Fringe Box



Green Belt Issue Dominates Eagle Radio’s Local Plan Forum

Published on: 7 May, 2014
Updated on: 9 May, 2014
The council panel facing questions on the Local Plan. From left to right: Dep leader James Palmer, Managing Director Sue Sturgeon, Cllr Monika Juneja, and council leader Stepehen Mansbridge

The Guildford Borough Council panel facing questions on the Local Plan. From left: deputy leader James Palmer, managing director Sue Sturgeon, Cllr Monika Juneja, and council leader Stephen Mansbridge.

Report Martin Giles

Cartoons Sarah Sullivan

No blood was left on the floor last night (Tuesday, May 6) at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre after Eagle Radio’s forum on Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) Local Plan, the first draft of which will be published today.

Predictably, protection of the borough’s green belt dominated the debate. But those hoping for some verbal fireworks, similar to those sometimes witnessed in the council chamber on the same subject, would have left disappointed.

Stephen Mansbridge

Stephen Mansbridge.

During a short a short introductory presentation on the plan, council leader Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham) said the council “…has to deliver. There were things that over the years maybe we could have done better. Maybe we could have done more.” He highlighted the need for central government investment to finance development of the borough’s infrastructure, in particular to ease traffic congestion.

Moving on to the economy, Cllr Mansbridge said that he was often accused of being pro-growth but “…I am no more pro-growth than anybody else. Guildford, since 1946, has never not grown. We are a place of growth. That is a fact rather than some myth that has been conjured up.”

He singled out the success of the home grown, university spin-off, technology sector: “…producing satellites that are sold all over the world,” and he looked forward to the North Street Development project which would not be solely concerned with a retail sector facing changes that were difficult to predict.

Sue Sturgeon

Sue Sturgeon.

Balancing the different demands on the Local Plan is a challenge, he admitted. There were former soldiers who wanted homes, businesses that wanted to grow, town dwellers who first wanted infrastructure changes and didn’t desire high rise development, and then country dwellers who do not want to see the beautiful countryside damaged by any building on the green belt.

But, he warned: “There is no point in racing ahead with our economy if it is unsustainable. Everything has to be in balance.”

As soon as the forum moved to open questions, from the audience of over 250, the subject of the green belt was raised.

The Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), Save Hogs Back and Keep the Horsleys in the Green Belt campaigns were all represented. Peter Gordon of Eagle Radio ably chaired the event. But the format of the meeting, audience questions to a panel made up of three members of GBC’s Conservative council executive and the managing director, did not allow a range of responses from different political parties or other points of view, nor did it encourage the development of arguments. Some questioners anxious to be heard made longish statements in the guise of questions.

James Palmer

James Palmer.

Not so though Michael Bruton, one of the Horsley green belt campaigners, who asked concisely how could Conservative councillors, elected with a promise that they would protect the green belt, now renege on it? Cllr Mansbridge responded by saying, without further explanation, that this had happened because of a change in central government policy in 2012.

Jules Cranwell, also from Horsley, who had led a protest march on Millmead and was planning another, questioned Cllr Monika Juneja’s (Con, Burpham) claim that she was “potty on consultation.” In his view, the consultation on the Local Plan had been a sham. He continued: “We do not want growth at the expense of the green belt.”

Susan Parker (GGG) said that the green belt had a value that could not be measured in purely economic terms and she questioned how the Local Plan could be developed prior to a masterplan.

The response revealed that the council had taken legal advice on the planning sequence in the wake of pressure from the Guildford Vision Group to draw up a masterplan first. The advice received by the council, from a leading QC, was that any masterplan had to be developed in concert with an existing Local Plan. However illogical it might seem, the advice given indicated that a masterplan is not allowed, legally, to come first.

Monika Juneja

Monika Juneja.

Tim Harrold representing the Campaign to Protect Rural England asked if the council was aware that Surrey’s motorways carried 80% more traffic than the South East average and our A roads over 60% more than the national average. As well as problems of traffic congestion this had resulted in pollution levels, around the A3, equal to central London.

Deputy council leader James Palmer (Con, Shalford) replied: “You have rightly identified the A3 as a real problem… Guildford is near the top of their [Ministry of Transport/Highways Agency] list for action.”

Cllr Gordon Jackson (Con, Pirbright) pointed out that Surrey is the biggest contributor to the exchequer other than London. The county, he said, contributed more than even the big conurbations of Birmingham, Liverpool and Greater Manchester. Any plans had to cope with the demands of local businesses and their desire for growth.

