Fringe Box



Ash Residents Association Attacks Lib Dems

Published on: 23 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 25 Nov, 2013
ASHRA website

The ASHRA website

Liberal Democrat councillors have been criticised over their handling of a planning proposal for 400 new homes in Ash on a residents association website.

In the article titled, ‘You get the councillors you vote for’, Roger Smolski Secretary of the  Ash Residents Association (ASHRA) claims that the association received no reply from the Lib Dem councillors on the subject.

Mr Smolski writes: “As you may know, Guildford Borough Council is in the process of formulating a new Local Plan… Before the final plan is produced a Strategy and Sites Issues and Options document for public consultation was approved at a council meeting on the 17th September 2013. At the same meeting councillors also approved an eight week period of public consultation from 1 October 2013 to 29 November 2013.

“It seemed to us that the council meeting on the 24th September 2013, to consider the 400 homes South of Ash Lodge Drive, rendered the consultation process, due to start one week later, redundant as far as residents of Ash and Tongham were concerned.

“Of course we wrote to all the councillors before the meeting, pointing out the local residents main objections to the development – but we wrote an additional letter to each of the 12 Liberal [sic] councillors.

The letter sent to the local Lib Dems is quoted as saying: ‘Liberal Democratic Party Policy Statements acknowledge that “Local people are the experts in their own neighbourhoods and their own needs” and that “Liberal Democrats have long campaigned to make planning more responsive to local demands and concerns”…

“On 24th September exactly one week before the Local Plan consultation process starts Councillors will be asked to approve outline planning permission for 400 houses in Ash South. As you will know this application is opposed by 99% of Tongham, Ash Green and Ash South residents, but most importantly approval at this stage will deny local people any meaningful input into the local plan…”We would ask you to defer approval of this development until after the consultation process and the adoption of the new local plan.”

The letter was sent to all Lib Dem Councillors but, according to Mr Smolski: “Not one single Liberal Democrat Councillor bothered to reply.” The Lib Dems have not denied this.

When it came to the council vote on the Ash planning proposal two Lib Dem councillors were opposed to the development, Cllrs Harwood and Griffiths, the remainder voted in favour.

Mr Smolski’s article concludes: “The eight Liberal Councillors who voted in favour of the development live an average of 10.7 miles from South Ash so there is no reason to suppose that they would have any understanding of, or affinity with the residents of the community. However what it is surprising is their total lack of support for democratic principles as applied to the residents of South Ash and communal lack of common courtesy in responding to communications.

“On the other hand if the Liberal Democrat group in Guildford Borough Council can elect David Goodwin as their leader anything is possible.” Attached to the article is a video clip of David Goodwin’s response to Councillor Stephen Mansbridge’s outburst and criticism of his own planning department, which is not shown.

Cllr Liz Hogger (Effingham), speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem group responded to the article by saying: “The Liberal Democrats strongly believe that local communities are best placed to comment on the future development of their area and are working hard to encourage every resident to comment on the Local Plan.

“Despite having been told some years ago that they needed to draw up a new Local Plan, and pressure from Liberal Democrat councillors to get on with it, the Conservative-run council had not produced an up-to-date plan in time for it to be taken into account on 24th September when the Ash application was brought to Full Council.

“The Council was obliged to act in its legal capacity to decide the application, basing its decision on the extant Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework, and taking into account the fact that the Ash site is technically ‘Countryside beyond the Green Belt’.

“In this situation each councillor has a responsibility to speak and vote as they believe is correct based on the evidence presented to them at the meeting. It is worth noting that in the final recorded vote Liberal Democrats and Conservative members voted both for and against the application and not along political lines.

“Reference is made to comments made by Cllr David Goodwin at the meeting and we acknowledge that both David and the Leader of the Council, Stephen Mansbridge, (not shown in the uploaded clip) behaved inappropriately, however both have since apologised.

To see the full ASHRAF article please click here.

See also: Secretary of State Says Planning For 400 New Homes in Ash Can Proceed

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Responses to Ash Residents Association Attacks Lib Dems

  1. Fiona White Reply

    November 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    I was a Guildford borough councillor for many years and was a member of the planning committee. I feel I have to take issue with the statement by ASHRAF. Why are they directing their fire at the Liberal Democrats when it is the Conservatives who run the council and, in fact, nine Conservative councillors voted against refusal of the planning application along with eight Liberal Democrats and one Labour councillor?

    As long ago as 2008 the council was told that the local plan was out of date and they must start drawing up a new one. For years the Conservative-run council put the issue in the “too difficult” category. By not acting then, they have denied communities all across the borough the protection of an up-to-date local plan and have left them vulnerable to inappropriate development.

    Where I do agree with ASHRAF is that you get the councillors you vote for. They should be asking the Conservative group at Guildford, and especially those on the decision-making Executive, why they failed to show real leadership and let down the whole borough.

    Fiona White is the Lib Dem county councillor for Guildford West.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    November 24, 2013 at 8:58 am

    The ASHRAF comment is very unfair.

    I am certainly no supporter of the Lib Dem’s way of thinking but they can not be accused in this instant.

    They have no voice in the planning policy of GBC. They have no members in council’s Executive.

    Surely it was Eric Pickles, The Tory Minister’s department who delivered a further unpleasant blow to the people of Ash.

    The coalition government is under the impression that by building on our diminishing open spaces the price of houses will fall in price.

    Their current low interest rate policy and the “help to buy” are both driving up the price of homes.

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