What is it for?
It was asked 'what weight will this document have compared to other planning documents?', the answer was 'very little'. But the question was perhaps naive and to answer it thus did nothing to explain its purpose.
How will it be paid for?
A Councillor asked this: 'The infrastructure projects listed in the document would cost vast sums of money to build. The changes to Kingston town center, the Tolworth Deck, the A3 bypass. How then is this to be financed in these times of austerity?'
Well the GLA says London has a huge challenge to meet its population growth estimates, and breaking these numbers down per borough only highlights the difficulty it will have in meeting this demand. So to supercharge growth where it can, it designates 'development Opportunity Areas'. Each area will provide 5000 new jobs or 2500 new homes or a combination of the two. And in return: cash will be given to help finance new infrastructure. There is your answer.
The Direction of Travel document identifies areas with opportunities for significant growth. Areas centered around stations which will be transformed to provide thousands of new homes, jobs or combination of the two. The document gave no hint of what it means in terms of height, scale, mass and what we would call 'over development'. But it has the potential to transform areas of our borough beyond recognition, as what happened in the Development Opportunity Areas of Vauxhall and Nine Elms.
So we build high to pay for new infrastructure. Be careful what you wish for! And watch this Council carefully: make sure this Direction of Travel document isn't turned on its head to justify 'development Opportunity Areas' to pay for these uber infrastructure projects we apparently want in Kingston Borough!
Opportunity Areas: What is it and what does it mean to immediate residents of the areas? The Officers struggled to give a direct answer. We worry they will bring the equivalent of 10 or more Old Post Office developments to each one. Here are some points residents made at the meeting:
- The DoT is vague & open to be misinterpreted as ‘consultation on Opportunity Areas’
- The council’s strategy to pursue the development of multiple Opportunity Areas across the Borough is unconstitutional as the council has never received any authority through committee or any other agreed approval channel to do so.
- Council has no mandate for Opportunity Area designations. In the 2014 Local elections this push for growth was never explicitly stated. Therefore the Council have no right to promote these Areas without asking for residents approval.
- The London Plan 2015 does not include Kingston upon Thames as a possible Opportunity Area.
- “How will consultation on Opportunity Area status be conducted, and will this question be addressed as a separate exercise?" - English Heritage question.
- DoT consultation issues not properly answered eg irregular allocation of growth areas : Malden Manor excluded as an Opportunity Area - was explained by Kevin Davis as a “typo”! But it has still not been corrected in the final version of the document.
- The letter of objection submitted by the chair of the Kingston Upon Thames Society’s was reported as an individual letter despite being clearly written on behalf of the whole membership of the Society.
- Balancing growth with heritage and character is not achieved by designating Opportunity Areas! They are mutually exclusive.
"You might say you are doing good for Kingston but instead you are destroying it. Look what the visual & environmental damage OAs did to Nine Elms & Vauxhall. Do you want the same end result for this Borough?"
Up next: The 'Options and Issues' document
Look out for the next in the series of planning documents as we head towards the new Local Plan. The November meeting of the Growth Committee is slated for November 23rd at the Guild Hall.
- Take a look at what RBK and the GLA are up to behind the scenes: drafting the 'Kingston Opportunity Area Plan', part financed by developers! ( you couldn't make it up! ) Kingston Opportunity Area Plan draft
- Kingston Upon Thames is the only London borough to have a 'Direction of Travel' listed on the GLA Opportunity Area web page! Whats going on? Why are we so keen ( when we are not )? London Opportunity Areas