Fringe Box



Opinion: Greenbelt Group Is Wrong – We Must Be Broad Minded and Holistic

Published on: 3 Oct, 2015
Updated on: 6 Oct, 2015
Cllr Stephen Mansbridge

Cllr Stephen Mansbridge

By Stephen Mansbridge

Leader of Guildford Borough Council

Susan Parker’s comments [in the article Borough Council Launches Town Centre Masterplan Consultation] are symptomatic of the innate selfishness of the green belt movement. They show a lack of sensitivity for the need to improve our broad business offering, which has been in hidden decline.

Cllr Parker [leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group] seems to be myopically focused on squeezing as much residential development into an already over-burdened town because she finds most forms of development beyond the town to be unacceptable to her and her supporters.

We must be more broad minded and holistic in our approach. The electorate on 7th May this year elected an increased Conservative majority. Having been placed in a strong position, we need to represent all people fairly and well. We will utilise all brownfield sites, but most will take 10 years to deliver.

Opinion Logo 2We will not intensify the town and urban areas with inappropriate developments to appease the greenbelt movement; instead we will take a measured and balanced approach – providing excellent development opportunities in appropriate locations throughout our borough.

We value our countryside and our heritage hugely, but places have to evolve and change. Cllr Parker represents the surprised “no change” brigade, who are blinkered to the harsh realities of prosperity in an increasingly competitive environment. Look at Farnborough, Woking, Basingstoke and Runnymede, to name a few of our neighbours, where you see tenacious hands grasping for great prizes.

We have the prize and it is ours to lose. We have to do much to keep it and we will. I have sat in meetings with green belt activists where they are unconcerned with the town or the realities that over 100,000 of us face: “I don’t shop in Guildford… why do I need to go there?”

All views are important, but there is a distinction between influence and a misunderstanding of democracy. We were recently elected to make decisions by a very clear majority. Public consultation should influence, but not decide. Democratically elected members are there to represent and to decide.

The Town Centre Masterplan is a start point to engage public enthusiasm in a developing an exciting place. We do not want to make Guildford a shadow of what it has been, as Cllr Parker’s views would advocate. This is our market town, our amazing place which has a range of issues built up over many years, which now need to be resolved.

As leader, all I want is to see our borough flourish: in business, agriculture, education, healthcare and, most of all, continued prosperity. Cllr Parker and her green belt movement presents a housing first in urban environments solution, which studiously ignores a panoply of factors which most Guildfordians must surely hold dear.

Her comments are self-centred, ill thought through and are not made with the wider benefit of the population of Guildford Borough in mind.

My hope is for the evolution of our place – both rural and urban – into being the best place to live in the South East, if not the whole country. We have the outstanding Surrey Hills and many heritage sites, we have space as a vital theme and the top university in the UK. Wow – let’s celebrate and not denigrate, and let’s work out an amazing future as our imaginative Victorian forefathers did.

Let’s be bold, be excited and let’s continue and fuel the superb Guildford story of prosperity, excellence and continuous success.

Share This Post

Responses to Opinion: Greenbelt Group Is Wrong – We Must Be Broad Minded and Holistic

  1. Adrian atkinson Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Is this predermination?

  2. George Potter Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    While Stephen Mansbridge does have a point in that GGG did not win the council election it’s also worth noting that neither did the Conservatives as they got less than 50% of the popular vote and therefore can only claim to represent the largest minority in Guildford, not the majority.

    The fact that the Conservatives have a majority of seats in Guildford is purely a reflection of our broken voting system rather than evidence of majority support.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    This consultation and discussion with the public will be of little worth if the rational and realistic way forward is not accepted. This ‘I know best’ is unhelpful as is the ‘we consulted’ when the reality is ‘we told them what they were going to get like it or not’

    The democratic process includes the neighbourhood planning process but all the time GBC refuse to disclose, even under FOI and the Localism act, their strategic intent then their consultation will never seem genuine.

  4. Peta Malthouse Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    What a horrible article from Cllr Mansbridge.

    There are many diverse views concerning what is right for Guildford. All of us love our town and are concerned for the future.

