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GBC Adopts Local Plan Despite Series of Protests And Objections

Published on: 26 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 26 Apr, 2019

Jane Turner and campaigners from Compton at Guildford Borough Council Local Plan meeting. Photo – local democracy reporter.

By Rebecca Curley

local democracy reporter

Thousands of homes are to be built around Guildford by 2034 to meet the housing crisis, rising populations and central government targets for development.

A number of villages and sites, including Wisley Airfield, will be taken out of the green belt to meet the need.

The Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Local Plan was formally adopted by a majority of councillors on Thursday (April 25).

The 600-page document has been years in the making and cost £3.4 million. It sets out where houses, shops and offices will be built and the changes to road networks and infrastructure to meet the rising population.

At a special council meeting, 28 councillors voted to approve the Plan, with 12 against and four abstaining, despite calls for the decision to be deferred until after the borough elections on May 2.

A total of 80,000 comments had been sent in during public consultations, many objecting to the use of green belt land.

Campaigners made last-minute pleas in the chamber for councillors to reconsider using places such as Wisley and Blackwell Farm.

About 115 people filled the public gallery and reception room of GBC offices at Millmead House for what had been described by council leader Paul Spooner as “the most important decision for the borough”.

Georgie Paulson, 11 and mum Katharine Paulson at Guildford Borough Council Local Plan meeting. Photo – local democracy reporter.

Environment campaigners held a peaceful protest outside the council offices just before the meeting started at 7pm, urging councillors to rethink the use of the green belt, and to raise concerns about the increase in pollution.

As set out in the Local Plan, there will be 10,678 new homes by 2034, resulting in a total housing supply of 14,602 between 2015-34, including ones completed and those with permission. The population of Guildford is forecast to rise from 145,473 to 167,126 by 2034.

Among the protesters was Katharine Paulson and her 11-year-old son Georgie. She said the green belt was “there for a reason”, adding: “We are custodians of the countryside and we need to safeguard the green belt.”

Georgie said: “I just want to show my disapproval. We don’t want it [development] intruding on our life.”

Another protester, Conservative supporter Jane Turner, said she fears a worsening of the already poor air-quality around Compton. She said: “They [councillors] are twisting the rules to get this through before the local elections. A number of us are completely fed up with the local Conservatives. They are not listening to us and not interested in what’s going to happen.”

Each of the 10 public speakers given three minutes to address members in a last bid to get the vote either deferred or turned down were applauded by the packed public gallery. Among them were representatives from villages around the borough, campaigners and action groups.

John Rigg, from Guildford Vision Group, said not enough had been done to look at how more town centre locations could be used for housing. He said: “You may win and your Plan may tick boxes but it is bankrupt of great ideas.”

Annie Cross, from Lovelace Neighbourhood Plan Group, said the 80,000 comments the council received during the consultation showed they had “not got it right”.

And Karen Stevens, from Compton PC and Save Hogs Back, said the impact on roads, especially around the A3 and A31, will have an effect on the ability of emergency vehicles to access the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

Councillors spent nearly four hours debating the benefits and consequences of adopting the Plan. There was division between both Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups as councillors laid out their reasons for or against.

But council leader Spooner remained steadfast, firmly believing the timing of the vote was right and that the Plan should be adopted. He said: “The vision comes from the implementation of this Plan. If we don’t put the Local Plan in place then we cannot move forward for that vision.”

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test 2 Responses to GBC Adopts Local Plan Despite Series of Protests And Objections

  1. Jim Reply

    April 26, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Oh dear!

  2. R Connor Reply

    April 26, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    After listening to many good reasons for deferring the Local Plan, it was obvious that many of the councillors were putting far more importance to the ‘hard work’ done by themselves rather than the fact that important things had since changed and needed examining before passing the Plan.

    One Councillor rightly said that this is a “Developers’ Plan” rather than a “Residents’ Plan”.

    If the councillors that voted for this Plan can completely disregard the large number of concerned residents who made the effort to attend the meeting, including those who courageously took the three minutes to speak out, not to mention the many who opposed it by other means, then what is the point of them being there?

    The remedy is simple: don’t vote for those who don’t care about the Guildford residents opinions.

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