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Guildford’s MP Outlines the ‘Levelling Up’ Guildford Requires But Political Opponents Are Critical

Published on: 10 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 10 Jun, 2022

Angela Richardson making her speech on the Levelling Up Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday, June 8.

By Martin Giles

Angela Richardson joined in the Parliamentary debate on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill this week to remind her fellow MPs that two Guildford council wards, Westborough and Stoke, are among the most deprived 20 per cent nationally.

Ms Richardson said: “Some of the adjacent wards have a life expectancy differential of up to 10 years, and there is a 14-year gap between wards in the highest and lowest life expectancy for women.

“In the areas worst affected, more than 40 per cent of children are impacted by income deprivation; the associated features include malnourishment, housing instability, low educational attainment and mental health disorders.”

Cllr Julia McShane

But ward councillor for Westborough and leader of GBC’s Lib Dems, Julia McShane, countered that the problem has been the Conservative government.  She said: “Poverty levels and use of foodbanks in Guildford have grown exponentially thanks to twelve years of Conservative government and austerity.

The Tories, she said,  “…have also severely cut central government funding to Guildford Borough Council forcing it to make service cuts and increase council tax, which Ms Richardson then criticises. Her hypocrisy is unbelievable.”

On the fraught subject of planning and the lack of required infrastructure required by the growing population, Ms Richardson said: “Infrastructure is a genuine frustration for my residents, who have seen Local Plans that will deliver a high number of homes through massive strategic sites on the green belt and an additional town centre masterplan with densification.

“Local residents worry about the ‘Wokingisation’ of Guildford, which does not suit its topography, let alone its historical beauty.

“I am particularly concerned that there are no additional measures to protect greenfield in the Waverley part of my constituency. That greenfield is often more pristine, beautiful and remote from existing infrastructure than green belt provision that we are trying to protect.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

The leader of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) was scathing in his reaction: “[Angela Richardson’s] comments about the Local Plan are either amusing or show stunning ignorance.

“Borough councils have to deliver housing numbers that are mandated by her government, the blame for loss of green belt lies squarely at her government’s door.”As for the “Wokingisation” of Guildford, that’s mischievous and a complete falsehood, no resident wants the status quo of traffic, pollution, and accidents, everyone wants the riverside opened up and the prioritisation of people over cars.

” ‘Shaping Guildfords Future’ delivers all those without a high-rise in sight! Of course, it was a Conservative administration in Woking that delivered the skyscrapers.”

And Julia McShane also blamed the Conservatives saying decades of their administrations were “leaving Woking Borough in debt to the tune of £1.84 billion and with buildings 34 storeys high”.

But Cllr Bigmore did agree with Guildford’s Conservative MP’s in “almost everything” else she said. “We are in serious danger of levelling down if Surrey and Guildford are ignored by the government when it comes to infrastructure spending which will be detrimental to both the economy and government finances.”

Concluding her speech, Angela Richardson referred to the need to improve the A3: “…in order to level up in Guildford, we need to tunnel down. The A3 through Guildford is the most polluted road on the strategic road network in England. Air pollution is lowering the life chances of my constituents.

“I thank the many constituents who responded to the road traffic infrastructure survey that I put out, including by signing up to my petition to get the A3 tunnelled under Guildford.”

Brian Creese, chair of the Guildford Labour Party.

Picking out the mention of the A3 tunnel proposal, Brian Creese, chair of the Labour Party said: “To have any impact, levelling up has to be about real, achievable policy not simply boosterish soundbites with no meaning.

“Instead, our MP, having identified the problem, goes on to talk about business opportunities and building a tunnel under Guildford, a project that appears to have support from just 137 local residents, which would be a criminal waste of money and resources – and which would lead to appalling ecological damage.”

(See also: ‘Levelling Up’ is about Real, Achievable Policy Not Soundbites)

The full transcript of Ms Ricardson’s speech can be read here…

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will be delighted to know that I will stick to my time.

I welcome this much-awaited Bill. Levelling up opportunity everywhere is recognised by everyone I speak to in my Guildford constituency as a worthwhile and honourable mission of this Government.

Although Surrey County Council was not included in the pilot county deals that have been announced, we need to see Surrey in phase 2 to tackle deprivation in Surrey and accelerate our own levelling-up programme.

Of the four areas in Surrey that fall within the bottom 20 per cent of the national index of multiple deprivation, two – the wards of Westborough and Stoke – are in my constituency. Some of the adjacent wards have a life expectancy differential of up to 10 years, and there is a 14-year gap between wards with the highest and lowest life expectancy for women.

In the areas worst affected, more than 40 per cent of children are impacted by income deprivation; the associated features include malnourishment, housing instability, low educational attainment and mental health disorders.

We are levelling up healthcare with the new GP provision that my local clinical commissioning group plans in deprived wards, but I am concerned that we are losing local access nearby. Levelling up should not take away.

While we wait for more powers to be devolved to Surrey, my local enterprise partnership—the M3 LEP, which will see its long-term future integrated into local democracy under the Bill—needs an interim plan.

It continues to provide vital support to business and our local economy to stimulate growth through innovation and enterprise. Guildford, and Surrey more widely, continue to be net contributors to the Exchequer, but growth is slowing. We want to do our bit to help to level up the rest of the country, but we need continued investment, both private and public, to do so.

I welcome some of the Bill’s planning measures, including digitisation of the process, powers to deal with vacant properties on our high street, and a real focus on delivering infrastructure.

Infrastructure is a genuine frustration for my residents, who have seen Local Plans that will deliver a high number of homes through massive strategic sites on the green belt and an additional town centre masterplan with densification. Local residents worry about the ‘Wokingisation’ of Guildford, which does not suit its topography, let alone its historical beauty.

I have concerns about the Bill, but they have already been addressed by many right hon. and hon. Members; I encourage my constituents to go back through Hansard and read those concerns.

I am particularly concerned that there are no additional measures to protect greenfield in the Waverley part of my constituency. That greenfield is often more pristine, beautiful and remote from existing infrastructure than green belt provision that we are trying to protect.

Finally on infrastructure, in order to level up in Guildford, we need to tunnel down. The A3 through Guildford is the most polluted road on the strategic road network in England. Air pollution is lowering the life chances of my constituents.

I thank the many constituents who responded to the road traffic infrastructure survey that I put out, including by signing up to my petition to get the A3 tunnelled under Guildford.
Levelling up and investment are needed everywhere across this country. I welcome the Bill.

The recording of the speech can be found here:

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test One Response to Guildford’s MP Outlines the ‘Levelling Up’ Guildford Requires But Political Opponents Are Critical

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    June 10, 2022 at 8:41 pm

    I have to disagree with Joss Bigmore. It was not the government’s housing numbers, it was the former Conservative leadership at GBC and the council planners who made no attempt to reduce the housing target down to a number of what homes were needed, a potential drop greater than 10 per cent. Nor did they use the constraints available.

    The housing numbers in the Local Plan are those of Guildford planners and councillors who signed them off.

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