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Borough Councillor Claims His Parish Council is ‘Totally Misinformed’ Over Planning

Published on: 29 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 17 Feb, 2021

Normandy Village Hall

By Hugh Coakley

Borough councillor for Normandy, David Bilbe (Conservative ‘independent’) has reacted angrily to a letter from Normandy Parish Council (NPC) which accuses Guildford Borough Council of failing to understand Normandy’s local housing needs.

In the letter to GBC, the parish councillors have asked to meet with the planning department to “influence the supply of smaller properties”. NPC feels smaller dwellings should be favoured over larger houses they fear will be built under Guildford’s Local Plan.

Cllr David Bilbe

Cllr Bilbe said he has “serious concerns”, that the parish council should have made its views known when the Local Plan was being drawn up and that the letter was, “totally misinformed and distorted.”

The dispute between David Bilbe and the parish council appears to be part of ongoing friction.

In an email sent on July 17 to Alan Cheesman, the chair of the parish council, Cllr Bilbe has said that he had been “accused of harassment and for having a personal crusade” when he had previously requested minutes of a NPC planning meeting.

And the Normandy borough councillor said that a resident who is now a parish councillor has made a complaint against him which is being considered by GBC. It is unclear if the accusation and the complaint are connected.

Cllr Alan Cheesman, chair of Normandy Parish Council.

A copy of the Normandy Parish letter to the borough, dated June 8, 2020, was sent to The Dragon by a Normandy resident.

In the letter, NPC says that the planning department’s pre-application advice on a proposal for a two-storey, four-bedroom house in Walden Cottages, “betrays a lack of knowledge of our local area in particular and a failure to appreciate the type of housing mix that Normandy requires”. The application was refused.

The parish council contends that it would have been “more appropriate in this case, and in other areas of the village too, for one- or two-bed properties” to be built.

The letter says that the last village survey in 2012 showed that 74% of people who responded said that wanted the smaller houses to be built. But David Bilbe said the, “…so-called survey is inaccurate. It has no statistical significance.”

Parish council clerk, Leslie Clarke, told The Guildford Dragon NEWS that a copy of the survey could not be provided as, “remaining copies were destroyed by rain when the roof was blown off the parish council’s storage shed”.

The proposal (20/P/00872) to replace the existing single-storey side extensions with a two-storey, four-bedroom house on the corner plot was rejected as “cramped in the plot and in relation to neighbouring buildings.” Normandy PC fears that this “type of infill development will be more prevalent”.

A spokesperson for Guildford Borough Council said: “We responded to the letter from Normandy Parish Council on Friday 12 June, and proposed that our planning policy officer talked to them to discuss several options, including a bespoke Neighbourhood Plan. We have also shared their views with our Development Management team.

“We support the principle of neighbourhood planning, and provide support to help parishes make these decisions, but we recognise that neighbourhood planning may not be appropriate for all communities. Four Neighbourhood Plans have already passed a referendum and form part of our Development Plan.”

The Normandy parish clerk, in a statement he said had been approved by the parish council, said: “The Parish Council made a democratic decision not to proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan at this time. In making that decision, the council was well aware of the financial and time implications and the grants that are available to parish councils who wish to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan.

“The Parish Council has a good working relationship with all departments at Guildford Borough Council who are always most helpful.”

Cllr Bilbe said that he would be writing a full response to the letter from the parish council to GBC, shortly.

Research for this story showed that information such as meeting minutes appeared to be missing from the Normandy Parish Council website.

Referring to missing agendas and minutes of meetings on the council’s website from over seven months ago, parish clerk Lt Col Clarke said the: “Council’s website manager, who works from home and is only part-time, moved house, and in the process of moving house, suffered a major IT failure to the extent that the council has had to purchase a new computer for her use.

“It is the council’s policy not to place minutes of meetings on the website until they have been agreed and signed.”

But this does not comply with The Transparency Code for smaller authorities to which NPC claims to subscribe. The code requires that “…authorities should publish the draft minutes from all formal meetings (ie full council or board, committee and sub-committee meetings) not later than one month after the meeting has taken place.”

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has also asked the council why the Annual Internal Audit Report for 2018/2019 cannot be found on its website.

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Responses to Borough Councillor Claims His Parish Council is ‘Totally Misinformed’ Over Planning

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 30, 2020 at 7:45 am

    In my experience, parish councils have a much better understanding of local housing needs than borough councillors, as they are much closer to residents.

    Those who developed, and drove through, the deeply unpopular Local Plan did so completely remotely from residents, having ignored over 30,000 objections.

  2. Peta Malthouse Reply

    September 7, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I agree with Jules Cranwell but sadly the only way this can properly be taken into account is if Normandy prepares a Neighbourhood Plan as other villages have. The borough council can only take account of certain documentation, including a Neighbourhood Plan and any oral representation, when making their planning decisions. If I remember rightly this village survey is about six years old

  3. John Perkins Reply

    September 8, 2020 at 7:41 am

    The weakness with Neighbourhood Plans is that they can only work within the framework set by the Local Plan.

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