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Cynicism and Disbelief Greet Tory Demand for Local Plan Review

Published on: 20 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 22 Mar, 2021

By Martin Giles

The shock letter from Conservative candidates in the upcoming county council election calling for a review of their own party’s controversial Local Plan, has drawn responses ranging from cynicism to sheer disbelief.

There are demands for official proof from County Cllr Julie Iles (The Horsleys) to back up her claim that: “…because of pressure from Surrey’s Conservative MPs, they have confirmation that if locally calculated estimates of housing need cannot be achieved without building on the green belt that a lower target will be accepted”.

Cllr John Rigg (Holy Trinity), deputy leader of Residents for Guildford and Villages, said: “What an amazing turnaround.

“For more than a decade, the Conservatives under-delivered housing in Guildford. They spent just under a decade preparing an awful Local Plan which they pushed through a week before the 2019 election.

Cllr John Rigg

“Despite warnings, they exaggerated the number of homes required, pushing through three massive schemes in the green belt and they removed villages from green belt protection.

“All these actions, they now appear to concede, were mistaken.

“They now say we should review the Plan to get smaller housing numbers based on some unknown news of changes which every county in the South East will be desperate to hear from the Secretary of State, not councillors desperate to avoid being removed from office for past sins.

“We have been left to pick up the pieces. The Conservative government says build, build, build but it is a problem for those Tories hoping to compete in the approaching local election.

“Do they expect Guildford residents to be so totally naive to believe they now want to argue in favour of a smaller housing target?

“R4GV are continually reviewing what can be done to undo the mess of the Conservative Local Plan.

“And we will also get on with saving our borough, our High Street and our green belt based on best legal advice, not on spurious ‘intimations’ from panicking councillors caught trying to distract from what most voters know.”

Cllr Julia McShane

Julia McShane (Westborough), the new Lib Dem group leader, declined to comment until the claims in Cllr Iles’ letter have been investigated.

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty (Shalford), leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), said: “Given previous broken promises, the electorate should take with a pinch of salt any fresh declarations now it is election time.

“Rather, they should look at the campaigning and voting patterns over the years to date of the parties.

“GGG proposed a motion, at full council, calling for an immediate review of the Local Plan but this was blocked at the last minute, following Lib Dem pressure.

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

“Our requests for a review were rebuffed. I recall being told by the lead councillor for Planning, Lib Dem Jan Harwood, that officers were too busy drafting the supplementary planning documents (SPDs). And at no time did the Conservatives join us to press for a review.

“The electorate are not stupid and have long memories. Last-minute positioning must be seen for what it is.

“If the Conservatives really mean what they say then at local level they should resign from the Conservative Party and join a local democratic party campaigning, as before, on truly held principles.”

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Responses to Cynicism and Disbelief Greet Tory Demand for Local Plan Review

  1. Jose Fiuza Reply

    March 23, 2021 at 6:20 am

    Perhaps readers, and indeed the politicians giving quotes, need reminding that despite all this faux outrage (or perhaps ignorance) Mole Valley Conservatives, from Paul Beresford MP to Julie Iles to the borough councillors for Horsleys, at the time opposed widespread building on green belt as they have for many years. Indeed the Clandon & Horsley councillors on Guildford Borough Council voted against the Local Plan in 2015.

    So Julie Iles is being quite consistent with the Conservatives in her area. This has often been at odds with other Guildford Conservatives and this is the nature of local politics. Being part of the same party does not mean you have the same policies; you represent your local area (or at least should do).

    • George Potter Reply

      March 24, 2021 at 11:27 am

      Would Mr Fiuza, by any chance, be the same Jose Fiuza who was Chair of Epsom Conservative Association and who has acted as election agent for Chris Grayling MP?

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

  2. Peter Elliott Reply

    March 23, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    I fully welcome Julia Isles’ call for a review of the local plan, but as we are seeing, many view this latest pledge from the Conservatives, who created and pushed through the Local Plan despite huge opposition, as another hollow pre-election promise.

    The review of the Local Plan is something GGG and other groups have been requesting since the last election. There is, of course, a legal requirement to review the Plan within five years anyway. What we need from the Conservatives is a firm commitment that this review will not be just another rubber-stamping exercise, endorsing the disastrous Local Plan that Guildford has inherited from Ms Iles’ colleagues. We need a pledge that the current Plan will be scrapped and replaced with a plan that will be good for Guildford, and reflect the radically different circumstances we now find ourselves in.

    I note that R4GV has now, rather belatedly, pledged to seek legal advice on the feasibility of a review. I hope that R4GV will ensure that this review is independent and that it will give councillors the confidence to pursue the more difficult tasks of standing up to developers and central government and redoing the local plan properly from scratch. I hope for Guildford’s sake that this is not just political posturing[ as we saw in 2015 when the Conservatives promised to protect the Green Belt] and that it will result in a Local Plan that truly delivers what is best for the borough, rather than just pandering to developers.

    Guildford’s local plan was pushed through just days before the last election, in what many consider to be an undemocratic manner, and was supported by at the time by Matt Furniss [former deputy leader of GBC] who is one of the signatories on Julia’s letter. At a hustings event prior to the 2015 elections, Cllr Furniss promised there would be no development on the areas of great landscape value[AGLV] nor on the areas of outstanding natural beauty [AONB] in the local plan, yet he voted to put a 1,800 development at Blackwell farm, a site which is both AGLV and AONB.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    March 23, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    Mr Fiuza may be right, but as a Horsley resident why would I vote for a party that’s split down the middle on the most important issue facing my area? Why shouldn’t I support one that has opposed the Local Plan all along?

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