Statements issued to Surrey Comet, 10 October 2012
Surbiton's MP, Edward Davey, has this week confirmed he will be opposing the proposed development of the filter beds site by the Portsmouth Road in Surbiton. He has urged local people to back the campaign being organised by the Friends of Seething Wells, a community group with alternative ideas of how this enviromentally and historically special site can be conserved.
Edward Davey successfully campaigned against the previous five planning applications to develop this site but argues he considered the case afresh given Hydro's new scheme before concluding there were no special circumstances in the proposal to warrant past planning decisions and policy on the site to be disregarded. Commenting, he said:
"Surbiton's filter beds are simply too special to sacrifice to flats, car parking, a marina and restaurant. It is a "blue lung" for our riverside, with precious birds and bats and a unique and world important history. The developers have tried but failed to recognise this, and I would urge them to give up now.
"Two planning inspectors have considered previous proposals to develop the filter beds in huge detail and both concluded that this site deserved special protection - not least because of its environmental significance. For the site's legal protections to be overturned, the law is clear - there would have to be "very special circumstances". Hydro's plans completely fail to meet that test.
"I recognise that there are mixed views amongst local residents - but that was the case when some of us first campaigned against major development here over 10 years ago. I believe we have a duty to both Surbiton's past and Surbiton's future to reflect very carefully before we allow any more riverside development that will last for decades to come.
"When you examine carefully the special role this site plays for wildlife as well as in the history of clean water and public health, I think the council was absolutely right to drop development as an appropriate use on this site in their recent update to the Borough core planning policy.
"The good news is that the Friends of Seething Wells are putting forward a positive alternative to this threat of over-development, which seeks to engage the whole community at the start of the design of any proposal, rather than at the end. Today's Surbiton is blessed with an active and engaged community that in my view is now better placed than ever before to take imaginative ideas for this site forward. I have made it clear they will have my full backing and active support in realising community ambitions to preserve the special ecology and heritage of this site for generations to come."
St Marks Ward Councillors:
All three St Marks Ward Councillors - Liz Green, Mary Heathcote and Yogan Yoganathan are also against the current planning application and fully support the Friends of Seething Wells.
"We have looked in detail at the planning application by Hydro Properties and do not believe that it meets the special circumstances to build on this important site. We spoke of our reservations at the Surbiton Neighbourhood committee earlier this year. Since then we've met with the Friends and representatives of the developer and have concluded that the current application is not the best for this significant site. Our role is to secure the best for our community and we look forward to working with the Friends of Seething Wells and Edward Davey MP to do just that." Says Liz, Mary and Yogan.
Friends of Seething Wells:
"We are delighted at the support that Ed Davey's showing for the community's concerns, and its hopes for a fitting future for the Filter Beds.
“The Filter Beds are a tremendous community, heritage and wildlife asset that the current owners have let fall into disrepair and damaged with undue draining. The Friends want to work with residents to develop an imaginative and positive alternative for the site in line with its protected Metropolitan Open Land status, and in keeping with the Inspectors’ view and council policy papers that say housing is inappropriate here
“Hydro have undermined their own credibility, and tarnished their own reputation by name-calling and making so many dubious claims. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is not on board with Hydro, and it is beneath contempt for them to call Surbiton people liars and hysterical NIMBYs.
“The rich and diverse habitats mean the beds support rare and at risk species. Built by James Simpson in the 1850s, the site is a marvel of Victorian engineering and unique in London in terms of its size and comprehensiveness. This is not a place to put experimental technology that will require the irreversible destruction of the existing engineering and the diverse wildlife."