After the controversial approval of Shepperton Studios expansion at an extraordinary meeting of Spelthorne’s Planning Committee on February 12th, a number of residents wrote to the Secretary of State asking him to “call the decision in”.
Spelthorne Planning approved the application even though the ‘very special circumstance’ used to counter inappropriate use of green belt was the interest of the national economy. Neither Spelthorne nor the Studios put forward any argument that our local economy would benefit.
This “call in” request should have amounted to an independent review of the entire application by the Secretary of State.
It was disconcerting therefore to receive a letter on 5th March from the Secretary of State’s office refusing to call the matter in. This letter states that “the application does not involve issues of more than local importance” and should therefore be dealt with by Spelthorne!
Conflicting national policies on the preservation of green belt, decentralisation of business from the South East and support for the British film industry are justifiably issues that should be dealt with by central government and not be determined on the recommendation of a Spelthorne employee.
The speed with which the Secretary of State made his refusal suggests that the decision was not considered in any depth - if at all - by the secretary but made by a civil servant. Regrettably there is no appeal procedure and the only possible way of taking matters further would be a judicial review costing tens of thousands of pounds if not more.
Whilst many consider this the wrong decision, if would perhaps be more acceptable if at least shown to be properly considered. Unfortunately, it is highly questionable that the planning committee were fully conversant with their responsibilities on February 12th or that any serious consideration was given to the issue at national level…