    ‘Innate selfishness’ is not an appropriate comment to make about a position that many people share. We can be successful and have an invigorated economy in Guildford with more than adequate housing by carefully using our resources and protecting our valuable green belt.

    Other local authorities have rightly told their electorates that the figure for housing need is a raw figure which then has to be taken against the constraints of green belt land, amonst other things.

    That is what government guidance states and it is apparently government policy. Guildford Borough Council under Cllr Mansbridge’s leadership proposes wholesale development of the green belt yet the CPRE [Campaign for the Protection of Rural England] has pointed out that there are more than enough brownfield sites in Guildford to meet the assessed housing need.

    I wish to make a plea for a responsible and adult debate about how best to use our valuable assets please now that the new Local Plan is being drafted. However, I can have no confidence, having read this piece, that Cllr Mansbridge is prepared to listen to any opinion other than his own.

  5. Brian Miller Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    What a PR-themed loaded opinion. I’m reminded of my working days when organisations had mission statements.

    I find it insulting of the council leader to be so dismissive of other democratically elected parties.

  6. Lisa Wright Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Mr Mansbridge speaks of “business” and “prizes”, is that really what the public want? Where are the intangible benefits of Guildford, the ones that are not published on a spreadsheet?

    The elected Conservatives would do well to remember that they pledged, mostly due to GGG and public pressure, to protect the green belt.

    Sue Parker is to be applauded for standing up to some of the behaviour displayed in the council. In a few short months more has been done in GBC to review governance, public consultation, openness and planning than has been done in decades. GGG has pulled people from all walks of life to stand together and at last say no to the Executive.

    Two separate petitions to remove the executive form of governance from GBC are now being collated which proves the general public are fed up with the current system.

    Let’s remember that Guildford is also home to species other than humans, all of which would prefer to breathe clean air, enjoy the peace and tranquility of open countryside and spend time with their families as opposed to sitting in a polluted, concreted city of traffic.

    Sadly, Mr Mansbridge seems to be chasing the egotistical position of ‘best’, wealthiest and biggest, when the majority of people strive for happiness over prosperity.

    It’s a shame that Mr Mansbridge does not embrace the conflicting ideas of others and prefers his personal trajectory. Any good management consultant would concur that debate, due diligence and evaluation of evidence would provide Guildford and its current residents with the best possible Local Plan and future happiness.

    I can only hope that the next draft of the Guildford Local Plan will be open to full public scrutiny and everyone’s ideas and comments are acted upon.

    Perhaps Cllr Mansbridge is now finding there is too much heat in the GBC Kitchen?

  7. David Watson Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    To me one of the best aspects of the Town Centre Masterplan is the forward vision to plan for open spaces along side the riverfront.

    This vision may take many years to evolve but I bet in a hundred years the residents of a probably much expanded Guildford will thank the visionaries for this forethought.

    As towns expand over the years it is so important to have these wonderful green spaces protected in perpetuity. Councillor Mansbridge is right to fight for this because it is so important to get it right and I’m sure as the consultation progresses the people will get behind this.

    I feel if the GGG had got to power in the last elections we would be looking at a totally different scenario of tower blocks in Guildford particularly alongside the river in Walnut Tree Close and this opportunity would be lost to a concrete jungle.

  8. Ben Paton Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Example is generally considered to be a more effective form of leadership than exhortation. Nobody is taken in by hyperbole and fluffy PR telling them to ‘be bold’, ‘be excited’.

    Instead of giving us a surfeit of upbeat adjectives (‘excellence’, ‘exciting’, ‘amazing’, ‘success’), its about time Mr Mansbridge followed his own advice about being ‘broad minded’ and ‘holistic’ instead of ‘tenaciously’ sticking to his failed trajectory.

  9. Roland McKinney Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 11:10 am

    In his comment above, David Watson sets out what he believes to be the Guildford Greenbelt Group’s vision for Guildford – large tower blocks overlooking the Wey along Walnut Tree Close. In this he is completely incorrect. GGG would dearly like to see GBC plan for (and on the large area of land they own, deliver) a linear green park on the river bank, with associated housing, along Walnut Tree Close and Woodbridge Meadows.

