Councillors have secretly voted to withdraw their reasons for refusal for an application on Tolworth’s Toby Jug site that could see the “thumbs up” for more than 700 homes built next to the A3.
European investment firm Meyer Homes, which bought the site off of Hook Rise South from Tesco last autumn, launched an appeal against a refused outline planning application submitted for 705 homes, as well as a doctor’s surgery, cafe, nursery and offices.
Councillors had voted in July to refuse the application, which had removed the two tallest 15 and 18-storey tower blocks and added a “town square”, on the grounds of density and the impact the plans would have on traffic near and around Tolworth roundabout. A Meyer Homes spokesman told the Comet in October that the application had been “strongly supported by officers, the GLA and TfL as well as Design South East”, while presenting separate plans to deliver nearly 1,000 homes in its place, claiming there was an “aspiration to see this site deliver more homes than previously proposed”. The original application was due to go before a public inquiry of the Planning Inspectorate of Kingston Council in April.
But at a behind-closed-doors meeting of the development control committee on Wednesday night, councillors voted to withdraw their reasons for refusal after seeking “independent legal advice from leading Counsel.” Furious Liberal Democrats blasted the decision, saying they believe it will give Meyer Homes the “thumbs up”. An outraged Lorraine Rolfe said the Conservative administration had “sold residents of Tolworth down the A3”.
Lib Dem leader Liz Green said that there were two aspects to the decision – one being to ask the developers to withdraw their appeal, the other being that if it were to go before the Planning Inspectorate, to ask that it be done by written representation rather than by an “expensive” public inquiry.
Council leader Kevin Davis said that the meeting had been kept behind-closed-doors “due to the legal advice” so as not to prejudice both live appeals and new applications from the developers. He blamed the cost of an appeal as the reason why the decision was taken.
Councillor Davis added that a separate scheme for the Tolworth roundabout was being prepared by Transport for London after “intense lobbying”. Vicki Harris, chairwoman of the Hook Rise residents’ association, who has been fighting “inappropriate” development at the site for more than ten years, said challenging the application was like “David and Goliath”. Meye Homes refused to comment.