Fringe Box



Letter: Congestion Is A Major Constraint To The Local Economy

Published on: 5 May, 2016
Updated on: 5 May, 2016

cashFrom Roland McKinney

Guildford Borough Council surveys of local businesses revealed that delays due to traffic congestion were viewed as a major issue, at least on a par with high cost local housing. Yet there is nothing in the draft Local Plan that addresses this issue.

Adding houses some distance away from main employment centres in Guildford will add even more traffic – but the plan fails to recognise this, and even plans to add more businesses. How can this one sided view be taken seriously?

Congestion is currently a major constraint, but it seems councillors think if they ignore it it will go away. The published plan will result in much greater congestion – and so businesses will move away from the area.

If business premises were in such short supply why did the council create a trampoline park in the middle of a commercial estate they own, contrary to their own rules?

Claims that the loss of green belt will only be 1.6 per cent are being repeated. Let me reveal the wider picture. The implementation of the draft local plan will result in the loss of more than six per cent of land currently designated as green belt. A much greater impact than councillors will admit to.

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: Congestion Is A Major Constraint To The Local Economy

  1. Claire Williams Reply

    May 6, 2016 at 5:48 am

    I assume Mr Mckinney hasn’t read the Guildford local plan infrastructure schedule which is an appendix of the local plan or the Guildford transport strategy.

  2. Paul Spooner Reply

    May 6, 2016 at 8:45 am

    The definition for constraint relating to effect on highway congestion in local plans is severe.

    Councillors, including the leader, deputy leader (relevant portfolio holder) and the Executive as well as the planning policy team are all acutely aware.

    I will not be supporting a local plan that meets OAN [Objective Assessment of Need] without significant improvements included to the transport network.

    It is a constraint and without infrastructure gain we do not support the planned housing number in the new draft.

    I hope this is absolutely clear.

    Paul Spooner is ward councillor for Ash South & Tongham and GBC council leader.

    • Harry Eve Reply

      May 6, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      I note that Cllr Spooner has declined to comment on the way in which the council has been misleading residents over the proportion of the green belt that will be removed to facilitate development. Perhaps we should expect a response from Coverdale Barclay, his Local Plan PR consultants?

      On the other hand, I welcome Cllr Spooner’s intention to apply a traffic constraint on the housing number.

      However, first it is necessary to fully identify existing traffic congestion issues. This must come before projecting the full impact of the proposed massive increase in local population in order to understand how much new road building, road widening and traffic junction enlargement would be needed right across the borough – within settlements (involving compulsory purchase of land and buildings) and through the countryside including the AONB.

      I should not prejudge the traffic assessment that we are waiting for – but the previous two failed to fully identify the impacts for a number of reasons including the methodology employed.

      • John Ferns Reply

        May 6, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        Harry Eve may be forgiven for not noticing it as it was a long time ago but GBC have already published such a report, dated 30 January 2014, which can be found here.

        It seeks to identify/quantify, amongst other things, the major congestion ‘hotspots’ in the borough on the ‘local road network’. One major scenario modelled was the impact of the major developments on former army lands in neighbouring boroughs, in Bordon, Aldershot and Deepcut, which accounts for why 11 of the 21 road improvement schemes for the ‘local road network’ listed in the appendix to the new draft local plan, are in the western part of the borough in the Blackwater Valley.

        These are quite separate from the improvements to the ‘strategic road network’ round Guildford on the A3 and the A3/M25 junction at Wisley, which are also itemised in the appendix to the new draft local plan and which are to be funded by ‘Highways England’.

        • Harry Eve Reply

          May 7, 2016 at 8:02 am

          I certainly had noticed “OGSTAR” and responded to it in considerable detail as part of the consultation.

          The methodology fails to identify existing congestion in many locations. It can be added to the questionable evidence supporting a plan based on propaganda and broken promises.

  3. John Robson Reply

    May 6, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Billions have been spent on widening the M25 with the promise to spend £15 billion more to widen it even further, and yet it remains Europe’s largest car park.

    Insanity = doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)

  4. Bernard Parke Reply

    May 6, 2016 at 11:55 am

    This is a move in the right direction.

    We cannot, “put the cart before the horse”.

