Tolworth Deserves Better

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The Tolworth Deserves Better campaign was started by your local Conservative councillors – Ian George, Chris Hayes and Richard Hudson. The campaign was started in response to several large planning applications for Tolworth that were submitted within a short period of time. The main two Tolworth planning applications are those at Tolworth Tower and the Toby Jug (former MoD/Tesco) sites, although there are others.

The plans for dense tall towers of flats is totally out of keeping with the local area, which does not have the public facilities to cope with the proposal. The area already suffers from regular traffic jams and dangerously high levels of air pollution. We aren’t against some form of new development in the area, but we are against the type of over-development being proposed for the Tolworth tower site. We think Tolworth Deserves Better.

Rolling out the long Tolworth Deserves Better petition at the Planning Committee meeting
Rolling out the long Tolworth Deserves Better petition at the Planning Committee

The Toby Jug (former MoD/Tesco) site planning application was recently refused for a second time by the Planning Committee. Your local Conservative ward councillors objected both times, spoke against the application and submitted the Tolworth Deserves Better petition of over 450 signatures. The developer did seek to improve the first application a little by lowering the height of the proposed buildings, but the high number of flats (705) was not reduced at all. Hopefully they will now come back with something more sensible.

The planning application for the Tolworth Tower site was unfortunately approved by Kingston’s Development Control Committee. It will see the change of use of the existing Tower to create 68 serviced apartments and 108 flats. There will also be new 5, 12, 15 and 19 storey buildings containing 200 flats and ground floor commercial units. Your three Conservative ward councillors are as unhappy as the majority of local residents with the approval of the Tolworth Tower application.

Unlike other councillors we actively fought the application. We:

  • Gained over 450 signatures opposing the application, which was correctly submitted as confirmed by the Democratic Services officer
  • Funded the high profile Tolworth Deserves Better campaign
  • Issued an open letter requesting a fair deal for Tolworth that was delivered locally on 5,000 leaflets, sent to councillors and printed in the Surrey Comet
  • Issued a briefing to councilors on the Development Control committee highlighting the concerns of local residents and giving reasons for refusal
  • Informed local residents of the date of the decision making committee and how to make their views known

The Development Control Committee which took the decision is non-political by law, in that councillors must make up their own minds based on the facts before them and on planning law. Political parties are not allowed to whip their councillors in order to influence their vote. However, we were very disappointed with the outcome of the vote. We encouraged a refusal, despite the recommendation of the professional planning officer to approve.

PAYING THE PRICE FOR LIBDEM MISTAKES

The Tolworth regeneration strategy adopted by the LibDems in March 2010 is fatally flawed. Central to the strategy is “Provision of new housing to generate additional population and spend”. Crucially the document puts no limit on growth or building height, which it could and should have done.

  • In April 2012, the LibDems adopted the core strategy for the Borough, which makes the following plans for Tolworth:
  • Growth by “..securing significant new housing development on the government offices, Toby Jug and Marshall House site; the Tolworth Tower complex and the Red Lion site.” (Page 93)
  • They also want: “..higher density flats with amenity space within the District Centre” (Page 96)

The LibDems did not limit height, mass and scale in the core strategy, which was a grave mistake. When an appeal was made to the Mayor of London to overturn the Tolworth Tower decision, the Mayor’s office refused get involved. With the above wording in the Council’s own Tolworth strategy document , it was not surprising that the Mayor agreed with the decision of the Planning Committee.

The local Conservatives are now putting a new improved  planning strategy together for Tolworth, which unfortunately takes quite some time. It will involve full consultation with local residents. The LibDems voted against putting money aside for this to take place, although thankfully the finances were approved as part of the recent budget.

As the three Alexandra ward councillors, we have campaigned tirelessly against overdevelopment and poor planning in Tolworth and the surrounding areas. We will continue to oppose developments and proposals that are not of good quality.