Fringe Box



Council Group Leader Interviews: Tony Ferris – Independent

Published on: 3 May, 2015
Updated on: 4 May, 2015

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has invited a leader of each political party and a representative independent candidate, standing for election to Guildford Borough Council (GBC), to be interviewed. The response to each question is limited to up to 100 words.

Unlike our parliamentary candidate interviews there is no scoring of or comment on  their responses.

Tony Ferris has been invited to participate as a representative of the two Independent candidates across Guildford Borough but the views are his own. There is no Independent “group”.

Tony Ferris

Tony Ferris1. Most respondents to GBC’s own Local Plan public consultation do not want developments to be built on the green belt. What “exceptional circumstances” can you imagine that would justify such development.

The green belt policy has been one of the great post-war success stories as it has maintained separation between towns and villages keeping their character and identity. I am therefore a very strong supporter of the green belt.

However, we do have a housing shortage in Guildford and in Stoughton. Appropriate development which infills but does not threaten the green belt separation and includes social housing and a high proportion of affordable homes, should be considered.

Whatever development we choose to allow, needs to be designed with greenspace and the ‘garden city’ design philosophy like Queen Elizabeth Park.

Independent rosette2. Do you agree with the government policy of capping Council Tax rises of 2% or more without a referendum?

No. There is too much central control of local authorities from Westminster. Each council should be able to set its own budget to fund the level of services and investment necessary for the town. Elected members representing the community should be trusted to get it right. If the council judges it wrongly, they will be voted out.

3. Would you be prepared to enter a coalition, or any kind of working agreement, with any other political party in the council, should the need arise?

Yes, definitely. As an Independent, I will work on all issues with anybody and everybody in the interests of Stoughton and Guildford. I would have a mandate to do the best for Stoughton and the borough without the hindrance of a party line.

I understand that there are competing demands on the budget and that tough decisions need to be made. During the last war, our country was successfully governed by a coalition government. It seems that working together now has a bad name.

4. Can the council do anything to speed up development of brownfield sites and allow the construction of more houses on them?

To get the best out of where we live and to speed up the provision of housing, we need to have much earlier consultation between developers and the council to ensure that we get the right sort of development and developers understand what will and what will not be acceptable. All the stakeholders need to be involved as early as possible.

This would include improving the current development guidelines which are drafted by Guildford Borough Council.

We mustn’t forget that not all brownfield sites should be developed – some sites, such as allotments, need to be protected as community assets.

5. Is there any way, other than social housing provision, to prioritise homes for local residents?

Guildford Borough Council has a proud history of providing council houses for the people of Guildford. This was a huge success within our borough which unfortunately has been eroded by the government’s requirement to sell council houses. We need to build more council houses now.

Having said that, we can require that our partner housing associations prioritise tenancies for local residents. I would however require that evidence be provided that this was not being done already before I would support such a move.

6. With the rejection of Guildford Museum’s bid for Heritage Lottery funding how can a “History Hub” that befits Guildford be afforded?

It was a great shame when the Surrey Archives were located in Woking rather than in Guildford, Surrey’s county town. We are a tourist town and it is short-sighted to salami slice away at our fantastic town’s attractions. This includes the museum.

It seems unbelievable that our wealthy borough cannot find the funds, £2 million to support such a vital part of our heritage. We have many assets within the borough’s ownership which could bring in capital and income, including the current Millmead council offices site which could be viewed for sympathetic riverside development whilst still maintaining council ownership.

7. Do you agree that the new proposed “hybrid” model of governance at the council will, if approved, improve things?

Yes, it will be an improvement. The cabinet system locks in the party political approach and the party whips. The “hybrid” model will make better use of committees. It will mobilise the expertise that councillors can bring and will be more democratic.

8. Why can it be so hard to get people to stand as councillors. Is the low level of allowances a factor?

It is a big commitment to be a councillor and I am sure that the allowances are a factor especially for the potential younger candidates and for talented people on lower incomes.

I don’t think that the party political approach helps either. Many people like me are not affiliated to any party and I for one have been put off by the thought of standing for a party, even when flatteringly, I have been approached by parties to stand as one of theirs. Going as an Independent has hopefully solved that dilemma.

9. Do you agree that the Planning Inspectorate should have the final say on planning applications that go to appeal and the Local Plan?

Yes. Unfortunately, party political bias can play a part in planning decisions. The Planning Inspectorate provides an independent overview of what can sometimes be a very flawed system.

Key to all this, is to get a robust and workable Local Plan which stands up to the developer’s rush for profits but also suits the needs of the town to progress.

10. What is the most important issue facing Guildford Borough Council over the next four years.

First, I will be focussing on issues that affect Stoughton which are parking, congestion and litter. All of these are factors that reduce the attractiveness of our area as a place to live and we need to single-mindedly look at individual local problems to seek new solutions.

On the wider Guildford front, the biggest problem facing Guildford is the congestion in and around our town which is reducing the town’s ability to function and attract new people and business. The need to find space for new homes is also a major issue that need serious attention.

What do you think of  Tony Ferris’ answers?  Have your say by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

Click here to see other GBC group leader interviews.

Click here to see Parliamentary candidate interviews.

Candidates from the following parties are standing in the Guildford Borough Council elections on May 7th: Conservative; Green Party; Guildford Greenbelt Group; Labour; Liberal Democrats; Peace Party; UKIP. There are also Independent candidates.

The Green Party declined the invitation to participate in these interviews.

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