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Guildford Council’s Executive Recommends Updating the Local Plan

Published on: 27 Jan, 2024
Updated on: 30 Jan, 2024

By Martin Giles

Guildford’s  Local Plan is to be updated, subject to the almost certain agreement of the next full Guildford Borough Council meeting on February 21.

The council’s Liberal Democrat Executive agreed on Thursday to recommend the update of the Local Plan: Strategies and Sites (LPSS), which was adopted controversially in April 2019, just days before the borough council election in May that year in which the Conservatives, who had promoted the plan, were heavily defeated.

Updated: Please see comment from leader of GBC’s Labour group below.

The decision follows a review, legally required within five years of the plan’s adoption. A GBC spokesperson said: “It’s also vital for us to keep our Local Plan up to date to create a thriving and sustainable community that addresses the evolving needs and aspirations of our residents.

“If an update is approved, we will look in greater detail at our evidence including the housing, retail and commercial needs of our borough.”

Earlier calls for a review were turned down during the previous Lib Dem-R4GV partnership administration at GBC. A majority of councillors supported the view that there existed a significant risk that the housing target could be increased if a review was conducted.

Cllr Fiona White

Lead councillor for Planning, Fiona White, says: “To be effective and deliver the right results, Local Plans need to be kept up to date. The review report determines our adopted LPSS needs updating to continue to meet the needs of our community.

“There have been a lot of changes to the way we live since the existing plan was adopted in 2019 which is why it needs to be updated to reflect the way we run our lives now.

“I want to reassure residents that this does not mean our existing Local Plan will become redundant should the council agree to an update process. It will remain the primary consideration in determining development applications in the borough.

“An update to the plan needs to be based on evidence. We are in the very early stages of deciding what evidence we need and the best way of gathering it, but regular updates and any significant developments will be communicated promptly. We are committed to transparency at every stage of this process.

“We understand the importance of keeping our residents informed about timelines and key milestones. I encourage residents to stay engaged and, at the appropriate time, to share your thoughts with us.”

If approved at full council, the first phase of the process will consider the budget, timetable and scope of work required to carry out a Local Plan update. This phase is expected to be complete before the end of this year, by which time more clarity on government’s approach to planning reform is expected. A report detailing these findings will come back to the GBC Executive for review and approval

Christian Holliday

Christian Holliday, chairman of Guildford Conservatives, said “We have been calling for a review of the Local Plan for some time, so we welcome this decision.

“The 2019 Local Plan complied with national planning policy in place at the time, however, the necessary infrastructure to support the planned development on allocated sites has not come forward and the plan should be reviewed in light of this.

“In addition, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published its revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework in December, which creates greater incentives for local plans to be reviewed every five years and gives local authorities greater flexibility to plan for fewer or higher number of homes.

“An up-to-date local plan will provide better protection from unplanned development. We hope the update will now be carried out promptly so that Guildford can continue to be assured of protection against inappropriate development.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Cllr Joss Bigmore, leader of the Residents for Guildford & Villages party, criticised the length of time the update will take. He said: “This is not news, the Local Plan is clearly out of date and needs updating.

“But unsurprisingly, given the general lethargy of this administration, they are already planning to take until the end of the year before even having a plan for the update, let alone actually delivering the new policies we need.

“There is a very real risk we will have unplanned development on greenfield sites in the coming months (as is happening in Waverley under another Lib Dem administration) as using the new ‘Standard Method’ [the formula for calculating new housing numbers] it looks unlikely that we have a five-year housing supply, [as required by the National Planning Policy Framework].

“We should be preparing evidence of constraints such that we can justify deviating from the Standard Method immediately, unless the LDs want more housing, which if true, they should be honest about and come out and say it.”

Cllr James Walsh

The leader of the Labour group at GBC James Walsh said: “We welcome the timely review of the Local Plan because things change over five years and we need to make sure that what gets built in Guildford is right for Guildford.

“That said, this should not be seen as an opportunity to reduce the number of homes built where those homes are needed. We need new housing for those leaving their family homes for the first time and also for those who want to move to Guildford – in essence, we want to remain a thriving, competitive town and not a stagnating museum piece in the heart of Surrey.”

“It is absolutely crucial that our infrastructure is updated to accommodate any new development; that new developments – including social housing – are built to the highest-possible standard regardless of tenure; and that new housing is provided across the borough and not just crammed into the town centre.

“Labour will continue to push for more social housing in Guildford and against those who claim that a proportionate amount of social housing is somehow “not viable” within multimillion-pound development schemes.”

See also: Guildford Needs A New Local Plan Not Just a Review

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Responses to Guildford Council’s Executive Recommends Updating the Local Plan

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 28, 2024 at 8:37 am

    I’m afraid it is too late for the Horsleys, as with 12 other villages, which the GBC tories robbed of their greenbelt protection. This was based on false data, and a refusal to observe ‘constraints’, such as harm to the environment etc, as allowed under the NPPF. Our infrastructure is beyond repair.

    Let’s hope at least the review does away with Wisley and the other ‘strategic sites’, which are not needed, or wanted.

  2. H Trevor Jones Reply

    January 28, 2024 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t know about “green belt protection” around villages, but I know we do need more housing, mostly small and relatively cheap apartments rather than big houses.

    I’ve lived nearly 34 years in Guildford Park Avenue, which has seen a little infilling new build in that time, and I think has room for a little bit more if anyone comes up with the money needed up-front, and I guess there’s scope elsewhere for more infilling in Guildford and its surrounding villages.

    Multiple small apartments rather than big houses should also make easier the provision of cost-effective public transport to avoid the need for more cars on the roads.

  3. Alan Judge Reply

    January 29, 2024 at 12:26 pm

    Why didn’t Cllr Bigmore do anything about it when he was in charge?

    I notice he is still taking shots at everyone else.

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