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Council Leader Accuses GGG Leader of Being ‘A Disgrace’ During Wisley Debate

Published on: 25 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 27 Jan, 2017

“You are a disgrace,” council leader Spooner addressing Cllr Parker following her accusation of the Executive making and “inappropriate” decision.

A nomination for listing the Three Farms Meadow in Ockham, by the former Wisley Airfield, as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) provoked an angry accusation from Council Leader Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham) to Guildford Greenbelt Group leader Susan Parker (Send), in which he called her “a disgrace”.

Three Farms Meadow is a controversial strategic site earmarked, within Guildford Borough Council’s draft Local Plan, for housing development. A proposal to build 2,000 houses there, submitted by Wisley Property Investments, was refused unanimously by the council in April 2015 but the applicant subsequently appealed and planning enquiry is now to be held in September.

The application before the Executive last night (January 24), to list the site as an ACV, was submitted by Ockham Parish Council. If listed, development could be delayed further while the local community were given the chance to make an alternative offer.

Charles Collins, director of Savills speaking against the listing of Three Meadows Farm as an Asset of Community Value

During the sometimes ill-tempered debate, Charles Collins a director of Savill’s, representing land owner’s and planning applicants Wisley Property Investments (WPI) spoke. He said: “…in its present derelict state the former airfield contributes nothing to the wider community nor the public interest.

“My client, the borough council itself and the Ordnance Survey only recognise the site as ‘the former Wisley Airfield’. The applicant’s reference to the site as ‘Three Farms Meadow’ is wrong and potentially misleading.

“The majority of the… site is in agricultural use.”

A second public speaker, Ockham resident Ben Paton, whose grandmother donated some of the land for use as a wartime grass airfield, claimed that the council officer’s report recommending refusal of the nomination was inaccurate.

Ben Paton

He said: “The owner of the property states that part of the property is derelict and the remainder is in agricultural use. This is topsy turvy, upside down and back to front. There are 114.7 hectares of this land and the vast majority is currently, actively farmed.

Within the report, he said: “There is the most egregious falsehood. It states here, in black and white, let me quote vebatim, ‘Although the owner suggests that part of the property is in agricultural use there is no evidence that the property is currently being used for farming purposes and therefore if this ceased it would not affect the community as a whole.’ This is downright wrong.

“This is a quasi-judicial body it has to take account of the facts, not the alternative facts that Mr Trump or the landowner would like to submit.”

“The community value is that the lease for the farming was always within the community. Before this lot [WPI] bought it in 2007, for the previous 500 years it had been farmed by local tenants… There are enormous local benefits in terms of farming employment, economies of scale in farming and so on.”

Cllr David Reeve

Cllr David Reeve (GGG, Clandon & Horsley) said: I have lived in the neighbouring ward for over 30 years now and I have myself used this site for recreation for a considerable amount and for many of those years. I used to be a scout master. We used to use this facility for a couple of scouting events. We also, as a family, have blackberried on this site for many years.

“…many people still use the facility because they have done it for time immemorial. …I personally had permission to carry out bee-keeping activities on the site well off the rights of way. Cyclists, until recently prevented, used to use not only the rights of way but the apron area. The Horsley U3A birdwatching group frequently goes there.

“This site, to my personal knowledge, … has been used and still is being used for precisely the sort of purposes that are very much in line for designation as an asset of community value.

“I strongly suggest to you that the officer’s report paints an incomplete picture. And I would urge you to defer a decision on this or reject it straight away because I don’t think you have the full information in front of you.”

The council leader responded that it was a shame Cllr Reeve had not given his view before the meeting (meeting agendas are published at least five days in advance) and accused him of “playing politics”, a charge denied by Cllr Reeve who said he was unaware the item was on the agenda.

Cllr Susan Parker

Cllr Susan Parker added: “I am not persuaded that the wildlife usage, the conservation impact of this is not, in itself, something that legally should be taken on board by this council and I would like the council to seek legal advice on that because it does seem to me indubitable that there is a huge wildlife advantage to this area as it currently stands. That’s been swept aside in the officer’s report and that does need to be addressed.

“The Planning Committee has reviewed this site and decided that it is inappropriate for the proposed use. So that cannot be a factor and in fact to actually start making these decisions would seem to be some form of pre-determination of decision making that is inappropriate.”

Visibly angry, the council leader responded: “Cllr Parker I am quite happy to put on record that you are a disgrace, sometimes, in some of the things you say. Another letter will be coming your way.”

The report, on which the Executive’s decision was based, stated: “The application has not demonstrated an actual current or recent use of the building or other land that is not an ancillary use that furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community presently or in the recent past…

“There is no use of the property as a whole that furthers the social wellbeing or interests. The local authority is to examine only the land, which has been identified by the applicant in the nomination form and is not to consider whether only part of the nominated land qualifies as land of community value.

“… the applicant sets out how the nominated land is used. It states that the majority of the Property (70%) is used for agriculture. This use cannot be said to further the social interests of the community because it is a private business, which does not operate for the benefit of the community as a whole.”