    Surely Cllr Mansbridge is incorrect too, in his assertion that it would take 10 years to deliver on brownfield sites in the town. If he truly believes this he should resign and may way for someone who can deliver in a reasonable period of time. The government has set aside a considerable amount of money to help deliver housing on brownfield sites quickly – have GBC applied for this?

    Private sector developers are already building or planning apartment blocks both in this area and at the station. Amongst GBC’s extensive land holdings in Woodbridge Meadows is an empty site, which has been empty for some time – and the neighbouring block, also owned by GBC, is being used as a temporary surface car park. A private sector developer could deliver housing on these sites within three years, and GBC should be able to match this performance.

    The problem with current developments in this area is that they are piecemeal, whereas they should be to a plan for the entire area – and if GGG had their way there would be no tower blocks, but there would be much needed town centre housing integrated with a linear green park along the banks of the river. There is no reason why much of this vision cannot be delivered within 10 years.

  10. Penny Panman Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Hang on. The ‘innate selfishness of the greenbelt movement’?

    When Cllr Mansbridge and the Conservatives were wooing us before the election I thought they promised to protect the green belt?

  11. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    As usual, Mr Mansbridge is trying to dismiss any opinion other than his own. It is about time that he actually listened to what Guildford residents are saying. It reminds me of that awful phrase from a few years ago “I hear what you say”, which I hated at the time, and, as we all knew, was intended to belittle the other party.

    Mr Mansbridge needs to realise that anybody, including the GGG is entitled to criticise his plans, discuss alternatives or propose other solutions to the Guildford housing situation.

    As we all know, if the students had sufficient accommodation at a reasonable cost then many properties would be released in the town centre for those in need of cheap housing.

    Meanwhile, common sense would say that if you build town centre housing, then fewer people will be driving cars to work – or to the station, if they are commuters. If the houses are attractive and affordable then people will want to live near their work.

    Bearing these facts in mind it may be possible to leave the green belt undeveloped and keep the beautiful parts of Surrey undefiled for the benefit of all future generations.

  12. Bernard Parke Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Look at Woking as an example for Guildford to follow with its overbearing station development

    Woking seems to have a town centre transplant ever twenty years or so.

    As for Basingstoke perhaps we should remember the loss of its character when it was subject to a massive assault in the seventies.

  13. Peta Malthouse Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    I was so upset by the disgraceful tone of the piece from Cllr Mansbridge that I am commenting again.

    Susan Parker is clearly a fine woman who has informed herself on behalf of her voters and continues to put forward the views that she and her party encountered whilst campaigning. Many of my friends and associates voted Conservative this time because the government made it clear that their policy is to protect the green belt.

    Cllr Mansbridge attacks Susan Parker because she speaks up for that policy and his article is a means of attacking the green belt.

    I too no longer shop in Guildford. It is not a nice place to go. It has access issues for disabled and older people and is no longer a vibrant town. The parking charges are too high, the space is not owned by anyone after the shops close because no one lives there and therefore is less ‘safe’.

    Our town planners would do well to look at the wealth of government analysis carried out in the 50s 60s and 70s to discover what makes vibrant and safe communities.

    If Guildford is to survive against the odds as a town centre with retail then it will not be able to simply put all it’s eggs in the basket of attracting well known stores. People need to be attracted to Guildford for a day not an hour or two. All the borough’s policies seem to go the other way.

  14. Garry Walton Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    If you win an election based on a ‘trust us’ manifesto commitment to protect the green belt, why would you be so vehemently opposed to Cllr Susan Parker and what she and GGG stand for?

    Cllr Stephen Mansbridge is setting the stage for selling off some of our green belt and a cynical breech of some election promises.

    No wonder he is red faced and embarrassed by Susan Parker’s honesty and consistency of message.

  15. David Roberts Reply

    October 5, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Given his defence of the convicted criminal Monika Juneja and her misbegotten draft Local Plan, Cllr Mansbridge would do well to adopt a more sober style and avoid personal attacks on other councillors.

