Fringe Box



Fairlands Community Association Aggrieved By Council Threat to Prosecute

Published on: 29 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 29 Nov, 2013
The banner at Fairlands that provoked a letter from Guildford Borough Council threatening legal action.

The banner at Fairlands that provoked a letter from Guildford Borough Council threatening legal action.

Fairlands Community Association is being threatened with prosecution and a potential fine of £2,500 for displaying a banner inviting residents to “write to fight” as part of the Local Plan consultation.

A letter from the head of planning at Guildford Borough Council (GBC), Carol Humphrey, says that the banner is unlawful. Later the council responded saying they are legally obliged to investigate a complaint they received about the advert.

Association secretary Paul Kassell said: “We feel particularly aggrieved as, having invited the council to explain the Local Plan to our residents on September 27th, their performance was so poor that residents left the meeting feeling none the wiser.

“The community association stepped in, prepared a presentation three public meetings to explain the need for a Local Plan and an evidence base to our residents. We backed this up with a door-to-door team engaging residents and answering queries.

“The banner was placed on the roundabout as part of the awareness campaign. If you look at the photo, there is a second banner that has mysteriously been laid down, which was advertising the local pantomime. The local drama group received no notification of a prosecution for an unauthorised advertisement.

The community association and other associated groups have been placing banners on the roundabout for many years, advertising fêtes, festivals and local productions and say they have never received a complaint.

Mr Kassell added: “Our residents feel that this petty prosecution threat has only come about because the banner is in opposition to the Local Plan proposals. At our last public meeting, none of the residents who chose to write to the council, rather than use email, had received any acknowledgement from the planning department, yet the same department can issue this gagging order the same day that the photo was taken.”

Having received the warning the banner was immediately removed. The association says it could not have afforded to be fined. The banner advertising the pantomime was re-erected and allowed to remain in place.

The council letter received by Fairlands Community Association.

The council letter received by Fairlands Community Association.

A spokesperson for Guildford Borough Council responded this morning (November 29) to say: “By law the council must investigate all reports of illegal advertising. This banner was reported to us by a member of the public and our investigation revealed that the banner had been displayed without consent. We have to act fairly and consistently and deal with complaints in the same way. We contacted the community association to ask them to remove the banner voluntarily, which they have done.

“The additional advertisement did not form part of the complaint received. However, it was noted by the enforcement officer at the time of the visit. As it was not in position at that time it was decided to check it again when carrying out the site visit to check that this banner had been removed. If the advertisement is still in place we will carry out the required investigation.

“We want to hear the views of everyone in our community on the options proposed in the first stage of the Local Plan consultation. We will welcome the Fairlands Association to Millmead this week to discuss their views. Thousands of responses have been received online, at workshops and engagement events and in person at 25 Swan Lane.”

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Responses to Fairlands Community Association Aggrieved By Council Threat to Prosecute

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    November 29, 2013 at 9:06 am

    This such a transparent, and cynical strong-arm tactic to suppress freedom of speech. We do not live in a soviet state where residents should be in fear of the politburo.

    On the one hand, they say they want to hear residents’ views, and on the other they are threatening to prosecute a group which is encouraging this via their banner.

  2. Frank Phillipson. Reply

    November 30, 2013 at 3:11 am

    I see that Carol Humphrey or Darren Gregory couldn’t even be bothered to sign their letter to the Fairlands Residents Association.

    I expect they’re not used to using the old fashioned postal system (unlike e-mails etc.)where it is customary to physically sign your official letters.

    It all sounds pretty heavy handed to include what almost amounts to a police caution.

    The next time I see a banner on a roundabout or elsewhere celebrating someone’s birthday I must remember to ring GBC planning office and report it.

    Would they have bothered if the banner had been for a jumble sale or such like? Isn’t advertising a term used in connection with a commercial purpose? Also, if the banner is temporary it might not even need planning consent?

    I wonder who complained to the planning dept. Possibly a councillor?

  3. Danial Winchester Reply

    November 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Suppressing the freedom of speech is something that is extremely ugly.

    I feel that Guildford Borough Council have a fight on their hands.

    I am a resident of Flexford and will happily oppose Guildford Borough Council over the development of the green belt which I think akin to ‘A rape of the countryside’. Sorry if that sounds like a harsh and provocative term but its how I feel.

    They need to listen to the people who vote for them, something that many politicians in this country still do not understand. No-one is expendable.

    The devil is in the detail and everyone who opposes this plan needs to start asking difficult questions of our councillors and planning officers.

    All I can say to those fantastic people who marched on Millmead yesterday is look at those councillors and planning officers in Guildford Borough Council and ask yourself one thing, don’t you think they look tired?. Time for a replacement I think.

  4. Bill Stokoe Reply

    December 1, 2013 at 9:36 am

    I’m intrigued by the police-style ‘caution’ at the end of the Council’s letter. Is it within its power to use such language?

    [Bill Stokoe is the chairman of the Guildford Society. A response from Guildford Borough Council has been requested and will be added as a reply once received. Ed]

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    December 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Burpham Neighbourhood Forum also had email correspondence on the very same subject.

    Ours was a simple A4 notice of forum meetings, large enough to read while stationary but too small to be read while moving. The comments to the unnamed officer who decided to take such action was treated with a certain ‘response’.

    Sadly, to my mind, the remainder of the forum voted to remain ‘law abiding’ and now forum publicity is severely limited by this over zealous mentality.

  6. Mary Bedforth Reply

    December 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I an reminded of the Virgin Media bright red stick-on advertising posters that were applied to the green telecoms street cabinet doors around the town earlier. Did Branson receive a letter similar to the one above? Probably not.

    I was told by the same planning department that the posters in residential areas were ordered for removal by Virgin Media but the ones in the ‘commercial area’ could remain.

    Where they have been removed, the green paint surface has been damaged and removed leaving behind doors that need repainting.

    One rule for some, another for the others.

    Are we living in the Third Reich?

  7. Frank Phillipson. Reply

    December 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    As I understand it, as a former SCC Highway Engineer, unless it has changed since my time, planning permission isn’t required for signs on the public highway.

    The Highway Authority (SCC) can licence temporary signs and banners to be put up if they will not cause a distraction, obstruct visibility or otherwise compromise highway safety. They also have a full range of powers to remove signs erected without permission on highway land.

    If GBC thought the banner should be removed they should have contacted SCC Highways. I attach the link below which is to the SCC section on “Banners on the roadside”:

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