Fringe Box



GGG Publishes Its Manifesto, While Aldermen Question ‘Single-issue Political Party’

Published on: 13 Feb, 2015
Updated on: 13 Feb, 2015

The Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) has released its manifesto for May’s elections, including among its pledges: to prepare a completely new Local Plan, implement a ‘brownfield first’ policy, cut the number of empty homes, stop urban sprawl and end the executive form of governance in place at the borough council.

GGGAt the same time, two alderman have written to the council expressing their fears over what they describe as “the emergence of a new single-issue political party focused on preserving the present boundaries of the green belt”.

Aldermen Tamsy Baker and Gordon Bridger question if any GGG candidates are elected to the borough council in May, will they be up to the job?

Baker and Bridger have written: “We believe that to establish a party with such a restricted remit will not serve all the borough residents well. Council members have responsibilities to the elderly, the town centre, parks, the night economy, culture, charities, industry and our further education sector amongst others.

“Single-issue pressure groups play an important part in the democratic process but to convert them into a political party with a single interest, undermines the economic, cultural and social responsibilities of our representatives. Furthermore, anyone committed to such a party would probably be disbarred from participating in planning applications for development of the green belt as this would constitute ‘predetermination’ of the outcome.”

GGG states in its press release about its manifesto, that it “has changed the political agenda”.  Continuing: “We have resisted more than 10,000 homes that the council wanted to dump on Guildford’s green belt. We have highlighted planning errors by the council.  We have started a legal process to change from the executive system (where the council is run by an Executive of just nine individuals) to move to a committee system where all councillors can vote. GGG is a force for change. It has members and supporters throughout the borough of Guildford.”

Susan Parker.

Susan Parker.

GGG says that it proposes to stand in all wards throughout the borough at the forthcoming elections. Its leader Susan Parker will also be standing as a parliamentary candidate in the Guildford constituency. She said: “We stand for integrity, democracy, transparency, accountability, and protection of our environment and heritage. If you want to protect our countryside and environment, vote for GGG.”

The two aldermen in their letter to the council also point to a number of facts about Guildford and its needs. The wrrote: “It is widely recognised that provision of affordable and low-cost housing is our most urgent need and its very high price, mainly due to land costs (two thirds of a house price is that of land) is seriously prejudicing our future. We are now seriously short of workers to serve our public services and perhaps more importantly, the professional knowledge-based workers who are vital for our survival in an increasingly competitive economy.

“We note that the council has recently received a planning application for the development of Wisley airfield site (68 hectares) and the University of Surrey has revealed plans for land (89 hectares) on the adjoining Blackwell Farm. These 157 hectares account for 0.6% of green belt land. Guildford has not enough school places and it is only by building new communities complete with infrastructure that we will be able to provide the new schools we so desperately need.

Alderman Gordon Bridger.

Alderman Gordon Bridger.

“While accepting that brownfield sites should be prioritised for housing, we believe that these two restricted sites, provided attention is paid to scale and character, could be suitable for development. They are not AONBs, are of less environmental quality than other areas, and their commercial development for housing would fund far more affordable housing than other areas. Urban brownfield site developments put more pressure on existing facilities, such as schools, surgeries and roads.”

Meanwhile, GGG in its manifesto (titled Putting Our Countryside First) includes under a heading ‘governance and accountability’ that it will: “Give power back to parish councils and local residents by seeking and respecting their views. Bring in stricter codes of conduct for councillors and council employees based on best-practice standards of transparency, integrity and ethics, including a whistle-blowers’ charter. Ensure local government offers transparency in decision making and accountability. Remove the party whip from any GGG councillor who has brought the party into disrepute.”

While under a heading titled ‘financial responsibility’, it will: “Conduct an early review of all council functions including the proposed Millmead renovation. Ensure continued provision of high-quality public services, cut inefficiency, consultants and waste. Make sure public money is spent appropriately, efficiently and wisely – fiscal prudence. Seek greater cost-effectiveness through shared services with other councils.”

The manifesto also gives GGG’s pledges on traffic and public transport, rubbish, recycling and street cleaning.


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Responses to GGG Publishes Its Manifesto, While Aldermen Question ‘Single-issue Political Party’

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    February 13, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I have to admit I am puzzled that the aldermen write to the council concerning a political party.

    I’ve only followed politics for around 50 years but don’t remember a similar method of comment.

    The more usual method is to respond through the media, as I am doing.

    Unless of course they are expecting yet another strange action by senior councilors interfering beyond their powers.

    Have the aldermen or the council made this letter available to the public in full?

    • Robin Brookes Reply

      February 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      I have read the GGG manifesto, and to be honest struggle to see too much difference between their policies and the main parties.

