Fringe Box



Ash South & Tongham By-election: Candidates Have Their Say

Published on: 2 Dec, 2015
Updated on: 2 Dec, 2015

Residents in the Guildford borough ward of Ash South & Tongham have the chance tomorrow (Thursday, December 3) to vote for a new councillor.

Ballot Box Vote ElectionThe by-election is being held due to the resignation of former borough councillor and council leader Stephen Mansbridge.

There are five candidates: George Dokimakis (Labour), Andrew Gomm (Conservative), Kyle Greaves (UKIP), Alan Hilliar (Liberal Democrat) and Ramsey Nagaty (Guildford Greenbelt Group).

The Guildford Dragon NEWS put a number of questions to candidates it was able to contact in the time it had available, asking for answers in a specific number of words. This is what those who kindly replied said (some answers have been edited due to them exceeding the length asked):

Alan Hilliar (Liberal Democrat):

Q: Why have you decided to stand as a candidate in this borough council by-election?

A: I want to do what’s best for our community. We’ve lived in Ash all our married life. Our children went to the local schools and we’re active members of St Peter’s church in Ash. I don’t feel the existing Conservative councillors have done enough for our local people or for our local environment. Guildford’s Local Plan dates from 2003 and is now out-of-date. Ash & Tongham have the only countryside outside the green belt and because we don’t have an adopted up-to-date Local Plan, we’re an easy target for the big housing developers.

Q: When did you join your political party and why?

A; I joined the Liberals when I was 13 because I thought “if something’s wrong with the world, what am I doing to put it right?” The passion of the Lib Dems for local communities,  for justice and compassion for those less well off has always resonated with my own priorities.

Q: Why are political parties needed in local politics?

A; To achieve anything, you need to work with other people who share your aims. Political parties are simply a grouping together of people with similar views. However, it’s important that local councillors always keep clearly in mind what’s important to the people who voted for them.

Q: What experience would you bring to the council? How much time could you give to council business?

A: I work as a business change consultant, helping organisations with the people and process issues involved with introducing new technology. I have to listen a lot in order to develop change plans which are both sensitive to key issues, pragmatic and imaginative. I’m used to finding ways through difficult and challenging problems at all levels. I’ve been involved in campaigning for change locally around flooding, young people, local facilities and developing a vision for our community. Supporting my local community is really important to me and if elected I would give being a local councillor all the time it deserves.

Q: How well run and successful do you think GBC has been over the last five years?

A: I think Guildford Council has lacked a clear vision for many years, and that’s reflected in the lack of an up-to-date Local Plan. It’s also lacked imagination and has been reluctant to draw local people into the decision making process in complex issues in any meaningful way. If elected, I would set up regular on line council surgeries, so local people could share their concerns and offer their ideas on local issues.

Q: Do you agree that Guildford needs to “grow or die”?

A: We all benefit from a community which is thriving economically. It brings jobs and pays for local facilities and services. We have to find a balance between allowing local businesses to grow and providing places where those people can live, against preserving what makes Guildford a wonderful place to live.

Q: How many houses do you think should be built each year in Guildford borough for the next 15 years?

A: That’s something which we have to work out together between the different communities which make up Guildford. But whatever we decide, places like Ash & Tongham must be allowed to preserve their character.

Q: Do you think that any development should be allowed on the green belt?

A: We have to treat ALL our countryside as equally precious, whether it’s within the current green belt limits or not.

Q: Do you think that any of the green field areas of Ash should be added to the green belt?

A: The important issue is to provide sensible and legally enforceable ways of protecting our countryside while recognising that some limited development has to happen. That should mean green belt protection for important green fields in Ash, set out in an up-to-date Local Plan and reinforced by a Neighbourhood Plan.

Q: What is the borough’s biggest infrastructure challenge? How should it be met?

A: Surface water flooding is a major issue in Ash where many of the green fields are prone to flooding. We must develop realistic plans which are well founded and which reflect local people’s knowledge and concerns. Traffic volumes are increasing and are creating major delays. We need better public transport routes and better facilities for cycling.

Q: Do you believe a politician has a duty to answer questions honestly and directly or is avoiding questions and “spin” an inevitable necessity for today’s politicians?

A: We have a duty to be honest with the people who elect us, otherwise we’ll lose their trust and the whole democratic process will break down. Sometimes issues are confidential and you need to be thoughtful about how you handle questions, but it’s vital to allow people to engage meaningfully with local issues and get them involved in working through the challenges we face.

