Fringe Box



Opinion: Grow or Die – Is That The Real Choice for Guildford?

Published on: 20 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 12 Feb, 2023

Grow Growth

By Martin Giles

In last week’s debate on the council budget, the leader of Guildford Borough Council, Stephen Mansbridge, said that he was concerned that growth was not seen by some “to be the Guildford way”.

‘Grow or die’ has become almost a mantra at Millmead, repeated so often that it has become accepted as a fact and those who oppose it ridiculed as if they were Luddites. But are they all really Luddites, or are they, at least some of them, more akin to the boy who said: “The king has no clothes on!”?

Let us take a step back. Why do we need growth at all? Well we certainly want to maintain, and preferably improve, our standards of living, our wealth and thereby our happiness. That is a good thing, it motivates most of our effort.

Opinion Logo 2To improve or protect our standards, some economic growth is necessary, if only to keep pace with inflation or the retail price index. Preferably it should be higher than that so that the population becomes better off, the whole population that is, although we should take care not to measure well-being only in monetary terms.

But growth should not necessitate, as seems to be taken for granted, the inexorable development of surrounding countryside nor absorption of an ever increasing population.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. Edward Abbey

I don’t think that is what most of us desire and, hopefully, that is not what our councillors want either, but they need to spell out their ideas and they need to be sure they are based on what most of the town’s population really want.

I imagine most, if not all, would want growth in the town’s prosperity, eg income per head, but do they also want more fields built on, more roads constructed and more people with yet more cars? I doubt it.*

I don’t think that increasing the standard of living for those who live in the town does inevitably means more people and more development. Some perhaps, and there is much necessary redevelopment that the town requires without increasing its boundaries. The redevelopment of North Street, which the council seems to be progressing, is a good example.

But any expansion and development require rigorous control, control that is difficult to enforce, by the way (for all the Tory claims of ‘Localism’) with our current planning system, when inspectors from Bristol can easily overturn planning refusals made locally.

Those who are calling for growth must do three things:

  • Explain fully what they mean by ‘growth’, who will be affected and how (how many more people, houses, and roads?).
  • Stop the simplistic claptrap, insulting those who are not convinced by labelling them all as ‘reactionary’ or ‘anti-progress’.
  • Fully engage with the population of Guildford and ensure that whatever policy is agreed it has real democratic support.

I don’t want plans drawn up for us by a few people who think they know best, however sure they are of themselves. I want plans drawn up that represent the aspirations of most – ie the majority of those who care about our town and live or work in it.

Of course, that also means that the rest of us must give our views and exercise our civic and democratic rights. Be sure you do.

What do you want? Have your say by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below. A name is required but your email address will not be shown.

Next week Council Leader Stephen Mansfield will be interviewed by The Guildford Dragon NEWS and explain his vision of growth for Guildford.

* According to some reports, England is the most densely populated country in Europe (excluding small territories such as Malta and Monaco). The UK, as whole, is shown in several lists of population density to be behind only Belgium and the Netherlands. The South East of England is the most densely populated region of the UK.

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