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Guildford Green Belt Groups Gets Green Light For Political Party Status

Published on: 13 Nov, 2014
Updated on: 13 Nov, 2014

A pressure group fighting to save the green belt in the wake of Guildford’s Draft Local Plan will be fielding candidates in upcoming elections.

The Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) has been given political party status by the Electoral Commission, which means it can now campaign, endorse candidates and will not be prevented from commenting on political matters in the run up to an election.

The countryside around Guildford must be saved according to the Guildford Greenbelt Group. This view from the Chantries looks across Shalford towards Godalming.

The countryside around Guildford must be saved according to the Guildford Greenbelt Group. This view from the Chantries looks across Shalford towards Godalming.

However, GGG maintains it only has a local emphasis, and is not a national party. It states that it is not affiliated with any other party and its focus will be on “helping to resolve issues from a local perspective and is completely committed to the borough of Guildford and its people”.

Susan Parker

Susan Parker

Susan Parker, GGG leader, said: “We believe in protection of our countryside. This will benefit all members of society, whether they live in the town or countryside, or in the London metropolitan area.

“The beautiful countryside in which Guildford is set makes it one of the best places to live in South East England, and it is a wonderful place to visit and for those in the urban area to come to for relaxation. But it is subject to enormous development pressures. In all our interests we need to protect our countryside.

“We need to stand up for our countryside and so we will be standing at the next election.”

GGG’s constitution states that brownfield land should be used for building before any green fields; housing numbers must reflect real local need, not developers’ wishes; existing legal protection for the green bely and areas of outstanding natural beauty should stand; green fields matter – they are not just building land; the Metropolitan Green Belt is for the benefit of all.

GGG claims that it is supported by many individuals and a large number of campaigning groups, residents’ associations and some parish councils across the whole borough of Guildford, in both the rural and the urban area.

It was formed in December 2013 in response to the Issues and Options document prepared by Guildford Borough Council. It claims to have “led the most coherent and vocal protest against the Draft Local Plan and has led a number of public petitions resulting in public debates in the council chamber. These have varied from topics relating to the protection of the green belt, discussion of the council’s strategy, consideration of specific sites, traveller housing and elements of the local plan, including the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and the housing number proposed for the borough. These petitions have led to a more informed level of debate both among existing councillors and in the wider public domain”.

Since its foundation, GGG has campaigned against the basis on which the SHMA was constructed and the conclusions of that report.  GGG has complained, in conjunction with other local groups, about a number of errors in calculation within the SHMA

It has also campaigned about other flawed areas within the evidence base of the local plan, including the Green Belt and Countryside Study.

In its latest statement, GGG said: “Members of GGG have formed the view that it is necessary to stand as a party at the next local council elections because it is only the political process that will allow GGG to participate in decision-making, present detailed views within the council chamber and influence the preparation of the local plan. A formal application to stand as a political party was submitted in July 2014 and has now been approved.

“GGG considers that it is more democratic for all councillors, from all parties to have equal voting rights on decision making, and has started a petition for a referendum, run by a separate company Local Democracy Ltd, for a return to the committee system. If 5,243 local voters sign this petition then there will be such a referendum, and it is likely to be most cost-effective and administratively convenient to hold this at the next election.

“GGG does consider that there is a need for local affordable housing, to meet local needs. GGG supports the building of a number of homes in the borough (including affordable housing). GGG would consider that around 300 to 325 homes per annum for the life of the plan (ie until 2031) might be sustainable.”

GGG says that it will now start the process of considering candidates who will stand in the elections in May 2015.

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Responses to Guildford Green Belt Groups Gets Green Light For Political Party Status

  1. Warren Witt Reply

    November 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

    In recent years I feel that commercial interest has taken over the decision process of our local councilors.
    They are the guardians of our unique chalk downland, and rare species of flora and fauna are just hanging on.
    For example, I noted three different types of wild orchid and many other species of chalk-loving wild flowers this summer, as well as ground-nesting skylarks, just to name a few.

  2. Tony Edwards Reply

    November 14, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Congratulations to GGG for securing a bit of much-needed political muscle.
    To get this far in one short year since conception is a monumental achievement.
    But the group’s aims and objectives are surely shared by concerned residents across the UK where the precious green belt is under threat?
    GGG’s local Guildford ambitions are paramount, but should they, perhaps, be encouraged elsewhere through a cellular development to make this a truly national force? I hope so.

  3. Stuart Barnes Reply

    November 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I agree with the policies of the new group and will vote for them if given the chance but still think that a party like UKIP, which has as one of its policies to stop building on the green belt, would have more clout and resources.

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