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‘It Is the Duty, of All Politicians to Call Out This Nonsense,’ Warns R4GV Leader

Published on: 12 Apr, 2023
Updated on: 12 Apr, 2023

By Martin Giles

The leader of the Residents for Guildford and Villages party has reacted angrily to news that a campaign video “Battle for Guildford” is being recommended to residents in a Conservative newsletter. A link to the video is included.

The relevant paragraph in the Conservative newsletter.

Keith Witham

Keith Witham, currently a Conservative county councillor for Normandy and a borough councillor for Pirbright, where he is standing in the forthcoming borough council election on May 4, has stood by his decision to recommend residents watch it.

He said: “As far as I know, there was no Conservative involvement in the production of the independent video, but as I said in my newsletter to residents I feel it’s well worth watching.”

The leader of  R4GV Joss Bigmore, who is standing in Merrow, did not hold back in his condemnation. He said: “I think it is shameful, but sadly predictable. Propagating half-truths, misrepresentations and horrible insinuations about decent people has long been the Conservative way.

Joss Bigmore

“With nothing positive to say about their own policies or party they act like a muck-spreader across the Borough, hoping to cover others in the excrement they find themselves in.

“It is the duty, of all politicians to call out this nonsense, what goes around comes around, it is a personal, vindictive, politically motivated attack campaign against R4GV this election. It could be against the Tories or Lib Dems next time.”

The Dragon reader and Normandy resident who alerted us to the newsletter and who did not wish to be named said: “I received the newsletter from my county councillor Keith Witham. It is supposed to be just that, not an election letter.

“In it, he gave a link to the Battle for Guildford video saying it was independently made and I watched it.

“It didn’t seem independent at all. Borough councillors were included by using clips of what they said in the council meetings but it only featured Tory councillors which didn’t seem fair.

“I also felt that the suggestion that there had been little consultation on it was wholly wrong. I certainly participated over a period of about a year and it was advertised all over the local press.

“People are entitled to their views but if this is being used to elect certain people then they need to be honest about it.

“Keith Witham, together with one of the featured councillors David Bilbe, is seeking election in my ward.”

Ramsey Nagaty

Guildford Greenbelt Group leader Ramsay Nagaty, standing in Shalford, added: “This dishonest propaganda video has been thoroughly debunked in The Dragon and on social media. It was alleged to have been promoted by the Conservatives and clearly now has been by Tory Cllr Keith Witham.

“I’m disappointed the Tories should sink so low. Under their plan for North Street, there would have been equivalent of 750 homes whichj would have required much higher, denser buildings as against the current 485 homes.

“Unlike the Tories and Lib Dems, GGG has consistently called for height limits. We have stood against the frenzy of over-development which the Tory Local Plan has foisted on the villages and green fields.

“We should be regenerating long-derelict sites like North Street instead. Protecting our countryside and reviving our town are two sides of the same coin.”

Cllr David Bilbe

David Bilbe, the other Conservative candidate for Normandy & Pirbright, shared his party colleague Keith Witham’s view, saying: “The video was produced independently and raises some important issues and views held by the person who produced it. I cannot really challenge the facts as laid out.

“In addition, it is the democratic right of people to say what they wish as long as true to the facts and not unnecessarily derogatory. I think it has to be viewed by those who wish to see it and they can draw their own conclusions.

“I am alarmed at the election material I have seen which is not consistent with the reality of the past four years. For a party to suggest that there is no room for party politics when there has been a LibDem R4GV collaboration pact is risible.

“Also to hear that there will be height limits to town centre developments yet not say what they are is misleading. I feel that the current leadership over the past 2 years has been in the hands of developers rather than catering for the need of the community.”

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Responses to ‘It Is the Duty, of All Politicians to Call Out This Nonsense,’ Warns R4GV Leader

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    April 12, 2023 at 11:31 am

    It is unfortunate that Ramsey Nagaty [leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group], who is now an all but paid-up member of R4GV as GGG turns itself into a pro-development, supporting party for R4GV (development anywhere that is, providing it is not on their members’ doorsteps in the countryside) peddling complete untruths such as the ridiculous claim that the Tories were going higher on North Street.