The report continued by explaining that in the officer’s view public rights of way, used for walking and other recreational purposes, referred to in the application, whilst “not expressly excluded from the definition of community uses” should not qualify: “Parliament cannot have intended for them to benefit from the protection offered by the listing process in circumstances where there are existing statutory schemes [to protect them].

“The application also submits that the site affords sightings of wildlife etc. It is officers’ view that the amenity afforded to users of the PROWS [protected rights of way] when looking over the remainder of the land is not a physical and actual use of the property.”

The Executive unanimously accepted the recommendation within the report and rejected listing Farms Meadow as an Asset of Community Value.

Today, (January 25) asked if she wished to respond to the council leader’s accusation that she was “a disgrace” Cllr Parker said: “I have absolutely no idea what the council leader meant by this. I think it’s an ‘alternative fact’ – a statement made in order to attack someone he disagrees with politically.”

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Responses to Council Leader Accuses GGG Leader of Being ‘A Disgrace’ During Wisley Debate

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    January 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Well done GGG, it seems they are the only group questioning the council’s trajectory.

    I await the twists and turns at tonight’s debate on the Russell Place Farm SANG. The officer’s report seems to have been written with that same ‘trajectory’ in mind and omitted much of its own planning policy rules.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    January 25, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    There is common land being taken by the new M25/A3 Junction 10 layout; this common land needs replacing – what better place to replace it than on this site at Three Farms Meadow? It is adjacent to the common land being taken and would ensure that the pollution levels are, to a greater extent, mitigated by securing the area as a pollution ‘sink’.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 25, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Talk about ‘alternative facts’! How dare Spooner accuse Ms. Parker of being a disgrace. She has yet to be featured in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs, unlike so many of his Tory cronies who have brought the council into disrepute.

  4. Martin Elliott Reply

    January 25, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    A complaint could be made. However we’ve seen how this administration easily buries them (at least twice) whatever the official result or final outcome.

  5. Tony Edwards Reply

    January 26, 2017 at 10:41 am

    It concerns me greatly that Cllr Spooner was so visibly agitated during the debate and felt it appropriate to insult a fellow councillor simply, it appears, because she held alternative views to his own. Was I alone in thinking he appeared to be emotionally involved?

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 27, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Cllr Spooner is less than gallant. Is that what we want in a council leader?

    As evidenced in the webcast. To be so obsequious to those who support this development, and so insulting to those who oppose it? We could do so much better.

  7. David Roberts Reply

    January 27, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Mr Spooner should deal with one complaint at a time. Shouldn’t he complete what’s pending first?

  8. Paul Bishop Reply

    January 27, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    I rarely agree with Paul Spooner but I tend to in this instance. It’s a disused airfield, the objectors should stop clutching at straws to try and justify it as anything else.

    It would be nice one day for GGG to actually come up with an idea for the borough rather than just opposing everything. I won’t hold my breathe though.

  9. Ben Paton Reply

    January 27, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Mr Spooner continues where Mr Mansbridge left off. Any commentary which he considers ‘off message’ is condemned as ‘politically motivated’. The irony of such remarks coming from a politician pursuing his own political agenda appears to be completely lost.

    His own party repeatedly make ‘politically motivated’ remarks. Far from receiving rebukes, such remarks appear to be encouraged by the leadership. It bears the hallmarks of a gang of play ground bullies.

    Take this contribution from Cllr Bilbe during the debate: “The only spectacular wildlife I have seen is the abusive behaviour in a previous planning committee when an application came up and the members of the public from the area were extremely animated and extremely wild. That’s the only wildlife I have seen. I think this is a spectacular waste of time.”

    Was this politically motivated commentary challenged? Of course not. It comes from a member of the Executive. It appears not to matter that there are voluminous professional reports about the wildlife in the area including in previous planning applications and in submissions by Surrey Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

    Abusing parish councils and ward councillors for defending their neighbourhoods from the depredations of unjustified and unsustainable development seems to be the stock in trade of this Executive.

    Many members of the public consider it to be a disgrace that Mr Spooner should publicly promote development on the green belt in Ockham on a Site of Nature Conservation Interest adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area for endangered species whilst at the same time promoting the creation of new green belt in Ash (part of which he represents) which will do nothing for the Metropolis. Hypocrisy is clearly not a word in the council’s dictionary.

  10. Bernard Parke Reply

    January 28, 2017 at 7:36 am

    I am not a member of GGG but there would not be a need for this party to exist if the Conservatives honoured their election statement when they said: “Conservatives Say Green Belt to Stay”.

  11. Neville Bryan Reply

    January 28, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I am a member of GGG, and joined and stood because none of the main political bodies were standing up for the environment and the green belt.

    Had we not stood in 2015, I seriously doubt the Conservatives would have led the last election campaign with Anne Milton, and most of the Guildford Conservatives, pictured on their main literature saying: “Conservatives Say Green Belt To Stay”.

    I will let the readers judge whether the Conservative Executive are keeping that headline pledge, when we have a hidden demand (Strategic Housing Market Assessment) calculation, zero constraints, and nearly 8,000 houses on the green belt in the latest draft of the Local Plan.

    You only have to look at recent elections to see what happens when leaders don’t listen.

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