But a member of the audience challenged his facts. Surrey, he said, was bound to be a major economic contributor because of its proximity to London and because it contains two international airports.

He added that he was disappointed with the quality of arguments put forward by the council and fed up with the council blaming the national government. The elected representatives were good at pointing out the difficulties but they had been elected to provide solutions. This drew some applause.

A representative of Guildford’s Youth Council and county councillor Fiona White (Lib Dem, Guildford West) raised the issue of the availability of affordable houses for local people, especially those who were younger and who wished to take the first step on to the housing ladder. This was another of the few issues that drew applause, perhaps the loudest of the evening.

Andrew Backhurst of Guildford City Football Club made a plea for a better football ground. He said: “We are in the Southern League and all the other towns we have played this year have far better grounds than us and it is embarrassing to have them come to our Spectrum ground. Please think of us. We are a community football club and we do represent this town.”

Cllr Mansbridge responded: “I couldn’t agree with you more. I think Guildford needs a stadium for sport… I think that must be a clear aspiration for our future.”

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Responses to Green Belt Issue Dominates Eagle Radio’s Local Plan Forum

  1. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    May 7, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    It was a very interesting meeting with Cllr Stephen Mansbridge and Cllr Monika Juneja at times looking very uncomfortable as they were put under considerable pressure by some spokespeople.
    Guildford will no doubt change over the next 20 years but it has always changed. Look on this map website,
    In 1811, Guildford didn’t stretch to York Road and Stoke was a village a fair walk north and Stoughton and Burpham didn’t exist at all. We are just living here at this time, it is up to us to embrace this ‘Guildford Plan’ and maybe help shape the borough. But please try to not ruin it.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 9, 2014 at 9:24 am

    The draft local plan was drafted following a ‘consultation’ with the public on the issues and options document. Out of 20,500 responses, the overwhelming response was that we don’t want encroachment on the green belt, and we do not want 16 of out 24 villages removed from the green belt.
    How was this response reflected in GBC’s draft plan? They still intend to remove the same villages from the green belt, and have even extended the proposed settlement boundaries, to allow as much development as possible.
    So much for ‘consultation’. It has been a sham! They have paid lip service to consultation, and carried on regardless with their own agenda. Their defence is that it cannot be a sham, because they have never run such a consultation before. Sorry? Perhaps GBC will tell us why they have an agenda which is so contrary to the wishes of the public?
    They are also now proposing to build housing at the rate of over 650 per annum, whereas the council took the previous government to court to win a number of 322. Why has this been so inflated? Because developers and their consultants have been consulted, and have told them this is what they want.
    GGG is currently running a petition to require GBC to reject the excessive housing targets. If you feel this target is wrong, please sign at:

  3. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    May 11, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Jules, If you read the Guildford Local Plan correctly, I am sure you will find as I did that the borough council do not propose to remove the villages from the green belt, but it is strategic areas within our villages that are proposed to be taken out of the green belt. Some villages will benefit from having the green belt protection when they didn’t before.

  4. Susan Parker Reply

    May 12, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Villages are indeed proposed for inset as Jules notes, so I think, Andrew, you may have misread the draft plan, sorry – see the map showing which villages are proposed for inset on page 14 of the Local Plan, plus see the list on page 48. Insetting means that the village is no longer “washed over” by the green belt, so there are fewer restrictions on the kind of building that is appropriate in the area.

    In addition to this, there are proposed enlargement of settlement boundaries, so that fields next to villages are no longer agricultural land or woodland but become building land.

    You can read the draft Local Plan here:—Appendix-2-Draft-Local-Planpdf/pdf/pdf214_1.pdf

    Some land near Ash and Tongham is now proposed to be included in the green belt, when it was previously land beyond the green belt. This will be subject to an inspector’s scrutiny. NPPF seems to indicate that there should not usually be net gain to the green belt so this probably means a loss of more green belt land elsewhere. It is very unlikely that we would be permitted to increase the net green belt in the borough.

    This document is a draft, subject to the scrutiny committee on Thursday and other council review. If you have immediate concerns, you can raise these with your councillors.

    After the councillors have commented, a revised draft Local Plan will be subject to public consultation for 12 weeks from 1 July. We will all have an opportunity to comment formally at that stage.

    Do be aware that GGG (Guildford Greenbelt Group) has raised the issue that the draft plan has too high a housing allocation, proposing 13,040 homes until 2031. We (along with all major residents’ groups) have noted that the draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment is flawed and inflates the actual need. The council’s own consultants have only given it “an amber light”. That SHMA number of 650 homes per year is also supposed to be subject to constraints and be adjusted, but GBC forgot to do this when they prepared the draft plan. Oops.

