Fringe Box



Council Rejects e-Petition Seeking An End To Its ‘Pro-development Strategy’

Published on: 10 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 13 Jul, 2014

Draft Local Plan image 1

Members of the public queued up to challenge Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) thinking behind the Draft Local Plan, currently out for public consultation, at a full council meeting on Tuesday evening (July 8).

The meeting considered an e-petition, signed by 733 residents, asking the council: “to reject their current aggressive pro-development pro-building strategy.” But the council rejected the petition. No councillor voted to support it; five abstained.

Before the debate commenced, strict warnings were given by the Mayor, Cllr David Elms, chairing the meeting, about conduct. No public interruptions or time overruns would be permitted, he said, and he threatened to have individuals or groups removed if warnings were not heeded.

Seven speakers spoke in support of the petition. Susan Parker, organiser of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, pointed out that Guildford had been identified as one of four growth hubs for economic growth and had been awarded £118 million by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Surrey and Hampshire, but she questioned the need for more “pump priming to create congestion” in a borough that was already rich.

Helen Jefferies, a Wisley resident, said: “This council’s aggressive stance on growth will have a huge negative impact on the quality of life for the borough’s existing residents…

“Residents have told you that the infrastructure is at breaking point: the roads are congested in both the town and the countryside. Schools cannot provide the necessary places for existing children, never mind those coming to live in all the new houses…. There is also already a lengthy wait… for doctor and hospital appointments. This situation will worsen considerably…

“You owe it to current and future residents to create a vision which is both economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Reliance on the motor car does not achieve this.”

Paul Cassell introduced himself as a resident of “densely populated urban Guildford” before giving his view on “excessive” housing. Assurances that the housing number would be revisited were, he said: “In the words of Lewis Carroll, ‘Jam tomorrow'”.

“He described the impact of development in his area of the town, Stoughton, where, he said, lorries and cars often, in order to proceed, mounted pavements used by schoolchildren to get to school. He also claimed that those living in the town did not want to see parts of the green belt: “destroyed by an excessive housing programme… The only jam [we] will get will be of the traffic variety.”

Ben Paton told the meeting that there was a conflict between the: “age old presumption in favour of development” and that the “freedom of movement within the UK and the EU allows people to come and live here very easily” has created demand for houses which some said “has to be met”.

Of course, he opined, those in the business of construction are keen to do so. House building is a highly profitable business: “but profitability is not necessarily commensurate with social good… there are obvious conflicts of interest.”

Karen Stevens of the Save Hogs Back campaign said: “We all want economic growth but it needs to be the right kind of growth, growth derived from adding value and efficiency in the way things are done rather than simply increasing population.”

Monika Juneja (Con, Burpham) lead councillor for planning said that she fully understood the strength of feeling that existed over the Local Plan. She continued: “The country at this moment in time is pushing for growth and prosperity and I am not sure why that is any different to the needs and requirements of Guildford. This council… is not pushing a pro-building, pro-development strategy and certainly we do not think that economic growth will only come from building.”

In response to claims stated in the petition that the council would build excessive numbers of houses Cllr Juneja said that the claimed intention: “… to build more houses than the current population needs, or more commercial buildings than the existing borough needs is not exactly right.

“The Government, in 2012, decided to produce the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) which is very clear that the need is not decided by localism but instead requires us, as a council, to determine our Draft Local Plan housing need to be set out in a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).

“The analysis of data within the SHMA such as population and employment statistics provides us with a better understanding of the housing needs within the borough… There are a number of constraints placed on us [by central government] when assessing our housing target and housing need…

“I think we need to be very careful about the idea that “growth” is something Guildford Borough Council and its Executive plucked out of thin air. We need to remember that the coalition government published a plan for growth alongside the budget in 2012… The NPPF is clear: development means growth, not just housing but economic. It is entirely appropriate that the Local Plan addresses this matter and continues to create jobs and support the growth in businesses.

“The idea that the [council’s] Corporate Plan is something that residents have not been consulted on is misinformed… It is right that the council has not consulted on this document but it has [consulted], and it continues to consult on a suite of documents that fall out from the Corporate Plan such as the Local Plan…”.

Cllr Juneja concluded by asking her fellow councillors to support her motion of rejection of the petition.

Among contributions from councillors in the ensuing debate were:

Cllr Sarah Creedy (Con, Holy Trinity): “There are substantial numbers of people that would disagree with the petitioners, people who say to me the same thing over and over again, and they say that we do need more housing, housing that is accessible to that significant number who are priced out of market housing.

“On Saturday I attended an event in Bellfields. I asked what their [tenants of council properties] top priority for the council would be. The answer was crystal clear. It was not spending more money on their properties, it was not spending more money on council services … the majority, by a country mile, wanted us to build more affordable homes.”

Cllr Bob McShee (Con, Worplesdon): “I can appreciate the petitioners concerns about the extent of the growth strategy contained within the Draft Local Plan. I have previously stated that the housing target of 652 houses per annum is excessive and this puts an unacceptable strain on existing congested roads and the utilities and services. I accept growth but it should be structured growth taking into account the constraints of the existing infrastructure.”

