sounds great there are aspects that raise questions that need to be answered.

The press release tells us that "Thameside House will form part of the developing Masterplan for Staines-upon-Thames". To date there has been no public consultation on the Masterplan or idea indication of what is proposed. Why have Spelthorne decided to bring this forward before presenting their overall vision for Staines?

The only consultation on the site was a very low-key event nearly 12 months ago. Whilst the area is ripe for improvement, this application is for a massive tower block that will change the character of the area. In common with many Council developments there is almost no public consultation and the scheme is only properly announced to the public after a design has been completed and huge fees racked up with architects and consultants. The motto of the Council is that "Spelthorne Means Business", with the residents coming only a poor second. Why hasn't the Council tried to engage with local residents before submitting an application for a massive 14-storey block?

The site was purchased by the Council some time ago and the press release indicates that the development will cost a further £44m. This will create 140 new homes for private rental. It is very likely that the high cost of these units will attract people from outside the borough and do nothing to alleviate the existing pressures in Spelthorne.

Despite the Council's policy of requiring 40% of new homes on major developments to be affordable, not a single unit will be for affordable housing. Spelthorne's Conservative administration does not regard building affordable housing as a priority and instead is looking at the profit they think this development can generate on the private market. Why is the Council so committed to building housing for profit and not for affordable housing? Why do the Conservatives think that borrowing money for private developments is in the interests of local people who are in desperate need of affordable housing?

Development at Thameside, Staines (Spelthorne Borough Council)The reason why the Council can sidestep its own policy is that there is a financial calculation which determines the financial viability of a scheme. If the calculation shows that the development doesn't make enough profit (usually 20%) then affordable units don't have to be provided. Why does the Council need to make a 20% profit? Why does the Council use a 7% cost of borrowing as part of the calculation when in practice it can access cash at far lower rates?

Staines South Councillor Chris Bateson said "Spelthorne Liberal Democrats support both a regeneration of Staines town centre and redevelopment of this key site but we believe that this should be done as part of a holistic plan and only after it has been widely consulted on."

The Planning Application for the Thameside House site and associated documents can be found here reference 20/00344/FUL.