Q: Have your answers been provided, reviewed, vetted or approved by anyone else? Please answer yes or no, and if yes who for what purpose?

A: Yes. I listen to people who can offer me good advice in a constructive and helpful way. That includes both local residents and other Liberal Democrats whose experience I respect. All candidates are also required to have their election agent approve anything they publish. So, I’ve asked Liberal Democrat colleagues and my agent for their comments on this material.

Ramsey Nagaty included a photo of himself with his reply.

Ramsey Nagaty included a photo of himself with his reply.

Ramsey Nagaty (Guildford Greenbelt Group)

Q: Why have you decided to stand as a candidate in this borough council by-election?

A: I decided to stand because I had become increasingly concerned by Guildford Borough Council’s lack of response to the so-called consultation on the “draft” Local Plan and the direction given to allegedly independent consultants appointed by the GBC Conservative Council, under the leadership of Stephen Mansbridge.

I felt that the beautiful green countryside surrounding Guildford was under threat. I want to see it protected and to extend the area of outstanding natural beauty area of great landscape value to cover parts of Ash and Tongham, and give the ward greater protection from development.

I believe that the borough’s lack of infrastructure, especially road infrastructure and its associated traffic problems, coupled with the fact that Guildford is a “gap town” with flooding problems and landscape constraints (34% of the borough is a designated AONB) should have been used to push for a much lower housing figure. The Conservatives have accepted a doubling of the housing need figure – from 322 to 693 homes per annum – and have shown no appetite for applying these legitimate constraints. I want to put a stop to urban sprawl both in this ward an in all areas where the countryside is under threat. Development should be directed to urban brownfield sites,

Q: When did you join your political party and why?

A: I joined the GGG two years ago after being a founder member of the Save Hog’s Back campaign. My main reason for joining was to combine with others who felt that the direction of the Local Plan, as implemented by former councillors Stephen Mansbridge and Monika Juneja, former Lead Councillor for Planning, is fundamentally flawed and will ruin the Guildford we love and which currently attracts business.

Q: Why are political parties needed in local politics?

A: My view is that local parties or independent candidates are best placed to represent the views of the local community. National parties have clearly failed to do this in Guildford and local politicians are often required to “ toe the national party line”.

Q: What experience would you bring to the council. How much time could you give to council business?

A: I have a wealth of experience dealing with all sorts of people at all levels and listening and responding to their needs. I have experience of working on parish councils and a number of committees and helping to improve the local area. I would devote as much time as I can to represent my electorates interests.

Q: How well run and successful do you think GBC has been over the last five years?

A: The GBC has been badly run. The chief executive has left with a large pay-off, but we are not given the reasons for this. The head of planning has left after Mr Mansbridge put in consultants to look into her planning department.

The councillor for planning, who was responsible for the Draft Local Plan has been found guilty of fraud. The previous Conservative leader, Cllr Tony Rooth, resigned the leadership. The incumbant, Mr Mansbridge, has resigned following allegations that he misled the council over his actions in respect of a petition to counter and trump the democratic poll by GGG for a committee-led system of governance with one for an elected mayor.

There are only two officers of the council, Mr Mistry and Ms Sturgeon, when there are supposed to be three.

Q: Do you agree that Guildford needs to “grow or die”?

A: If Guildford grows as proposed by the current Conservative Party then it will die. Large-scale development will result in gridlock, due to the additional traffic and this will deter businesses from the area. Smart business parks, which currently attract business, will not be desirable when surrounded by building works and traffic congestion. The emphasis by the Conservative council to increase greatly the square meterage of shops at the expense of additional housing in the town centre is not realistic in light of the increase use of internet shopping and building stores, such as John Lewis, will adversely impact on current retail businesses, and attract yet more traffic to the borough.

Q: How many houses do you think should be built each year in Guildford Borough for the next 15 years?

A: The latest population figures show that the figure for Guildford should be between 300 and 440. It was only recently Guildford went to the High Court to ensure the lower figure was applied. Now the Conservative GBC is pushing for higher housing figures in order to justify building on the greenfield sites, including some in AGLV and AONB.

Q: Do you think that any development should be allowed on the green belt?

