Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: Here’s To 2014

Published on: 31 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 31 Dec, 2013

Dragon Says 470As some people are still recovering from the floods that have caused huge disruption for families and businesses alike, we reach the end of one year and the beginning of another.

I suppose I am not the only one who, on New Year’s Eve, feels a touch of nostalgia for years gone by, as well as some incredulity that yet another has passed. It might be a cliché, but I like the explanation that life is like a toilet roll: it goes round faster the nearer you get to the end!

Enough of the maudlin talk, what of Guildford’s future?

First, and soon, the borough council must review its flood plans Christmas Eve might have been one of the worst days of the year for the floods to strike, but nature has no respect for our holiday schedules and the town needs to be able to swing into action to take what preventative and relief action it can, on whichever day it occurs. We can do better. Next time we must.

Of course, the main task on the council’s agenda is the formulation of a Local Plan. It was good that so many people made their views known during the first consultation period. There are clearly many who feel very strongly about protecting our green belt. The councillors have heard that loud and clear. The warnings about the impact on the ballot boxes will have struck home and rightly so.

It is easy to feel disengaged with politics, especially perhaps local politics which do not feature in the news bulletins most of us regularly listen to. But actually, together, we do have the power to change things.

If everyone who is fed up with all the political parties actually turned up at the polling stations to spoil their ballot papers, rather than staying away, there would be a huge effect. New parties would emerge and the manifestos of the existing parties would change to try and capture these votes. “If you can dream and not let dreams become your master…” as Kipling said. And of course it is a dream.

But, if at the next election you simply ask candidates about your most important LOCAL issues and offer your views, you can affect a small change; a shift in focus on to what you really should be voting about.

One of the main drivers for the creation of The Guildford Dragon NEWS was to encourage the engagement in local politics, not from any particular standpoint other than a democratic one. We strongly believe that the majority view should prevail, even though there is no guarantee it is correct. Those councillors who feel they know best should understand that there is no such guarantee with any point of view.

So while Cllr Monika Juneja has correctly observed that planning decisions are not decided by referendum, the council has a duty to represent us all properly and this means that it should come up with a Local Plan that most of us, not just most councillors, can support.

For our part we, the voters, have to accept that some compromise will be necessary and that some are bound to be disappointed. Of course, it is one thing to be disappointed by a decision taken at Millmead, by our local councillors and another to be fed up with a decision foisted on us by Westminster to suit a national party agenda.

If, at a national level, more growth is wanted in the South East, a controversial subject on its own, then they must put their hands in their pockets to provide the necessary infrastructure improvements. Our current road systems already can’t cope and there is no cheap way of upgrading them sufficiently.

Then there is the proposed plan to develop by the University of Surrey. The success of this university, now named by some as one of the top 10 in the UK, and the Surrey Research Park it has spawned, part of Guildford’s most important economic sector, is something we should all be proud of.

Exciting, ground-breaking and profitable work is being carried out all the time there and we hope to bring more reports of success soon. Awareness of the university should increase, and links between it and the town strengthened.

But expansion plans must be properly agreed. The green belt land the university has proposed for development is beautiful countryside, even if it is largely hidden from view.

No doubt the debate on this and other aspects of the Local Plan will continue to rage and rightly so, these are big decisions to be taken in a year that could dictate the future of our town for the foreseeable future.

Finally, as we enter 2014 let us recall the freedoms we are fortunate to enjoy. Our democracy might seem flawed on occasions, but we all live lives that, if we look around the world, are relatively free and comfortable. Such freedoms have had a price.

One hundred years ago our country was entering a year that saw the beginning of the worst conflagration, in terms of lives lost, that this country has ever seen. Commemorative events for the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War are planned which might inform us, help us to understand or simply cause us to reflect.

As we plan for the future let us be thankful that the issues we face, important as they are, are of a different scale than those our forebears were about to face. Long may it remain so.

Here is to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year for all of us.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Here’s To 2014

  1. Chris Warner Reply

    January 1, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Now there’s a lot of sense in this 2014 thought.

    Keep up the good work and a Happy New Year to you all.

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