    Bit sloppy, chaps. I thought the planning department were paid to do this? I’m not.

    So the actual need is going to be a) lower per a properly calculated SHMA and b) adjusted subject to constraint (i.e. lower again). We don’t need 13,040 homes and this is demonstrable – if GBC did the sums right.

    We do need homes. The homes we need are smaller flats and small houses in the town centre – starter homes for younger people and key workers, plus some affordable homes close to major employment. Some of these should be kept as affordable in perpetuity (e.g. this could perhaps be done by tied homes for hospital workers, fire workers etc). Note that the local plan has wriggle room re affordable housing – if it is uneconomic, developers don’t have to build it. Well, that’s not impossible to demonstrate – and I think most developers might start working on some sums.. Not good enough either.

    There is enough brownfield land to meet all reasonable need for the foreseeable future – we have a lot of brownfield land (look at Walnut Tree Close and the area around North Street). We could improve the scruffy and run-down areas of the town centre by very well designed careful building (with great care about sight lines and views – no one want tower blocks, or garden-grabbing). People need decent small homes to start them on the housing ladder and there is enough brownfield land for this.

    But those aren’t the homes that developers want to build – they want to build executive home housing estates all over our countryside. It will mean an increase of urban sprawl so that south west London – which already has tentacles stretching towards Ashstead – creeps through Leatherhead, Bookham, Effingham, Horsley, Ockham, Clandon, Guildford, Normandy, Flexford, Tongham and Ash to Aldershot.
    We will all be living in outer suburbia, on the outer fringes of London, and the green belt will be cut to shreds. And the plan – as it stands- will start this.

    Susan Parker
    Chairman, Guildford Greenbelt Group

  5. Michael Bruton Reply

    May 12, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    At the Yvonne Arnaud/Eagle Radio discussion last week Cllr Mansbridge was asked, why having promised to protect the green belt in their 2011 election manifesto, Guildford Tories had now reneged on that promise. ‘Ah yes…but the Government has since changed its policies’ he replied A neat excuse for the Tories abandoning their written promises.

    In an earlier ill tempered email to a borough resident, Cllr Mansbridge blamed everyone but his local party for the council’s predicament. He blamed his council predecessors, the central Tory government – and even took a swipe at my MP, Sir Paul Beresford. Having forwarded that email to Sir Paul, I had a delightful response from my MP in which he easily demolishes Cllr Mansbridge’s arguments. My advice to Cllr Mansbridge is that if one is in a bad mood – it is unwise to press the e-mail ‘send’ button!

    For the record, the Government has not changed its policy on the green belt. In different letters to both Anne Milton MP and Paul Beresford MP, the planning minister, Nick Boles MP lays great stress on the need to protect the green belt and the Surrey Hills AONB. He states that the green belt should be built on only in very ‘exceptional’ circumstances and that the bar for ‘exceptional’ is very very high indeed. But of course Cllr Mansbridge chooses to ignore such letters.

    Most people support the building of a reasonable number of homes under the Local Plan – within Guildford town and the countryside. But for some reason the Sturgeon-Juneja-Mansbridge triumvirate are determined to hand over much of Guildford’s green belt and countryside to the concrete mixer and bulldozer. Guildford’s Tories plan to permit twice the number of homes per annum that other Surrey boroughs are suggesting or have agreed in their plans. Woking for example – 292 homes per annum v Guildford’s 650 per annum. The latter leading to a 25% increase in the borough’s housing numbers and population over the life of the plan.

    Guildford Tories have reneged on their promises.It is likely now that in the 2015 borough elections there will be a number of ‘independent – save the green belt’ candidates standing. I feel badly let down and cheated even, by the Tories for breaking their election promises of 2011. I am particularly disappointed by the voting pattern/ seeming silence by the three Horsley borough councillors on the green belt issue.
    I gather that none of them will be standing for re-election in 2015? Why might that be? I wonder how electors will respond in 2015 with the choice between moderate housing numbers offered by ‘independent’ candidates (still higher than other Surrey boroughs) and the wrecking of Guildford town and the villages by the incumbent Tories?

    A ‘new broom’ council might well be in place before the Local Plan has been submitted to an inspector at a public inquiry – and therefore might be able to reverse Guildford’s looming tragedy.There was a time when Guildford was a well managed and led borough – with David Watts as chief executive and Cllr Hodges as Leader. But now?