A: Where pressing local need for truly affordable housing can only be met by use of greenbelt land and after all brownfield options have been exhausted, then yes. However, opening up green belt and greenfield sites for exploitation and development of executive and luxury homes, which destroy the character of the town of Guildford and surrounding villages should not be allowed.

Q: Do you think that any of the greenfield areas of Ash should be added to the green belt?

A: Yes I do. A review of the AONB suggested extending the AONB from the edge of Manor Park (formerly Manor Farm) to Farnham, including areas of Ash and Tongham. and I believe that this landscape merits AONB status. I am concerned that this review might be influenced by GBC and other borough councils, which are curtailing the voting rights of the CPRE and other advisors to the AONB Board.

Q: What is the borough’s biggest infrastructure challenge. How should it be met?

A: The biggest infrastructure challenge is to cater for the proposed massive growth in population and this relates to supply of water, sewerage systems, schools, healthcare broadband, and what we experience everyday – traffic.

Guildford clearly cannot cope with the existing levels of population in the borough and as a gap town forms a passage for traffic passing through the borough, which has increased significantly with the building of the Hindhead Tunnel. I do not see that there is anything on the table which would allow the proposed population and business growth until these issues are resolved.

Q: Do you believe politicians have a duty to answer questions honestly and directly or is avoiding questions and “spin” an inevitable necessity for today’s politicians?

A: Absolutely. Honesty, openness and trust are essential. Councillors are voted in by their electorate to represent their ward’s interests. Too many sell out to their political parties to obtain advancement and they respond to the public’s questions with carefully worded that suggest they will follow the electorate’s wishes, but which ultimately allow them to do the opposite. It is time for a review of the system of governance so that the public can be properly and democratically represented and for the council to become much more honest in its dealings with its electorate.

Q: Have your answers been provided, reviewed, vetted or approved by anyone else? Please answer yes or no, and if yes who for what purpose?

A: I wrote these answers in one go without reference to anything so as to reflect my heart-felt views. I have run the above past two members of the GGG committee to make sure that it complies with GGG policy.

George Dokimakis (Labour): wrote the following in the form of a letter. Due to time constraints and deadlines, The Guildford Dragon NEWS is pleased to publish his response.

I am looking forward to this election and not only because I am one of the candidates. Will it show how involved and interested in local politics the electorate is?

There are a number of issues locally, with the lack of infrastructure investment being at the driving point.

Traffic is already a huge problem locally and residents are genuinely concerned about the impact the additional housing will have as there doesn’t seem to be any holistic strategy for the area. Only a few days ago another planning application for about 20 houses was approved next to an area that already has planning permission for 400 houses and there is development currently ongoing across the ward
What will the electorate think of the Conservatives? Considering that the previous leader of the Executive, Stephen Mansbridge, was their councillor, will they penalise the Tory party for his behaviour? What will they think of their local issues being unresolved in an area that has full-on Tory parish, borough council, county council, Tory MP and a Tory government? Will they decide it is time for change and if so, what change will this be? What will they think of the candidate’s proposal of turning some land into green belt? Will they wonder why it wasn’t done by now?
What will the electorate think of the Guildford Greenbelt Group that came second in the area considering they vehemently oppose any building whatsoever, especially on the green belt?  Will the electorate recognise the irony of the GGG actually pushing for more housing in Ash South & Tongham instead of the rest of Guildford because it is the only area without much green belt around? 
What will the electorate think of the Liberal Democrats? What will they think of the Lib Dem candidate proposing to create a Local Plan when the residents are looking for action and change?
What will the electorate think of Labour? Will they recognise that it was a Labour question that ultimately led to Stephen Mansbridge’s resignation and this by-election? What will they think of the Labour candidate proposing to look at traffic measures as a priority? What will the electorate think of Labour having only 1 councillor locally?
Will the local vote be a reflection of the national trends or will the residents think and choose locally? The May election was skewed heavily towards the Conservatives because the national election vote cascaded locally. Will the by-election reflect any of this and will the debate on Syria have a spill-over locally? What will the turnout be?
It should be an interesting election. I know I look forward to it.


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Responses to Ash South & Tongham By-election: Candidates Have Their Say

  1. Brian Miller Reply

    December 3, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Does the Dragon know when the result will be announced as the Council’s website doesn’t give it? My prediction, the Conservatives will win but with a, hopefully, significantly reduced majority.

    [It’s now published. Go to: ]

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