  5. John Ferns Reply

    May 6, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    I applaud Cllr Spooner’s robust statement. It is refreshing to see our elected representatives prepared to ‘put their heads above the parapet’, taking on the diktats of the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework], whose guiding principle is ‘sustainability’.

    The traffic congestion issues affecting the local road network in the western part of GBC are with us now and that is before the 625+ houses that have already received planning permission have been built, with a further 55 under planning appeal and the 255 awaiting planning determination (totalling 935 homes out of the 1,326 that the plan says are destined for Ash/Tongham).

    And let’s not forget the 4,500 homes currently being built on former army land just two miles away in Aldershot, which will increasingly affect access onto the newly widened M3 at Frimley and the whole length of the A331 Blackwater Valley route up onto the Hog’s Back and onto the A31/A3.

    Appendix C of the revised local plan, in the section on improving the road infrastructure, makes for a good read, but only on the surface. There are 21 traffic schemes listed for the local road network in the borough, of which 11 are within 2,500m of my home. Leaving aside the proposed road bridge at Ash station, costed at £15 million, the other 10 schemes are costed at £9.3 million, to be funded by a combination of developer contributions and Surrey County Council, in a time frame of 2017-26.

    We need these improvements now, before any more houses are built/approved.

    I understand that until the Local Plan is approved (target date December 2017) no contributions can be asked for schooling or highway improvements. So we have the situation where 71 per cent of the new homes target for Ash/Tongham have either been approved or are in the pipeline, with no significant contributions being made by developers. This is not a satisfactory situation.

    If I was a developer, I would aim to get my application for the remaining 29 per cent homes allocation in before December 2017.

    If Cllr Spooner’s statement is to mean anything, no more applications should be accepted until contributions have been received and there is a firm programme of improvements in place. Let’s not forget while these improvement schemes are being delivered, there will be considerable constraints, in addition to those already being experienced, placed on local people’s movements. And that is before the 1,326 new homes are factored into the equation.

  6. Colin Cross Reply

    May 6, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    It is impossible to list here all that is wrong with the revised Local Plan but some examples include:

    – the lack of the SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment] formula (a basic prerequisite),

    – the inclusion of sites based on a concocted traffic light sensitivity judgement that ranks more important than sustainability (see NPPF for how wrong that is),

    – wholly insufficient allowance made for green belt constraints and windfall housing numbers, about 250+ sites being excluded from consideration as they come from areas/ villages that the Pegasus says are too small to be sustainable (see page 904 onwards).

    Need I go on?

    We are still on the upward trajectory with this rehashed plan and hopefully any planning inspector worth his salt will have many months of enjoyment taking it all apart, all 900+ pages of it.

    The only hope of avoiding this happening is if the GBC planning policy group are allowed to listen to the critics and act accordingly .

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem ward councillor for Lovelace.

    • James Frost Reply

      May 10, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Cllr Cross makes a very good point. Sites should be selected first on their sustainability and then assessed as to their important green belt function. No one can argue about this methodology as it makes complete sense.

      At the moment we have a map colour coded red, amber and green put together by a consultant who has probably never been to Guildford let alone been out to see potential sites. I bet if you gave the job to another consultant all the colours would be different.

      The council must go back and look at this otherwise we go through this next consultation only for the inspector to fail the plan because it ignores sustainability.

  7. Paul Spooner Reply

    May 7, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I am disappointed that Cllr Cross gives the impression that the planning policy team are not allowed to listen to critics and act accordingly. This is a gross injustice on the integrity of GBC officers and on the Local Plan panel where his [Lib Dem] group leader, Cllr Reeves, and senior colleague, Cllr Hogger, are members.

    I trust that he will retract his unsubstantiated (because it is not true) statement questioning the integrity of professional officers of the council.

    As a matter of course, I forward all comments I receive to the planning policy team for their reflection and review. The planning policy team has also invited Cllr Cross to discuss a site in his area early next week. If he is genuinely interested in shaping the local plan he may benefit from attending.

    Paul Spooner is the Conservative ward councillor for South Ash & Tongham and the GBC council leader.