    Developers will be salivating at the prospects of building expensive executive homes on Guildford’s green fields – far more profitable of course than building on brownfield/previously used land. Guildford Tories too will be salivating at the prospect of money from extra council tax, the Community Infrastructure Levy and the New Homes Bonus.
    However, there are many people across the borough within Guildford town and from Ash to Shere and from Puttenham to Wisley who may be able to frustrate council attempts to wreck the borough and to ensure that our town and countryside is handed on in a good condition to future generations.

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 13, 2014 at 9:54 am


    I suggest you read the following passage from the draft plan, page 50.

    “All our villages, except Ash Green, and our major previously developed sites are currently
    washed over by the Green Belt designation. National planning policy states that only those
    villages whose open character make an important contribution to the openness of the Green
    Belt should be included in the Green Belt. Those that do not should instead be inset, or
    removed, from the Green Belt. It also states that we should not include land in the Green
    Belt which is unnecessary to keep permanently open. It is important to stress that whilst the
    Green Belt policy would no longer apply, other development control policies will still serve to
    restrict any inappropriate development in these places, including for instance conservation
    area status.”

    This proves that inset means removed from the GB.

    Removed is removed, however they try to dress it up.

    Given the public told them overwhelmingly, in response to the issues and options consultation, that we do not want our villages removed from the GB. Perhaps they can tell us why they have so totally ignored this input? Let’s hope they pay more tan lip service to the consultation on the draft LP!

    BTW, only one ward is proposed to have a net increase in GB, rather than a loss, Ash and Tongham, which just happens, I’m sure by total coincidence, the manor of one Stephen Mansbridge, Council Leader.


  7. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    May 13, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t need your apologies Susan, as I said before there is not one village that is proposed to be taken out of the green belt, only areas within villages. If their published maps are to believed?.—Appendix-2—Appendix-G—Mapspdf/pdf/pdf36.pdf

    I am not for excessive development but do believe that this town should play its part in finding homes for the young people of this borough along with people migrating to the area. I am sure that there is hardly anyone born in this borough after 1984 that will have been able to afford a house here, most will still be living at home with their parents with little chance of that improving until Guildford and the other towns in the south address the shortfall.

  8. Jim Allen Reply

    May 14, 2014 at 1:16 am

    We folks a very interssting evening… and the draft is an interesting read. Green belt houses should be for green belt workers. So I have no sympathy for those who will be inset rather than washed over. It is time these villages took their fair share of the development – too long that wallet and knowledge has forced the victims of these true nimbies to build on any space as long as it’s not theirs.

    Just to highlight some facts – Burpham at the last tranch took 1,500 houses doubling it in size and will have an additional 2,100 tacked on the side. I hear nothing of this from commentators or the press because it is farm land and not ANOB, yet it is still green belt, and the ‘other side’ of designated ancient woodland with tree preservation orders on it since 1949.
    I hear nothing of the ‘insane’ road across the flood plain and green belt and the 1,000 plus homes at Slyfield part in the green belt. But that’s ok. Or is it? If one wants to object the first thing to do instad of picking numbers out of thin air is to provide the statistics to back up your numbers. Then accept something has to give and spread it evenly across the borough.

    And before you all shout and scream, the only statistical number of housing need, not what I have seen, is for 40 homes per year – world population explosion until 2100.

    If we have balance, we can survive. If we have too much wallet and knowledge and no compassion and understanding we will fail as a community. Let not the draft plan split the community.

  9. Susan Parker Reply

    May 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

    This is factually incorrect.

    Please read the maps and look at the key.
    Click on the link in the letter above, and scroll down – there are a series of maps.

    Villages are being taken out of the green belt. Not all of them, hence Andrew Backhurst’s confusion, but about 16 villages in the borough – see the list on page 48 of the local plan.

    As you scroll down the series of maps in the link in Andrew Backhurst’s letter above, the first you will find that is being removed is Chilworth. You can see it clearly because the village appears white while the surrounding area is marked green.

    There are also changes to settlement boundaries. This is the difference between the original boundary (marked with a red dotted line) and the new proposed boundary (marked with a solid blue line). Yes, most villages are being extended too.

    Some extensions are huge, and there are large tracts of countryside not adjacent to villages – look at (in rough map order) East and West Horsley, Effingham, former Wisley airfield, land at Worplesdon, the “safeguarded” (i.e. will be used soon) land linking Normandy and Flexford, West Clandon, West Horsley. Added up this is a huge amount of land in the borough’s countryside, and it will affect the quality of life for everyone in the borough.

