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Vision Group ‘Bemused’ By Criticism But Phone Call Clears The Air

Published on: 21 Jun, 2013
Updated on: 22 Jun, 2013
Local Plan Consultation front 470

The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) document which has been entitled ‘Community involvement in planning’.

The chairman of the the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) responded this afternoon (June 21) to the criticism levelled at the group by Council Leader Stephen Mansbridge, during the council’s Executive meeting last night.

The criticism was made during the debate on planning documents which included, in a document referred to as the Statement for Community Involvement (SCI), plans to consult the public on the development of the Local Plan for Guildford.

In his criticism Cllr Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham) described the GVG and its legal challenge to the adoption of the documents, as ‘obstructive’. He compared GVG’s influence over the town to that of the IRA’s over communities in Northern Ireland and said that he would: “not allow litigious nit picking to get in the way of proper progress”.

John Rigg, Guildford Vision Group

John Rigg, Guildford Vision Group

Responding today, GVG chairman John Rigg said: “We are mystified by the comments made by the council last night. We wrote to the council to alert them to our concerns that if they adopted documents, without taking certain precautions, they would be open to challenge by developers but not by GVG. We are certainly not suggesting GVG has a problem or was going to take any action. We were alerting them.

“Their response was very, very surprising in the light of very constructive discussions we have been having in the last few weeks with the council and we thought it was somewhat bizarre.

“We reject it [the criticism] as nonsensical. We don’t want to pour fuel on the fire. We are bemused and surprised and we can’t reconcile his [Cllr Mansbridge’s] comments with our actions but having spoken to him, he rang me this morning, we seemed to have cleared the air.

“What we said to them was, we think they are taking a risk but if they want to proceed, having taken independent advice, then that is up to them and they can do so.

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “I was very pleased to hear Stephen Mansbridge’s comments directed towards the GVG at the Executive last night. The delays which have been caused by their challenges, not to mention the costs to GBC (Guildford Borough Council), will only extend the time that we are under threat from planning decisions made by the [Planning] Inspectorate and developers.

“The Planning Policy team have a wealth of information to put into the consultation which will go towards a very real and dynamic Local Plan which will, in turn, shape the future for Guildford, in fact the very plans which Stephen Muggeridge (a Guildford Dragon News reader who commented on the original story) seems to be talking about in his comment.

“The response from residents across the borough from all walks of life will be the essential part of this piece of work. As councillors we are very aware of the vital nature of this work for the future of Guildford, and the need to be found ‘sound’ when the Local Plan is submitted.

Cllr Mansbridge added to his comments of the previous evening by saying: “I am extremely pleased that the executive approved the initial documents giving the time line for the Local Plan last night. I believe that this document [the SCI] has been put together in a first class way. It is an important prelude to a plan which will affect Guildfordians for many years to come.

“Since last night I have had a conversation with John Rigg, [the chairman] of GVG Ltd., who has assured me that the groups intentions were to assist the council and that there would no litigious action, going forward.

“I have accepted this point and as with all other residents associations and lobby groups in the borough, I want to harmonise views towards the common objective of making our town and borough a better place for all our residents to live in.”

Regarding his comparison of the Vision Group with the IRA at last night’s council meeting, Cllr Mansbridge said: “My analogy with terrorists may have been somewhat extreme but my meaning was, I hope, clear in that we want many people from the borough to express their opinions on how we develop and change and that it should not be left just to a few who shout loudest.”

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