    Remember, it was he (and Juneja) who conjured the Guildford Greenbelt Group into existence through their pro-development policies, including the proposal to remove 16 out of 24 of Guildford’s villages from the green belt. He is entirely to blame for their electoral success.

    Talking of which, a net increase of one councillor was a feeble result for the Guildford Tories given the national collapse of the Lib Dems, and reflects deep unhappiness within the local party at Cllr Mansbridge’s volatile leadership. Even some of his own party group refused to vote for his reappointment as council leader. If Cllr Mansbridge now returns to his lamentable pattern of invective against his critics, Conservative support will continue to dwindle.

    That would be no bad thing. One-party states are bad for everyone, whether it is Cllr Mansbridge or anyone else. Like them or loathe them, GGG represents an effective new force in Guildford politics. If they are getting under Cllr Mansbridge’s skin it can only be good for democracy.

  16. Janette Panton Reply

    October 5, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Cllr Mansbridge would do well to remember the Tory vow to protect the green belt leading up to the election. I still have the pre-election leaflet posted through letter boxes in Worplesdon vowing to do just that.

    Are we now to assume this was just propaganda? Would the Tory councillors have fared so well if they hadn’t made this vow to the electorate? I very much doubt it.

    It seems to me Cllr Mansbridge is showing his true colours and is now proving he is not listening as he stated after the last Local Plan consultation.

    Does he really want to do the best by Guildford? I think not. If he did, he would ensure the Tory promise to protect the green belt is upheld.

    Yes the Conservatives got the majority of the vote of those who voted. What about the silent majority Cllr Mansbridge is normally so keen to say he is listening to. Those who are so disillusioned they didn’t turn out to vote. His continued arrogance, ignorance and disrespect is appalling.

    In the May 2015 borough council election the Conservatives got 47 per cent of the popular vote and 35 of the 48 seats. Ed

  17. Dave Middleton Reply

    October 5, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Perhaps Cllr Mansbridge’s opinion piece would read better if he simply gave us the facts and the council’s proposals for the future of the town?

    I find the personal attack on Cllr Parker that runs through his piece rather distasteful, to say the least. Let’s try to leave the party politics out of it for a while.

  18. John Robson Reply

    October 6, 2015 at 9:43 am

    How bizarre that the leader of a Conservative administration would seek to attack an elected councillor for merely seeking to debate and defend Guildford’s heritage. How refreshing for a serving councillor to depart from the flock and not accede to the bully boy tactics of the Executive when it doesn’t suit their “trajectory”.

    If only we had more councillors who maintained their principles longer than it took for the ink to dry on their electioneering pamphlets.

    Is this the same Conservative administration that felt so violently opposed to development on the green belt that it took the Labour Government to court in 2010 to prevent it happening?

    What has changed in such a short space of time? Well aside from the Conservative party’s inability to manage the spiralling deficit, produce an economic policy that regenerates all parts of the UK not just the South East and obviously the unmentionable, to have a coherent, sustainable policy on migration.

    Furthermore, whilst I wander lonely through this cloud of myopia the facts still remain hazy. One minute the Conservatives tell us that Surrey and Guildford is an economic powerhouse, the economy is booming, record number of jobs created, the next minute, when it suits the “innate selfishness” of the developer agenda, we’re told we’re now staring into the abyss and there will be financial meltdown unless we sanction the building of 15,000 “Dave and Boris” executive houses on Guildford’s green and pleasant land.

    The price you will pay for a few stereotypical riverside aluminium tables and chairs, more shops and offices and a tweak of the gyratory racetrack will suffocate the life out of our already over-burdened town, but the members of the Executive who talk the talk and live on the periphery of the borough, won’t be walking the walk into Guildford town centre on a regular basis, will they?

  19. Stuart Barnes Reply

    October 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I am afraid that a lot of our previous concerns regarding the green belt and the town are now beginning to look out of date.

    Recent reports state that the Lord Adonis (now brought in by our so called Conservative government) is talking of doubling the size of Guildford by more building. You can be sure that such building would not be for the benefit of local people.

    All parties should band together to fight such frightening possibilities.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *