The Leader, or his nominee, to answer any questions raised by members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 14.
Note: the deadline for questions to be considered at this meeting is 12 noon on Thursday 17 October 2019.
The Mayor reported that, under Standing Order 14, one question had been received from a member of the public.
Question from Mrs. Shadia Doerfel:
“When will the Council consult with residents about the full plans Arora Group have for a Heathrow Expansion, known as "Heathrow West", which were so clearly supported by the Leader and Cllr Helen Harvey following Arora's "last minute" presentation at a Council meeting attended by the public on I believe the 3rd of September 2019, prompting even Cllr Smith-Ainsley to have said “We didn’t know anything about it at all and it’s been put upon us.”
If Arora appears to be the new midwife the Leader supports to deliver a Heathrow expansion, residents deserve to be fully consulted on their plans and have the opportunity to engage with that consultation as they have been able to with the previous and recent Heathrow Consultations.
So far all residents know about Arora from information in the public domain is that they already had property transactions with Spelthorne council around 2017 to the value of around £47.45mio on which the Leader is quoted on their website as describing Arora Group's Grove Developments team as "a pleasure to work with", and that Arora and/or its affiliates has been a Runnymede and Weybridge Conservative Party donor.”
Response from the Leader, Councillor Ian Harvey:
“Thank you for your question Mrs Doerfel.
The Council will not be consulting with residents about any Heathrow developments. That’s not how it works. It is for Heathrow Airport Limited or Arora Group to consult with residents if they intend to make an application for a Development Consent Order.
The Arora Group’s proposals have been in the public domain for several years. They initially announced their intention to seek rights to undertake the expansion of Heathrow during the government’s consultation on the draft Airport National Policy Statement (ANPS) back in 2017. This was followed by the initial launch of their Western Hub proposals in May 2018, two months before the government confirmed its support for the third runway and an expanded Heathrow in the final version of the ANPS. There was a formal presentation of their proposals to all authorities adjoining Heathrow in September 2018. Direct contact was made with the Council via their consultant team back in November 2018, when we were asked for views as part of their first round of informal stakeholder engagement.
They carried out public consultation events in Spelthorne in May 2019, specifically Stanwell Moor on 9 May and Stanwell Village Hall on 11 May.
They also carried out a non-statutory stage 1 public consultation on their Heathrow West scheme in April 2019 and we responded to it. We also publicised the consultation on our own website. A further presentation was made to an internal Heathrow Expansion Working Group on 3 June 2019.
Their website states they will be undertaking a statutory consultation in January 2020. Again, it will be for the scheme's promoter to undertake the consultation but we will raise awareness of it using our own channels. It is therefore patently not the case that nothing is known about the scheme. Furthermore, I would point out that after the presentation and discussion at Overview and Scrutiny on 3 September 2109 that this committee decided to recommend to Cabinet that “we are clear there are potentially more beneficial alternative proposals to HAL’s, specifically the Heathrow West proposal which needs to be explored in greater depth.” Councillor Jan Doerfel is a member of that Committee and took a full part in discussions and decision making.
The question makes various other points which I feel I should correct for the record:
It was only right and proper for Overview and Scrutiny Committee to be made aware of this alternative proposal so members had the full facts in front of them. HAL were also invited to attend the meeting on 3 September but they did not take us up on the offer as they were content that, through their own consultation and engagement, they had undertaken all the public consultation they needed to.
The Arora Group were the counterparty to the Council’s purchase of World Business Centre 4. I am happy to be on record to confirm that as regards that transaction, the Council was pleased with the outcome and the approach of the Company to working with the Council as a local authority investor. Being able to work with counterparties of this calibre is a significant benefit for the Council as it marks us out as serious players in a very competitive commercial market. Our reputation and track record with best in class commercial property investments speaks for itself and is something which attracts the property world to deal with us. It is this approach which has quite literally kept the lights on in Spelthorne when other councils around us are cutting back services and making staff redundant. So we have nothing to be bashful about in our approach. We have everything to be proud of in working with companies such as Arora.
I am not sure what donation is referred to. This Council has no connection to the Runnymede and Weybridge Conservatives. I am here to answer questions about Council functions not the finances of the Conservative Party on the other side of the River Thames.”