    We do need some housing. But this isn’t a choice between green fields and housing, and this is a misrepresentation. Enough land is available in the town to provide housing to meet reasonable needs, if the council had the will to resist developers and promote brownfield use (at lower profit for both developers and the council in terms of its New Homes Bonus). We don’t need to build on the green belt.

    This is a different choice between profit for developers (and the council) and protecting our countryside for the future.

  10. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    May 14, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Andrew, I’m keen, as many others would be, to understand specifically which villages have only areas within villages taken out of the green belt? The way I, and many others, are reading the draft Local Plan and the issues and options document is that villages either remain washed over entirely (with boundaries changes) or totally inset many together with changes to settlement boundaries some of which are very substantial.

    In my opinion, insetting a village isn’t a problem per se, it’s changing of the village boundary to incorporate land owned by developers on the edges of villages is the issue.
    Next time, when a developer wants to build, the boundary will be changed again. These areas will not supply affordable housing as the wiggle clause of economics wil be used to just develop more unaffordable houses. This is the only way the developers can pay the tariffs to local government etc and afford the prices the landowners want per acre.

    Housing is needed, it just needs to be in the right place and in the right order of scale for local need.

  11. Chaz Folkes Reply

    May 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    The problem of the shortfall of affordable housing, both to buy and to rent, is simply not addressed by the the draft plan. The idea seems to be that large developers will fulfil the borough’s housing needs which is wishful thinking on a scale close to negligence.
    There is no financial incentive for these firms to build the one- and two-bedroom flats and maisonettes that are needed for people starting out in life. The fact that the plan gives them the ability to get out of building these properties, as outlined by Susan Parker in the comment above, makes it increasingly unlikely for us to end up with the houses that we need, while in the meantime land that we would wish to see saved is used for higher end property.

    The priority must lie in the people who are being priced out of the borough, so many of whom have grown up here. We also need to consider infrastructure and traffic. With these in mind, a push to town centre living would be more sensible, we have a large area in the middle of Guildford that has been neglected for years, as would increasing the housing density inside the villages. The latter might entail demolishing some properties as they come onto the market and rebuilding them with a large number smaller houses on the same plot. Toxic to some, but surely more agreeable than concreting over the remaining land between villages to building houses that are unaffordable for the people most in need of them.

  12. Victoria Cole Reply

    May 14, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I have to say that I am very concerned about the motivations of the council and think they have forgotten that they are actually supposed to represent their constituents.
    Susan and Jules: thank you for again highlighting the planning issues and the council’s desire to destroy what makes Guildford such an attractive place to live.
    The council should focus on developing brownfield sites, of which we have many.
    The council says it wants Guildford to grow, but charges local businesses extortionate rents so we end up with a high street lacking individuality and empty shops.
    As well as never getting anything done, how long has the debacle of North Street development gone on for and the construction of Waitrose?
    I agree we need more housing but it must be suitable and properly supported by providing the right infrastructure of schools and hospitals etc, which I have not seen addressed in their plans yet.

  13. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 15, 2014 at 8:33 am


    There is only one interpretation of the following passage from the draft Local Plan.

    “…villages whose open character make an important contribution to the openness of the green
    belt should be included in the green belt. Those that do not should instead be inset, or
    removed, from the green belt.”

    They go on to determine that villages with trees etc around them by definition do not contribute to the openness of the green belt, and then lists the 16 villages to be removed. Imagine that, trees in the countryside, who would have thought it?

  14. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    May 17, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Tongham is council leader Stephen Mansbridge’s ward and it is also where I have lived for 20 years, (although I have to say I have never seen him in the village).

    Tongham has never had the protection of the green belt, but its countryside has always been shown the same respect as the land within the green belt by Guildford Borough Council. Unlike many villages around Guildford, Tongham works, and by that I mean it has a row of shops, two pubs, two churches, a garage, a school and a number of community centres.

    Why does it work when in most local villages the shops, garages and pubs have long been replaced by brown field housing developments? I believe it is because we have had regular small developments over the years allowing a mixture of age groups into the village as well as various sizes of houses.

    We haven’t a large population or a main road running through the village but the village is well designed with the shops, pubs and church in the centre of the village and the houses are built close by with only limited ribbon development.

    The way the Guildford Plan designs for the future looks to me is that they are looking at the successful Tongham community model and are trying replicate it across the borough.

    If they succeed in that, in my mind I don’t think future generations will complain.

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