    I find it extraordinary that R4GV feel criticism is unwarranted in their direction whilst in 2019 they invented a load of nonsense about the Tories planning to move to three-weekly bin collections.* It was completely untrue like many other claims back when they were formed, back in 2019, to drive back development and claim they would reverse the Local Plan.

    It seems to be one rule for Cllr Bigmore and his so-called “local residents party” and another for all the other local residents who make up the rainbow of those standing for other parties at the local elections.

    Perhaps Cllr Bigmore should focus on putting his own house in order? It appears that R4GV backed by the new iteration GGG are becoming desperate, and all because someone has posted a video that must have hit hard, given their response.

    Paul Spooner is the leader of the Conservative group at GBC and a candidate for Westborough in the forthcoming GBC election.

    *Editor’s comment: See “The Dragon Says: Democracy Demands Open Government“. A three week bin collection was included as an option in a 2018 council debate on cost-saving measures but was rejected, after press coverage, at an early stage.

  2. Robin Horsley Reply

    April 12, 2023 at 1:19 pm

    More general allegations of misinformation but no evidence to support such allegations. Why? Because my film just reports the facts. The only misinformation is the allegation of misinformation.

    The people of Guildford can make their own minds up – what a shame to descend into vitriol.

    By the way, as Jonathan Bigmore well knows, I am not a Conservative. I was first inspired to public service as a child by a Lib Dem – my aunt who has been a prominent member of the Liberal Democrats in Kent for years.

    I got involved in events at the local Conservative association when I lived in Surrey Heath but only joined as a national member in 2005 so I could attend constituency events – despite protests from the local agent who initially wanted me to join locally. And I was briefly a member in Guildford in 2018 for the same reason.

    I am guessing I was only a member for four or five of the roughly 15 years I was loosely involved. I never got involved in the party hierarchy either locally or nationally. I am not just a party person. I have spent most of my time working on national issues on a non-party basis.

    In 2019 I stood as an Independent candidate [in Mole Valley]. I have never stood as a candidate for a party. You can read the full story here: – at the admittedly rather dated site I set up for my campaign in 2019.

    In the past, I have worked on political issues with Labour, Conservatives, politicians and individuals from a very wide range of political perspectives.

    In my experience, no political party has a monopoly on good ideas. It’s best to consult the people – because as elected “representatives” those elected are not delegates, they are representatives – and how can they be that if they refuse to consult properly?

  3. Christopher Jay Reply

    April 12, 2023 at 3:14 pm

    Robin Horsley, who produced “Battle for Guildford,” has performed a valuable service in bringing to the attention of a large number of Guildford residents the truly awful scale of the tower blocks proposed for North Street.

    There may well have been consultation about the development but I have found in campaigning for the Conservatives in the local elections that a large number of people were unaware of the plans in the first place and if they were they did not know just how high the development would have been.

    Mr Horsley’s aim is to try and persuade Guildford residents through their politicians to maintain the character of Guildford. I think his motives are admirable.

    If the ruling coalition in the council wants a Woking skyline for the town then they are entitled to promote it; and we, on the Conservative side, will do our best to show up its ugliness and oppose similar plans in the future.

    • Malcolm Stanier Reply

      April 12, 2023 at 4:36 pm

      The tower block “Woking skyline” was achieved by a Conservative-led council which, having invested in this development, I believe has now resulted in Woking Council becoming almost bankrupt.

    • S Collins Reply

      April 14, 2023 at 9:50 am

      The highest towers in Woking are 32 and 34 storeys high.

  4. Joss Bigmore Reply

    April 12, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    I rest my case. A Conservative councillor and a Conservative campaigner join Robin Horsley to immediately jump in and defend his (admittedly well-produced) work of fiction.

    Thankfully residents are seeing through the smear campaign, and also the ludicrous suggestion we are planning to bring in a congestion charge.

    With politics, this dirty it’s a wonder any decent people stand.

    Joss Bigmore is the leader of the Residents for Guildford and Villages party and a candidate for Merrow in the forthcoming GBC election.

    • Robin Horsley Reply

      April 12, 2023 at 8:41 pm

      Joss Bigmore should provide the good people of Guildford with a list of what he says are fictional elements to the film.

      He and his acolytes keep making these claims but not a single one has been able to come up with anything – nothing.

      Can he do any better? Or will he just continue to make allegations without foundation?

