Fringe Box



I Will Withdraw From the Planning Committee for Wisley Application, Says Councillor

Published on: 22 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 25 Oct, 2022

By Martin Giles

A borough councillor will withdraw from the Planning Committee when it decides on an outline planning application for a 2,000 home development at Wisley because of a letter she sent to a resident.

In a letter to The Guildford Dragon NEWS, resident David Roberts did not name the councillor who had written to him but said that the letter was “…shocking on several levels. For a start, every single fact it asserts is wrong…”. He continued, saying: “The cluelessness displayed by the letter’s author is jaw-dropping.”

Cllr Ruth Brothwell

In an unsolicited response to The Dragon the councillor who wrote the letter, Ruth Brothwell (R4GV, Worplesdon) admitted she had given a poor response to Mr Roberts which contained errors.

She says that she finds being a member of the Planning Committee “extremely challenging” and then criticises “the Conservative planning system [which] makes it impossible to find sound policy reasons to turn [plans] down”.

The full response from Cllr Brothwell:

Dear Editor,

My letter to David Roberts was a poor response, written in a hurry during a particularly difficult time for me.

I am aware that there is only an outline application for the former Wisley Airfield and that the GBC Planning Committee has sovereignty to determine whether the application is approved or rejected.

What I was trying to say is that if the site is allocated in an adopted plan then the principle of development has already been agreed. I absolutely accept that the Planning Committee must judge whether an application complies with local and national policies. 

I find being a member of the Planning Committee extremely challenging. I live in Send: the view from my window is of a building site, unwanted by local residents. I travel regularly through the Horsleys and see those villages changing before my eyes. It is soul-destroying that I voted for some of these applications. 

It is a fact that the planning system in this country is heavily weighted in favour of development. Finding resilient policy reasons to turn down applications on allocated sites that will hold up to the scrutiny of appeal inspectors is incredibly difficult and, even if we win those appeals, extremely expensive. 

The victory at appeal for Ash Manor cost GBC tax-payers £300,000, that’s 3 per cent of our annual council tax income, and in a few months the developer will just come back with a new proposal. 

I have personally approved applications that I hate, but the Conservative planning system makes it impossible to find sound policy reasons to turn them down. 

I had high hopes for the new Development Management Policies giving us more ammunition to fight low-quality development.  However, I see the development lobby are attacking almost every policy as too stringent or unviable.  We will have to see whose side the inspector is on at public examination next month.

I do my best to represent residents every day. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously, but the Planning Committee is not the place for politics. It is quasi-judicial and unemotional. It requires every member to dispassionately consider the rational balance of harms and benefits versus adopted policies and planning laws.

I will not sit on the Planning Committee when the Wisley application is brought forward for determination.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Ruth Brothwell

R4GV Councillor for Worplesdon


Share This Post

Responses to I Will Withdraw From the Planning Committee for Wisley Application, Says Councillor

  1. Howard Smith Reply

    October 23, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    I have not always agreed with Ruth Brothwell and feel we may have completely different views on what Guildford needs overall in terms of new homes.

    However, I have watched every planning meeting since she joined the committee and she always come across as one of the fairest and most thoughtful members in her considerations.

    I sincerely hope this does not set a precedent for committee members to be pursued by members of the public, in support of their own fiercely anti-housing agenda.

    Howard Smith is vice chair of Guildford Labour

    Editor’s response: The original letter from David Roberts did not name the councillor who’s identity was only revealed when she wrote to The Dragon.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      October 24, 2022 at 10:41 pm

      To say that this has anything to do with “pursuing” committee members “in support of their own fiercely anti-housing agenda” is a gross mis-characterisation of what took place.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    October 24, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Cllr Brothwell did indeed “out” herself.

    Was Mr Smith perhaps also present at the planning meeting where a Labour councillor declared that a piece of ancient woodland shouldn’t be protected because “if it’s ancient, it will be dead soon anyway”? This was the same councillor who enthusiastically voted with the Tories to adopt their hated Local Plan in 2019.

    On planning issues, residents have a right to expect councillors to have at least a basic grasp of the facts and a critical approach to the slanted information they are routinely fed.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *