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Council Leader Warns Lib Dem Amendments Could Delay Local Plan

Published on: 15 Jan, 2014
Updated on: 16 Jan, 2014

Local Plan Consultation front 470 feature 2“Highly damaging” delay to the Local Plan could be the result of Liberal Democrat action at Monday evening’s (January 13) council meeting, according to council leader Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham).

His warning relates to two Lib Dem amendments that added a condition to motions put forward by the lead councillor for planning and governance, Monika Juneja (Con, Burpham).

Cllr Juneja’s motions were in response to two petitions presented, by green belt campaigners, at the extraordinary meeting of the full council. The motions welcomed the petitions but rejected requests to remove any area of potential development from the Local Plan process at this stage.

At the meeting, two similar amendments, one for each motion, proposed by Liberal Democrat councillors, Liz Hogger (Effingham) and Tony Phillips (Onslow), were passed. They were: “The council will enable full public involvement in this reappraisal of the evidence base, especially the ‘Green Belt and Countryside Study’ by holding a special joint meeting of the two Scrutiny Committees.”

20 councillors voted in favour of the amendment to the first motion and 17 against.

Eight conservative councillors, including the former council leader Tony Rooth (Pilgrims) and his former deputy leader David Wright (Tillingbourne), as well as the solitary Labour councillor in attendance, Angela Gunning (Stoke), voted with the eleven Lib Dems.

In the light of this result Cllr Juneja accepted the similar amendment to her second motion on the Hog’s Back petition without forcing a vote. The Lib Dem councillors appeared visibly surprised with their success.

Cllr Mansbridge said this evening (January 15): “The points in the amendments were already covered by the existing motion and the lead member’s [Cllr Juneja] speech to the two petitions, but these amendments now create new challenges which will have to be addressed.

“This pointless grandstanding by the Liberal Democrats has made the green belt more vulnerable than ever before because of the time delays that will inevitably result.”

Cllr Liz Hogger

Cllr Liz Hogger

Cllr Liz Hogger responded: “It is extremely disappointing that the council leader does not understand the huge legitimate concerns expressed by the petitioners and many other residents about the methodology employed by the consultants who produced the Green Belt and Countryside Study.

“Since eight Conservative councillors supported our amendment,  it is extraordinary that Cllr Mansbridge is trying to dismiss this as ‘pointless grandstanding by the Liberal Democrats’.

“I salute the Conservative councillors who voted for the amendment. Like us, they clearly think the Local Plan is so important that it must be above party-political point-scoring.

“It is essential that the public have confidence in the evidence base underlying the draft Local Plan. Otherwise, the risk of prolonged delay from a legal challenge to the process is far greater than the risk to the green belt of a couple of months delay arising from thorough public scrutiny of the evidence base.”

See also: Green Belt Petitions Cause Heated Debate – But No Change To Council Position


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Responses to Council Leader Warns Lib Dem Amendments Could Delay Local Plan

  1. Janette Panton Reply

    January 16, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Cllr Hogger deserves a huge pat on the back for requesting this review of the Local Plan Evidence Base documents, which are clearly flawed.

    This review was passed by a vote which speaks volumes. The Local Plan is hugely important to Guildford Borough residents and the Evidence Base must be thoroughly scrutinised. The public have a right to be more involved in this review. After all, it is borough residents who are pointing out the many flaws of the evidence base documentation. GBC have a duty to ensure the Local Plan is correct.

    Cllr Mansbridge ought to feel ashamed that he feels the need to start party-political-point-scoring on such an important issue for the borough residents. And feel ashamed of resorting to scaremongering tactics by stating that a delay in the plan will make the green belt more vulnerable.

    A flawed Local Plan will most certainly make the green belt more vulnerable.

  2. Brian Miller Reply

    January 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Scaremongering tactics by the council leader will not help his credibility, nor the council’s.

    I welcome the amendments and suggest the Local Plan process is far too important to be considered along party lines: hence we saw how councillors voted on Monday.

    The councillors should remember local elections are due in just over a year and they are accountable for their actions to the public/voters.

  3. Martin Dowland Reply

    January 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    It is quite obvious to me that many of elected members need a lesson about democracy.

    If the review had been set about properly it would not be necessary to have to stop and correct it.

    How inconvenient of people to point out serious errors! Fortunately, we do have some responsible elected members who refuse to be voting fodder.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    January 16, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    This is an “Oh dear!” moment in the construction of the desperately needed local plan.

    The documents submitted by council officers are, in the main, not fit for purpose. They seem to have been written to meet an ‘aspiration’ (by paid council officals) as opposed to balanced documents to use as solid foundations for a solid local plan.

    Having read all of the documents there is to me an apparent bias, although denied, that Gosden Hill Farm in the Green Belt is going to be developed because the Slyfield regeneration project has allocated space for Surrey Roads Department and there is no need to move Surrey Roads unless the Merrow Station is to be built (there is no need at Merrow for a railway station, unless the farm does become a housing development).

    The green belt to the north and west of Burpham is under threat but none seem to care about this fact. Some community organisations are singing the praise of the Slyfield regeneration project, failing to see that the link road across the flood plain will destroy the green belt in that area.

    So, in summary, the whole situation is a mess of “ifs but and maybes” aligned with supposedly factual documents which read more like a mystery novels. Meanwhile developers are loading their guns to fire a coach and horse through the local planning process.

    Oh dear!

  5. Michael Bruton Reply

    January 17, 2014 at 8:46 am

    The whole so called ‘consultation’ process over the Local Plan has been a farce from the beginning.

    Councils should have had their Local Plan in place by March 2013. Guildford started its consultation in mid 2013. What have Tory counciilors and the head of planning been doing in the past few years?

    If anyone in the private sector started a task several months after it should have been completed they would have lost their job. But failure is well rewarded at Millmead.

    What must worry the Tory leadership on GBC is that the Local Plan will still be under discussion during the council elections in 2015. It is likely that those Tories who have shown blind support for a flawed process will be shown the door by voters.

    The Liberal Democrats have wisely peeled away from the Tories on the Local Plan. Liz Hogger’s Lib Dem amendment collected about seven votes from Tory councillors. So there is now a schism in the Tory ranks – and a welcome delay to the plan process.

    It is not for me (an instinctive Conservative) to advise the Lib Dems on how to win control of GBC or for their parliamentary candidate to oust Anne Milton MP – who has said nothing about protecting the green belt. However, if the Lib Dems made green belt protection their major electioneering plank in 2015 – in contrast to the Tories who want to trash it – they would sweep to power.

    It is likely also that in 2015 there will be a number of independent candidates standing on the ‘green belt’ issue. If on that issue, there was an election today, here in the Horsleys I feel we would have three new councillors. And deservedly so.

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 18, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I agree with all the above comments. At last Monday’s debate, Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja made a cynical, and wholly undemocratic attempt to water down the amendments after the vote had been recorded, and the agenda moved on. Definitely time to go to the back of the class, and study the meaning of democracy and the sacrifices made to defend it.

  7. Roland McKinney Reply

    January 18, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I attended the debate and thought the quality of many of the presentations was extraordinarily good, so congratulations to all the members of the public who spoke. It was clear during the voting process some councillors were swayed by the quality of these presentations and many thanks to those who chose not to vote along party lines, but instead voted with their conscience.

    Shame on Councillors Mansbridge and Juneja who in effect are saying a flawed local plan is better than no plan and are trying to panic residents into accepting their flawed evidence base.

    They maintain that they need a local plan in place to prevent developers making successful appeals to the Planning Inspectorate, but this is not my interpretation.

    What is needed is to have in place an identified supply of building land for the next five years. This can be done as an interim measure, by using some of the available brown field sites at suitable housing densities; making an allowance for windfall development (as is permitted under the NPPF) and also by making a further allowance for change in use from retail to residential.

    GBC persist in maintaining that retail in Guildford will grow, in spite of all the detailed reports to the contrary as well as the evidence from recent Christmas trading. Producing this five year building land supply is not dependant on having a current local plan, and having this in place will enable a thorough review of the evidence base to take place without fear of interventions by the Planning Inspectorate.

    Having read through all of the Employment Land Assessment and a large part of the green belt and Countryside Study I can assure all GBC council tax and business rate payers that they received extraordinarily poor value for their money in these reports.

    They are flawed to the point of being useless. GBC need to take whatever time is needed to get this right, and I believe the way to get the time needed to do this is to have a 5 year building land programme in place.

  8. Gerald Bland Reply

    January 19, 2014 at 11:20 am

    The individual documents that together comprise the evidence base for the Local Plan have been compared with pieces in a jigsaw presented in a box with no picture on the front.

    When you examine the contents of the box you quickly discover some of the evidence is out of date, some is just plain wrong and just as importantly key bits of the jigsaw are missing.

    The two scrutiny committees have now been given an impossible task which they are not equipped to fulfil.

    Each committee member will need to have read and understood the 2,500 page evidence base and be briefed on how the planning inspectorate would go about assessing that evidence base for soundness and compliance with the duty to co-operate in the Localism Act.

    They will also need to see the appointment letters for the consultants setting out what they were/were not required to do and consider the community representations already made on the evidence base.The same transparency should be afforded to the community.

    Painful though it may be, it would in my personal view be far better to commission new, up to date, complete and integrated evidence from best in class professionals than rush to use the existing flawed evidence base to prepare a draft Local Plan which is thrown out when scrutinised next year at public inquiry.

  9. jim Allen Reply

    January 22, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Easy to seek out and complain about the elected members – like the Liberals who consider “Aldi submission to be in character with Burpham!” How anyone can make such a statement is beyond me, as to the planning officer’s recommendation to accept it is also a Brian Rix farce.

    But much if not all the blame for the Aldi fiasco The SARP suggestion to run a road within three feet vertically of 40,000 volts – adjacent the A3 and the green belt review along with its tainted leanings and the other documents purporting to be ‘evidence’.
    The blame must be laid squarely at the feet of ‘future planning officers’ and not elected officals who are relying on the competence and supposed unbiased approach or otherwise of the paid staff to provide the relevant documents.

    Sadly it is not only the documents that are not fit for purpose but the planning department itself which has failed in its basic purpose.

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