      All parties are saying brownfield first and minimum housing numbers that are acceptable to the [planning] inspector.

      I suppose what worried me was the manifesto’s lack of clarity on where all these houses were to go apart from above car parks in Guildford.

      Even if the housing need numbers are accepted at 500 per annum or 10,000 new homes to 2031. That is an awful lot of new flats above the car parks in Guildford!

      I think that for the GGG to have credibility they really must give us more details. For instance, Susan Parker has been asked several times about the 60 hectares of available brownfield land around Walnut Tree Close that she has identified as being suitable but has failed to expand on this.

      The manifesto is strong on popular catchphrases but weak on detail. It is this detail that is needed if a plan is to be formulated to the inspector’s satisfaction.

      • Jules Cranwell Reply

        February 19, 2015 at 9:37 am

        The main parties may now be saying brownfield first, in the run up to an election.

        However the draft local plan does not reflect this. It sets out to remove 16 of 24 villages from the green belt, and build 80% of the 16,000 new homes on green belt and AONB.

  2. Michael Bruton Reply

    February 13, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Alderman Bridger has missed the boat! Although if the results of four years of Tory ruled Guildford were based on a comprehensive manifesto then heaven help us all.

    The Guildford Greenbelt Group has a full manifesto – which includes items like fiscal conservatism (no money wasted – it’s your money), probity (not a universal practice in UK local government for we readers of Private Eye).

    Without its green belt and countryside protected, Guildford becomes another Croydon. Perhaps that does not matter to the Lib-Cons on GBC?

    It should be the green belt not the ‘greed belt. It is strange how the Tories are now circulating political literature promising to protect the green belt.

    As an ordinary voter I do not believe one iota of their promises. They made the same promise in 2011 and reneged on that – so why should I believe them in 2015?

    If Mr Bridger chooses to read the GGG manifesto he will find policies with commitments on planning, housing, economic growth, environment, governance, financial responsibility, traffic and transport, recycling and street cleaning.

    But unlike the Tories ( with LibDem silence) he will not find a commitment to spend the reported £3,500,000 on ‘doing up’ Guildford’s Council HQ. But then, personal comfort as distinct from public service is widespread in Councils run by the existing political class throughout England.

    • Mary Bedforth Reply

      February 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Excellent comment Mr Bruton, with which I concur.

      I resent this Lib Dem attempt to stifle our choices.

  3. Chris Ward Reply

    February 13, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Writing to the council to object to the formation of a political party is bizarre at best, sinister at worst.

    What on earth is it meant to achieve? The council may run the local and Parliamentary elections in May but they have no power (and nor should they!) to prevent legal political parties from standing.

    Object to specific political parties by all means and, if you do object, don’t vote for them. Surely this letter should have been directed to a local news outlet rather than the council?

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 14, 2015 at 8:21 am

    What is extraordinary is that the aldermens’ views largely echo those of GGG.That is, homes for essential workers, rather than executive homes to swell the profits of developers, brownfield first, etc.

    Perhaps they should have awaited the release of our manifesto, before complaining to the council. Now they are able to read it in full, they are welcome to join us.

  5. Caroline Reeves Reply

    February 15, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Michael Bruton obviously has selective hearing, the Lib Dems commented at both the scrutiny and executive meetings as well as the council budget meeting when the Millmead refurbishment was discussed, as well as commenting on the proposals when they were displayed in the canteen.

    To reiterate some of the needs for this work: we must have a building that is DDA compliant with full access to all the public areas – this is not the case at the moment and residents with disabilities have quite rightly complained; we have regular complaints from the public that they cannot hear or see properly in the council chamber; the heating is erratic; there are insufficient meeting rooms for counncil, public, private, police or Surrey County Council meetings that are held on site.

    To add to that list there are safety issues around the joint access for the public and council staff; surely it is better to maintain the property than let it continue to fall into disrepair; it is more cost effective to do all the work at one time rather than follow Cllr Wick’s suggestion to do it in two parts, everyone knows from work on their own property that this is the best way to increase costs.

    We must assume that GGG are quite happy for people to discuss their housing problems at a public desk because we haven’t got enough private rooms, or for people to queue to use the computers to do their search for council housing because we don’t have enough public terminals.

    Personal comfort for councillors is not on this list.

  6. Sue Fox Reply

    February 16, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I read the letter in the Surrey Ad, and thought no!

    I am an ex- Lib/Dem and Liberal councillor and I would like the widest possible choice of candidates for both the general election and council elections as I’m so un-impressed by the actions of the last five years. The arrogance and self serving attitudes present fill me with despair.

    I have no idea how I’m going to vote, along with most people. I talk to others though not any current incumbent, at present.

    I would appreciate some face-to-face communication or regular newsletters asking for comment.