Cllr Pauline Searle (Lib Dem, Stoughton) “I would like to very much agree with councillor Bob McShee tonight… There are constraints and restrictions in lots of places in Guildford, and talking about Stoughton, those roads cannot cope with any more, they are not wide enough to cope with any more, the paths aren’t wide enough. So while they might give more money towards infrastructure, really the constraints are the sites themselves…”

Cllr Gordon Jackson (Con, Pirbright): “This administration’s guiding principle is to ensure that the Local Plan will be accepted as sound at public examination, otherwise we will be presenting an open goal to developers… To be sound the plan must comply with the NPPF and that requires us to help achieve economic growth…

“This is the Borough of Guildford not the Bubble of Guildford. We are part of a vibrant South East economy that feeds off London and key transport hubs such as Heathrow and Gatwick. We have to be competitive; the area will grow whether we like it or not.

“The government message has been very clear. If you, the local councillors, don’t provide for more jobs and more houses we will not fund your infrastructure.”

Cllr Jenny Wicks (Con, Clandon & Horsley), who held the lead councillor for planning portfolio before she lost her seat on the council Executive, said: ‘Some, at least, of our residents don’t think that the consultation process will give fair weight to their views and I think that is why we have seen this petition activity…

“Some spent a lot of time and effort responding to the Issues and Options consultation but felt that expressing their views was ineffective, in that their views were not reflected… in the Draft Local Plan. Some feel that the housing targets, as contained in the Draft Local Plan, are unnecessarily high.

“The borough has grown for many years. Until the recession something over 300 new homes a year were being constructed, unemployment was at rock bottom and businesses were buoyant.

“The vast majority now accept the need for new homes but question the scale of development as proposed in the Draft Local Plan which will impinge hugely on the character of some parts of the borough, particularly the green belt.”

Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke): “One of the [public] speakers referred to housing as a blight. I find that unacceptable. I think that overcrowding and homelessness is a far greater blight on us as a council…

“We’ve got to think about the future, we’ve got to think about those who are in infant school at the moment and will be adults maybe having families etcetera in 20-years-time. We have to remember that this is about the future and not just about those who live here now.”

Council leader Stephen Mansbridge, who seconded the motion to reject the petition, said: “I disagree with this petition although I applaud the fact that people are voicing their views and their concerns… Nobody’s voices have gone unheard. The fact is that we are listening and we are reading. The fact that we may not be responding in the way you want, to absolutely everybody, is part of the process. We are certainly listening…”

Cllr Monika Juneja later commented: “The petitions show that there are concerns about the future development of our borough. We welcome public feedback and encourage the petitioners and all local people to get involved in the current Draft Local Plan consultation.

“This is the right time to have your say on our plans and the sites identified for possible development. We must produce a sound Local Plan to positively plan for the future of our borough – removing sites at this stage is premature. Only after the consultation will we be able to analyse the responses and look at where changes can be made in the Draft Local Plan.

“Get involved – it is easy to give your views online, by email, in person or by phone. We aim to reach as many residents as possible to get feedback from all our communities. Make sure you are part of the plan.”

Readers can watch a recording of the whole council meeting at To view the Draft Local Plan and find out more about the associated consultation activities and events visit

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Responses to Council Rejects e-Petition Seeking An End To Its ‘Pro-development Strategy’

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    July 11, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Shame on GBC, again.

    Who wrote:

    ‘Our future depends on putting more political responsibility in the hands of local people’


    ‘When people experience a yawning gap between the changes they want to see and those they can directly affect, it is inevitable that demoralisation and democratic disengagement follow.’?

    It was David Cameron in February 2009 before he took power with Liberal Democrat support.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

    “We welcome public feedback”? My derriere they do. Exactly how is rejecting such a petition out of hand welcoming feedback?

    This is at least the fifth petition aimed at getting the GBC executive committee to change its pro-development, anti-greenbelt strategy,

    Not only do they, most evidently, not welcome such public feedback, they even have the nerve to ignore their own scrutiny committee, who told them emphatically that their target housing target is too high.

    Well if they will not listen, there are still have options:

    Readers can join the GGG at

    And/or sign our petition to get a referendum on returning democracy to GBC.

  3. Peter Elliott Reply

    July 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Clearly many people think this council has its own agenda, which it is determined to push through, regardless of the expressed opinions of their electorate.

    There is no doubt that this local plan, if implemented, would have a drastic and irreversible effect on the area we live in.

    So should we not have a referendum to seek a mandate for it, particularly in view of the fact that this council was elected on a pledge to protect the Green Belt? The votes could be counted by an independent body.

  4. Lisa Wright Reply

    July 13, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Growth in financial terms does not equate directly with improvements in quality of life.

    It would be appropriate at this point for GBC to put the calculators and spreadsheets away and reflect on the intangible results of their ‘pro building’ and ‘concrete the fields grey’ plans.

    And could someone please explain what “affordable” actually means?

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