To receive and consider an e-petition which asks the Council to “not promote or support housing development at Fairoaks but to retain it in the Greenbelt.” (Briefing Note attached)
In accordance with the Petition Scheme at Part 4 of the Constitution, an e-petition was considered. The petition stated:
“We petition SHBC not to promote or support housing development at Fairoaks but to retain it in the Greenbelt ..... This includes committing to not making a second bid for a Fairoaks Garden Village. SHBC should instead encourage airport operations at Fairoaks with their associated local employment opportunities.”
The e-petition had opened for signatures on 24 March 2017 and closed on 24 June 2017. It had received 5,348 signatures nationally. Members were advised that 992 signatories were from addresses in the Borough and included 605 signatories from Chobham.
Mr Darren Rees of the Chobham Society presented the petition and spoke for 5 minutes.
The Mayor advised that the following options were available to the Council in responding to the petition
· take the action the petition requests,
· not to take the action requested for reasons put forward in the debate,
· or to commission further investigation into the matter, for example by a relevant scrutiny committee.
Members considered the request contained in the petition.
It was moved by Councillor Moira Gibson and seconded by Councillor Richard Brooks that the petition and the concerns of local people be noted but that no further action be taken at this time.
Councillor Gibson spoke to her motion. She advised the Council that there were currently no plans to submit a second round Garden Village Bid as there was no information to suggest that there would be further bid rounds available. Certainly no second bid round had been announced and it was understood that the government’s thinking had changed. However she stressed it would be wrong to fetter any future decision the Council might make about the submission of a second bid as this would restrict the Council from obtaining available funds. Councillor Gibson reminded Members that garden village bids were essentially bids for infrastructure contributions. In addition, in view of the pressure from government relating to the provision of housing, no Council could afford to rule out any potential housing site without going through the proper process and a detailed examination of all the appropriate issues.
The Council was informed that the relevant issues would be dealt with through the planning process if an application was submitted. A planning application would be considered by the full Council. In addition viability issues would be dealt with as part of the planning process. It would not be for the Council to establish viability but to make a decision once all evidence had been examined. As a result Members were advised of the need to be cautious in their approach so as not to put themselves in a situation where predeterminationmight apply.
Councillor Victoria Wheeler spoke in support of the action requested by the petitioners. She supported the use of the site as an airport, as provided for in the local plan, as an area of strategic employment. She was of the opinion that the site was unsuitable as a garden village as it failed to meet the criteria of being a free standing settlement due to its close proximity to Chobham and the new development at Longcross.
Councillor Wheeler considered that, in a climate of fewer local airports, the use of Fairoaks as an airport provided the opportunity for it to become a destination of choice for business and leisure. She was of the opinion that the Council should exploit this opportunity for growth and remain open for business. Furthermore she indicated that the proposed garden village was not supported by the community and that the potential developer had failed to overcome the objections of local residents. In addition there was no evidence that the infrastructure needs had been be assessed as part of the garden village bid. She also drew attention to issues relating to congestion and air pollution as a result of the development of a garden village.
Councillor Rodney Bates indicated that he did not wish to debate the merits of housing development on this site at the current time. However he did not support an application for a second bid for a garden village and suggested that if a further bid was contemplated it should be considered by the Executive. He agreed with the action in the petition that the Council should encourage airport operations at Fairoaks and the local business opportunities.
The Leader concluded that the information provided by the petitioners had been extremely helpful. The motion as proposed by Councillor Gibson and seconded by Councillor Richard Brooks was put to the vote and carried.
Resolved the petition, together the concerns of local people, be noted but that no further action be taken at this time.
In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 17.4, a roll call vote was taken.
The following Members voted in favour of the motion: Councillor Dan Adams, Richard Brooks, Nick Chambers, Ian Cullen, Paul Deach, Craig Fennell, Surinder Gandhum, Moira Gibson, Edward Hawkins, Josephine Hawkins, Paul Ilnicki, David Lewis, Oliver Lewis, Jonathon Lytle, Katia Malcaus Cooper, Bruce Mansell, Alan McClafferty, Charlotte Morley, Max Nelson, Adrian Page, Robin Perry, Chris Pitt, Joanne Potter, Nic Price, Darryl Ratiram, Ian Sams, Valerie White, John Winterton.
The following Members voted in against of the motion: David Allen, Rodney Bates, Ruth Hutchinson, Pat Tedder, Victoria Wheeler.
· The Mayor, on behalf of all Members present, declared for the record, that all Members had been lobbied and had received approaches relating to the issues raised in the above petition.
· Councillor Pat Tedder declared a non-pecuniary interest as a member of the Chobham Society.
· Councillor Victoria Wheeler declared a non-pecuniary interest as a member of the Chobham Society and as the Council’s representative on the Fairoaks Consultative Committee. She also declared for the record that her partner and son had signed the petition.
· Councillor Paul Ilnicki declared for the record that he had spoken to Mr Mancini.