Let’s Restore Trust and Fix this Mess

Local people are hugely disappointed that Government planning inspectors have overturned the decision by Elmbridge Council to refuse the Jolly Boatman planning application opposite Hampton Court Palace.

What we really don’t need right now are misleading claims as we deal with the shock of this unwelcome decision.

Over 1,800 residents objected to this scheme. As Surrey Live records the scheme was refused by Elmbridge Borough Council‘s planning committee 12 months ago on the grounds it had “excessive height and bulk” and would cause “harm to numerous heritage assets” in the area.

Hampton Court Rescue Campaign (HCRC) argued that the development, planned for what used to be part of a royal hunting park at the time of Henry VIII, would spoil views of his famous former home across the river, Hampton Court Palace.

However, the inspector ruled that “the height of the proposed elevations would not appear disproportionate or overbearing in this setting”. He said the settings of listed buildings in the area would be preserved and “whilst there would be some change to the setting of the palace and its associated heritage assets, that change would not be harmful”.

As one Elmbridge resident said to Surrey Live about the Inspector’s most unwelcome decision, reflecting a generally held view : “the development was being allowed against all wishes of the local community”.

He went on to say residents’ disappointment at the inspector’s verdict was “shared by all of us at Elmbridge Council that campaigned successfully for the initial planning refusal”.

He said he was surprised (at the decision) because “the Council did a very professional job of defending our refusal at appeal”.

The Council is considering the Inspector’s decision.

What adds to the bitter disappointment of the Inspector’s decision is that Conservative Councillors and the MP are now seeking to blame the Council for it. In particular, they claim if the new Local Plan was in place the outcome would have been different.

It’s a desperate attempt to score a political point. The Conservatives are clutching at a straw and trying to beat the Council with it. It simply doesn’t stack up.

The Council has been able to win its case in previous appeals notwithstanding the claim made by the Conservatives. For instance, the EBC decision to refuse the Jockey Club’s application at Sandown was upheld. In fact it was the same Inspector that considered the Jolly Boatman case.

The government’s planning system isn’t working for Local People. We put forward a strong case at Appeal. Cllrs considered the harm arising from the scheme outweighed the benefits. 

The Inspector decided the opposite.

Let Local People decide. Not the Government’s Inspectors. 

The Conservatives talk about restoring trust at the same time as grinding out the same old false claims . It’s the Conservative government which introduced the Housing Targets which have created the pressure on the Green Belt up and down the country.

We are the first Council to break new ground by setting an exemplar for how to do a Local Plan in an area like ours.

We are leading the way – not lagging behind like the Conservatives claim. 

Our plea to everyone is to Love Elmbridge and Back the Plan.

And to the Conservatives we say start restoring trust by stopping the desperate attempt to blame others. 

The Conservative government created the mess.We are trying to fix it. Join us in our project to restore trust, tackle the cost of living crisis, build energy security, and grow our economy .

It’s time to change.

Bruce McDonald

Deputy Leader of Elmbridge Borough Council, Leader of the Liberal Democrats