    But then I always was a believer in people power!

  7. Paul Spooner Reply

    February 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Cllr Reeves’ points are well made. No doubt Cllr Wicks made her comments with an eye on some of her local residents currently objecting to GBC councillors of any political persuasion breathing let alone trying to run a progressive council.

    The council offices at Millmead are not fit for purpose for residents or employees. Councillors lose their dedicated members’ room (correctly IMO as the space can be better utilised) and many would argue that the proposed changes in the chamber do not benefit personal comfort for councillors.

    GGG may wish to dress this up once again as councillors looking after themselves, but the reality (as with most things GGG object to) is very different!

    Councillors of all parties have scrutinised plans to ensure that the best scheme is agreed.

    GBC should set the same standards for themselves as they expect from other organisations in Guildford. Millmead works just bring the Council facilities upto a basic standard fit for 2015.

  8. Janette Panton Reply

    February 17, 2015 at 10:12 am

    In response to Cllr Spooner, as pointed out in a response by Neville Bryan to the article “Borough to raise its portion of Council Tax by 1.5%”, the Millmead offices were included in the draft Local Plan for re-development.

    As a Guildford resident I find it outrageous and unacceptable that GBC should be planning to spend £3.5 million of our money on updating Millmead when it could be bulldozed in 10 years time.

    It is hard to believe this money is necessary. Surely there has to be an alternative and very much cheaper option to ensure Millmead can meet a reasonable standard until such time as this site is redeveloped.

    Better still perhaps GBC could consider moving to more modern offices and making this site available for redevelopment sooner rather than later, providing much needed affordable homes.

    £3.5 million can and should be much better spent.

  9. Mary Bedforth Reply

    February 17, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Last May we were told the ‘refurbishment’ of Millmead would cost £2.2 million.

    Now that figure appears to have increased by £1.3 million to £3.5 million.

    Have a look at:

  10. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 17, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    In reply to Paul Spooner’s comment: so a progressive council is one that worships at the alter of economic development/growth at the expense of the green belt and countryside.

    As to the unnecessary improvements to Millmead, let the electorate decide whether these are more urgent than affordable housing, or the urgent needs for improvements to our infrastructure. This is simply a question of priorities. Why can you and your colleagues on the GBC executive not get this simple truth?

  11. Edd Grant Reply

    February 18, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    In reply to Mary Bedworth and Janette Panton, the council may be criticised for many things but the upgrade of the council offices appears to be long over due.

    The civic suite seems to be getting the lion’s share of improvements, and unless I am mistaken this is where the planning committee are heard.

    I was at the Waitrose meeting and the older generations which form the majority of the pressure groups kept shouting out that they couldn’t hear. I understand that this will be rectified along with making it easier for people to access.

    People are entitled to work with modern facilities and GBC are no different.

  12. Ngaire Wadman Reply

    February 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    I think the aldermen are bang out of order. From adequate, appropriate housing comes provision for the rest of the population’s needs. UKIP is in agreement on this vital issue, and the re-structuring of local government to honestly carry out the wishes of the ratepayers supporting it.

    It has become clear that Guildford’s status as a ‘growth town’ according to the LEP could be misused as an excuse to impose vastly profitable developments for future needs – and wouldn’t the university profit nicely from that, with the developments proposed for Blackwell Farm!

    Malcolm Parry, the University of Surrey’s head of planning, sits on the LEP board.

    I believe the basic numbers on which the draft Local Plan is shaped are very open to investigation.

    So is the situation whereby student lets, exempt from council tax, occupy over 1,000 Guildford dwellings that could otherwise be meeting the need for family homes, if the University were to honour its 2004 undertaking to provide halls of residence for many more of its students.

  13. Garry Walton Reply

    March 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    In reply to Aldermen Baker and Bridger, ‘sites of less environmental merit,’ really?

    I suggest they watch this film of Wisley Three Farms Meadows

    One million loaves of bread in the making. Harvest time at Wisley.

    I hope they will then retract their foolish and false statement.

  14. Garry Walton Reply

    March 10, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Aldermen Baker and Bridger are out of date and out of touch with the law.

    The predetermination issue was repealed in the Localism Act of 2012, giving all political candidates the democratic freedom to express any view while campaigning for election.

    They cannot be barred from taking office or sitting on any council committee.

    Here is the plain English version of the act. You need to read page five.

  15. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 2, 2015 at 10:47 am

    This entire predetermination debate is a complete red herring circulated by the GBC Tories.

    If it were an issue, all Tories on the council would have been barred from any planning decisions, as they pledged in their 2011 manifesto to “continue to protect the green belt”.

    Obviously the daft local plan proves they did not adhere to this pledge, but that is not the point.

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