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Council Leader and Guildford’s MP Urge Action on Population Data

Published on: 12 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 13 Jul, 2021

Joss Bigmore’s letter. Click on image to enlarge.

By Martin Giles

The leader of Guildford Borough Council, frustrated by the lack of action from local MPs, has written to the head of the Office of National Statistics, urging an early release of 2021 population data.

It is expected that the recent Census will show earlier population projections, on which Guildford’s Local Plan and housing targets are based, were inaccurate, especially in regard to the student population.

Coventry in the West Midlands is complaining that it has a similar problem and MPs there signed a letter requesting their 2021 Census data be released early.

See: MPs Have Made It Clear to the Housing Secretary – Surrey Housing Figures Too High

But despite a request by the leader of Guildford Borough Council, the four Conservative MPs whose constituencies overlap Guildford Borough have failed to follow suit.

Angela Richardson MP

Asked to respond to news of the council leader’s action, Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson (Con) said today (July 12)that she had written to the minister responsible: “Housing and development is a very important issue for people across Guildford and it is vital that the decisions being made on this are based on accurate and robust data.

“Questions have been raised about the ONS figures and we need to establish the facts. I have therefore written to the minister highlighting the concerns that Guildford Borough Council has and await a response.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

GBC’s leader Joss Bigmore reacted this evening: “I am really pleased that our MP is engaged on this topic and that some action has followed my request.  There is a breakdown in trust between residents and Westminster when it comes to planning policy.

“While I think almost everyone accepts there is a shortage of housing in the Borough we must have confidence in the numbers and models used to calculate housing need.

“Using 2014 population as a base and flawed methodology, as highlighted by the Office of Statistical Regulation, is unacceptable.  I look forward to the minister’s response.”

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Responses to Council Leader and Guildford’s MP Urge Action on Population Data

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    July 12, 2021 at 10:05 pm

    The council itself could have addressed this problem five years ago by:
    1) seeking to understand the issue;
    2) obtaining reputable independent advice.

    Instead of asking whether it should jump the hurdle at all the council asked itself was “how high can we jump”.

    Cllrs Mansbridge, Juneja, Spooner and Furniss insisted that the council went for the maximum unconstrained housing target they could justify. The figure they chose was so large that even Inspector Bore, whose self-declared objective was to promote large amounts of house building, had to reduce it.

    It is still open to the council to take responsibility for its housing target rather than seeking to blame central government or the ONS.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 13, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Why are there two government organisations – the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Office of Statistical Regulations (OSR)?

    Shouldn’t the government use regulated statistics only from OSR rather than raw ONS data that has created all the confusion in housing number projections?

    Projected housing numbers are high as highlighted by OSR rather belatedly but why OSR did not take the responsibility of airing this before local authorities were forced to allocate sites in the green belt?

    Yes, local plan review is built into the system but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to stop developments that have already started on unsuitable sites according to the communities that are adversely affected by them.

    Central government is wholly responsible for creating the problems for local authorities and must take urgent action to stop undesirable developments and consider using only OSR housing projections.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    July 16, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    As Mr Neogi suggests, an eventual revision of the Local Plan is not going to stop over-development already taking place in villages like West Horsley. As well as rightly goading the Conservatives about the Plan, Cllr Bigmore should be asking why his R4GV colleague Cllr Blow voted on 14 July to approve 139 new houses there along with four (Cllrs Searle, White, Goodwin and Askew) of his Lib Dem coalition partners. The current developer feeding frenzy is not what R4GV were voted into office to support.

    A senior council officer tells me, “We are experiencing unprecedented levels of applications and communication which the team are struggling to cope with…We have now employed extra staff.” At taxpayers’ expense, of course.

    Combined with policy doubts, surely these logistical problems argue for prioritisation, including a moratorium on major planning approvals which Cllr Bigmore could easily implement. Most residents would applaud that and any legal challenge to it would take ages.

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