Spelthorne Liberal Democrats have major concerns about Spelthorne Borough Council's announcement regarding the plan to develop the Bridge Street Car Park and Hanover House site as a Hotel-led mix use development. The Council has announced that, following a competitive tendering process, the Arora Group have been awarded the development contract. The procurement approach and the outcome were unanimously approved with minimal discussion by the ruling Party Cabinet. It would appear that very few, if any, other Councillors outside the Cabinet had been involved, so were unaware of just how advanced this proposal was and that the process was now completed.
The promotion of this scheme and the financial commitment involved has therefore raised a few eyebrows. Not least, with the vast majority of Councillors across the political divide, who have all expressed concerns about the complete lack of consultation on the proposal. There are serious doubts as to the viability of the scheme in the current economic circumstances. Who would choose to develop such a hotel-led complex at the moment given the uncertainties associated with the implications of post-Covid-19 scenarios? Particularly, as it is undoubtedly linked to Heathrow Airport from which it would expect to generate the majority of its business.
Will Affordable Housing lose out again?
The site will include a number of residential dwellings. Spelthorne Liberal Democrats have one clear question to ask amongst all this: what provision, if any, will there be for affordable housing within this complex? With the likely number of dwellings to be proposed, a policy-compliant planning application should include some affordable housing. Any reference to this is omitted from the Councils press release on the project, suggesting that such provision is unlikely to be included within the final plan.
Looking to the future, we all agree that the re-generation of Staines, and in particular the Town Centre, is necessary. To this end a Staines Masterplan is be produced. Our question is quite simple, why is this development being promoted now, before a working group has been set up to look at the bigger picture for Staines? It is our view that this proposal or something similar should have formed part of the overall discussion concerning Staines and not be determined and finalised beforehand.
It is a long-held view of Spelthorne Liberal Democrats that in many of the development proposals within the Borough, there has been insufficient consultation and involvement of both local councillors and local people, with too many decisions being reserved to the Cabinet.
Here we are again!
LibDem Cllr Chris Bateson said "Our concern is that with this waterfront proposal, history is repeating itself. We want to see a clear commitment from the Council, that the maximum number of local people will get the chance to have their say on the scheme before any irreversible decisions with long-term implications are made. We want meaningful discussion and consultation rather than a token gesture for our residents."