Fringe Box



Council Defer Decision On Major Planning Documents Following Vision Group Challenge

Published on: 6 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 7 Sep, 2012

GBC Council Chamber Millmead

The GBC Executive withdrew the two critical town centre planning documents from this evening’s agenda (6 Sep) following a last minute procedural challenge from the Guildford Vision Group.

A council spokesperson said: “… the Council has decided that it needs time to consider and take advice.  As a result, the two town centre items from tonight’s Executive will be deferred.”

The two items, the Guildford Interim Town Centre Framework (ITCF) and the North Street Design and Development Brief were both removed from the agenda at start of the meeting. Following the announcement, the large gathering of public spectators, many of them, it seemed, supporters of GVG, dispersed, leaving the Executive and the larger than normal group of rank and file councillors alone with two reporters to discuss one solitary item.

In a press release issued less than three hours before the Executive was due to meet, GVG said that the council would be acting unlawfully if it adopted the town centre plans.

The group had obtained a legal opinion from a leading Queen’s Counsellor which had, they claimed, cast significant doubt on the lawfulness of two key town centre plans. It was understood that the council had anticipated the possibility of this kind of action, had reviewed all relevant legal points and were confident that their intended action was fully constitutional. But it was felt by the chief executive and other council officers that the safest course of action was to defer a decision

The GVG release stated: “This afternoon, lawyers for GVG presented the council with an unequivocal opinion which warns that the council could be at significant risk of legal challenge if it adopts the Interim Town Centre Framework or the North Street Design and Development Brief. GVG has also obtained a second opinion from another QC which supports this conclusion.

“GVG has repeatedly sought to engage the council in collaborative discussions but was left with no other option when it became clear that the council intended to adopt both documents at its Executive meeting this evening.”

The group release continued: “GVG believes that the existing Town Centre requires significant and comprehensive masterplanning in order to realise the Town Centre’s potential and sort out its traffic problems. Initial plans by Allies & Morrison, to be available on the GVG website, propose the removal of traffic from the much-maligned gyratory system, the re-routing of traffic around the Town Centre and a new bridge across the railway.”

John Rigg, a Director of GVG, said “We believe that the Town Centre has enormous potential and we urge the Council to work with GVG and others for the benefit of all Guildford residents.”

A GBC statement issued this evening said: “As these are such important documents for the town, with a wide interest from our community and businesses, the only prudent course of action was to defer their consideration. This will allow us more time to address the issues raised and make sure councillors have the fullest range of advice before proceeding.

Lead Councillor for Town Centre, Cllr James Palmer (Con, Shalford), said: “Our Interim Town Centre Framework is not the Council’s final word on the future of our town. It aims to help us manage and deliver important changes and attract further investment, while we carry out more research and consultation.

“It’s a shame that this last minute challenge has delayed us from moving forward tonight, especially as hundreds of local people, community groups and organisations have given their views in past consultations. We hope to be able to make progress and bring these items to a future meeting at the earliest opportunity. We also apologise if the very late notice meant that some members of the public wasted their time expecting these items to be discussed tonight.”

Councillor Tony Rooth, (Con, Pilgrims) Leader of Guildford Borough Council added: “There will be a further Executive meeting arranged to debate the Interim Town Centre Framework once Guildford Borough Council has taken legal advice following the Guildford Vision Group’s challenge earlier today. The public and all interested parties will be informed well in advance of this meeting when it will be and the outcome of the GBC legal advice.”

GBC are now taking advice to review and consider the details of the procedural challenge. It is related to the technical planning status of the documents, the evidence base to support their adoption and the appropriate procedure for their adoption.

Also deferred was a planning item about amending the Supplementary Planning Document in respect of affordable rented accommodation.

What is your view? Were Guildford Vision Group right to make this challenge or is much needed development in Guildford now facing unnecessary delay? Have your say by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below. Your email address will not be revealed.

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