Residents’ Group accuse Council of not “adhering to their own planning guidelines”
Residents have criticised the consultation and scrutiny around council plans to build a £6 million homeless hostel on the site of a former 19th century cottage linked to the estate of Lord Lucan. Those living nearby say they have lost faith in Spelthorne Borough Council over how it has handled its planning application. The council said the planning application was advertised in line with standard practice.
Dozens of people living near the site in Ashford have objected saying they were not notified of the plans and formal complaints have been lodged. Designs for White House in Kingston Road – which is said locally to be a former administration base for Lord Lucan – show the hostel will have 27 en-suite bedroom units plus four one-bed flats. The four-storey building will have nine parking spaces and will be run by the Salvation Army.
The council says it needs the hostel due to a rise in rough sleepers and to help single homeless people in the borough and it will provide temporary accommodation for a “mix of people whom have either recently lost their job, their family or their home – it is considered that such incidents can lead to alcohol or drugs dependency”.
But the lack of consultation and public detail around the purchase and choice of the site has been heavily criticised by residents in neighbouring roads. A meeting was held on July 23 with 10 residents being invited to meet the council chief executive and planning officers.
Tim Khan, who attended the meeting, said: Because of the lack of consultation we don’t have too much faith in the council. He said there were flaws with the transport plan and parking space numbers referring to the council’s own policy outlined in the planning statement for the hostel which says the minimum standards for hostel is one space per two residents.
The site is next to a council depot and a sand and gravel site. The 19th century cottage has already been demolished.
Martin Shortland, a member of Celia Crescent Residents’ Group, questioned the lack of transparency around the choice of the site and the amount of people notified about the application. He said: “If you have an open consultation everyone can view the documents. Spelthorne doesn’t seem to be adhering to their own planning guidelines.”
Funding for the building of the hostel will include £4m from capital budgets and existing reserves plus a £2m Government grant from Homes England. The Salvation Army will cover the annual £500,000 running costs with the hostel reported to be saving the council £65,000 a year.
But residents say they are concerned about the due process around the selection of the site, the small amount of savings it will generate, the design of the hostel as most houses nearby are bungalows and inaccuracies in the transport plan linked to the application and lack of parking spaces.
Other objections submitted to the application include concern it is opposite a children’s nursery, fears the park opposite where residents already experience drug problems will not help those trying to recover from addiction, over development at the junction and disabled access onto the site. A meeting was held on Tuesday (August 13) for residents to hear an update with many saying they are concerned about why they did not receive planning notices and why other sites were considered not appropriate for the hostel.
One notice was pinned to the hoardings around the site. The plans could be put forward for approval as early as Wednesday (August 21). But residents said they were worried this was not enough time to raise objections and that people would be away on holiday so could not attend.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, ward councillor Chris Bateson, who is not a member of the planning committee, said: “I know a lot of people are away on holiday and it would be false and a rush drop to push this through.”
A statement from Spelthorne Borough Council said they did not agree there had been a lack of transparency around the planning application being advertised or why other sites considered had not been appropriate. It said: “The planning application was advertised in line with standard practice. This included a notice placed on the hoardings, adverts and letters sent to “properties closest to the site location. It said all answers and minutes from the three-hour meeting in July were available on the website and that a “desktop exercise” was carried out to review the sites considered. On its website the council said it had carried out the “statutory planning consultation process” and given residents nine weeks to give feedback.
Article originally appeared on Surrey Live
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