      • David Roberts Reply

        April 13, 2023 at 7:09 pm

        Mr Horsley has clearly not been paying attention to well-founded criticisms of his video, e.g.

        The video is a farrago of vile innuendo and exaggeration with the clear polemical intention of swaying the elections against R4GV by manipulating social media. I don’t for one moment believe his claim to be a “non-political campaigner”. He has received far too much attention.

        • Ray Whiteley Reply

          April 14, 2023 at 6:53 pm

          I have used David Roberts’ link to what he calls the well-founded criticisms of the video but they just seem to me to be attacking the background and motives of the maker of the video.

          What I would like to see from R4GV (who I support) is detailed and objective criticisms of the facts in the video.

  5. Susan Hibbert Reply

    April 13, 2023 at 9:47 am

    It was the then Conservative Guildford Borough Council which rushed through a flawed Local Plan, with an unnecessarily high housing target and no provision for height restrictions on new buildings.

    It is disingenuous of the Conservatives to now pose as the defenders of height restrictions on new developments. That said, it is vital that all parties unite to ensure that good design on an appropriate scale for our market town is paramount and that this is enshrined in Guildford’s development policies

  6. H Trevor Jones Reply

    April 13, 2023 at 9:59 am

    I would like to vote for councillors who will work together with all other councillors of whatever party or none to do the best they can for Guildford and its residents, without criticising other councillors, and who will seek compromises rather than arguments when dealing with others with different views.

    I expect I’ll end up using my three votes for candidates from three different parties with whom I can have constructive discussion about things, even if they don’t agree with everything I wish for. I encourage other electors to do likewise.

    I do hope we can elect a council that can agree on, and accept, some development of the North Street area. It should be commercially attractive enough for a developer to proceed with it without excessive cost to GBC. It should have tall enough buildings to provide the housing we need, but without making the bus station too restrictive for good bus operation.

  7. Ray Whiteley Reply

    April 13, 2023 at 7:41 pm

    I voted for R4GV last election and will probably do so again, but I must admit that Robin Horsley’s video is very persuasive. The pictures of the development shown in his video look far more accurate than the developer’s promotional video.

    Also, R4GV claims that parts of his video are “fictional” but have not so far explained which parts or why? R4GV really need to explain this in detail in order to support their case.

  8. Robert Pidgeon Reply

    April 16, 2023 at 7:43 am

    Here is a brief summary of what I recognise as being fictional.

    1) Robin Horsley says he only became aware of the scheme shortly before it went to Planning Committee. I find this hard to believe. Proposals were very widely publicised in Surrey Live, The Guildford Dragon NEWS and on social media. Consultation took place over a period of four years.

    A model was displayed in North Street and the developer arranged, three separate presentations on 6th, 10th and 18th of August 2022.
    Does he not talk to this father who is a R4GV councillor and sits on the Planning Committee?

    2) He states, “…had the battle not been won our County Town would have been devastated for generations, perhaps forever”.
    The battle wasn’t won, the decision was made by every member of the committee based on Planning Policies included in the 2019 Local Plan which had no height restrictions. The town is still at risk and R4GV has fought for introducing building height limits.
    The town is already failing due to the growth of online retailing and major companies are moving away. It will be devastated if there is not new investment and regeneration.

    3) The image he has used of the developer’s model is misleading as it does not show how it relates to the surrounding buildings which are of similar height. This can be evidenced by referring to the Planning Application which can be viewed on the GBC Planning Portal and the developers fly through.

    4) It looks nothing like “Tower Hamlets, a ghetto or 60s-style tower block”.

    5) It is no threat to the historic town which has the highest standard of protection. This is the regeneration of a neglected brownfield site that has remained derelict for over 30 years.

    6) The Liberal Democrats were in support of the scheme and shortly before the committee meeting, produced a leaflet taking credit for it, but then backtracked and voted against it at committee. Prior to the meeting the Conservatives also raised no objections.

    7) Robin Horsley suggests the historic High Street will be replaced by tower blocks. This is utter nonsense. The historic High Street and the areas in proximity to the castle will be retained and protected in perpetuity.

    8) He continues by saying he will campaign until May 4th, the date of the election which is a clear indicator that the video is nothing more than a political project to discredit R4GV and so who would benefit?

    Robert Pidgeon is a R4GV candidate for Worplesdon in the forthcoming GBC election.

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