  8. Roland McKinney Reply

    May 7, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I too applaud Cllr Spooner for his decision to take part in open debates in the local media, and his first statement in this chain is certainly robust. It is at least as clear and unequivocal as the commitments made by his party in their local and national election manifestos to protect the green belt. Whatever happened to those pledges?

    Nor can I help but wonder what attention the planning inspector will make of the pledge given in The Dragon as it is not reflected in the revised Local Plan.

    The housing target is the same as the objectively assessed housing need, which means no constraints have been applied, even though Cllr Spooner is clear that the application of an infrastructure constraint would be appropriate. I would add that the application of a green belt constraint would be appropriate too.

    If the statement made by Cllr Spooner was to have any weight with the planning inspectorate then surely these constraints would have to be reflected in a reduced housing target in the Local Plan.

    As GBC has no power to implement necessary road improvements, or to increase sewerage treatment capacity, or to add schools, etc – how can GBC possibly eliminate these constraints? The Surrey County Council infrastructure plan was clear in that they recognised a £0.5 billion shortfall in the budget required to overcome constraints that they manage – and their budget requirements were based on a lower housing number than that proposed by GBC and on erroneous traffic data.

    As the new Labour councillor for Stoke made clear after his election, GBC do not even have the authority or budget to fix potholes in local roads – so how can they possibly hope to eliminate constraints that are likely to make this draft Local Plan one of the longest suicide notes in history?

  9. Liz Hogger Reply

    May 7, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Since Cllr Spooner mentioned my name, perhaps I could respond to his remarks.

    It is unfortunate that Cllr Spooner picked on just one word, “allowed”, in Cllr Colin Cross’s comment, and over-reacted to that, while failing to acknowledge the legitimate concerns Colin raised about the SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Asssessment], the notorious Pegasus ‘Green Belt and Countryside Study’, and the fact that sustainability should be the prime consideration in allocating sites for development.

    Surely Cllr Spooner would at least agree with that last point?

    In justice to Cllr Spooner, the way this revised Local Plan has been prepared, including considerable efforts to keep ward councillors informed, is a vast improvement on the disastrous 2014 process.

    But Colin is absolutely right, there remain very serious questions about the SHMA and the Pegasus study. The council needs to be sure both of these can be defended in front of a Planning Inspector, and at present I also am unconvinced about that.

    Liz Hogger is the Lib Dem ward councillor for Effingham and deputy Lib Dem group leader.

  10. Colin Cross Reply

    May 8, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem ward councillor for Lovelace (Ockham, Ripley and Wisley)

    On April 13 Guildford Borough Council (GBC) held an inaugural Executive Advisory Board (EAB) meeting to hear a presentation to all councillors of the new Draft Local Plan, chaired by Cllr Jenny Wicks [Con, Clandon & Horsley].

    We listened to a lengthy presentation by Stuart Harrison, planning policy manager, which was followed, somewhat surprisingly, by the chair throwing it open for all comers to give their comments. The record will show that the report drew serious concern and outright criticism from all points on the political spectrum.

    Much of what was said was constructive comment from seriously concerned councillors who otherwise have little in common politically.

    After some considerable time everyone had their say and the chairman is to be commended for this liberated approach to the debate.

    However, we received no response at all from Mr Harrison, or his team, to any of the many comments made that night, nor have we had since.

    Cllr Spooner [Con, Ash South & Tongham], as the leader of the Executive and lead councillor for planning then summed up.

    Approximately half of the cogent points made were simply ignored whilst the rest were given very short shrift by the leader. The webcam recording will bear this out.

    Since then there has been no attempt from either the officers or their political masters to address the many concerns of those who spoke that night.

    I will retract nothing of what I have said previously or now about where we are today with our Local Plan, or as it has been entitled “the longest suicide note in history”.

    I totally refute the accusation that I am casting any aspersions on the GBC officers who are involved in this process, that is entirely in Cllr Spooner’s imagination.

    Finally and for the record, I happen to agree with Cllr Hogger in that Cllr Spooner is making a better fist of things than his predecessor, but enough said.

    We need a dialogue and a willingness to see reason before it’s too late.

    Is that too much to ask? I fear it may be, in spite of the protestations from the top.

  11. Valerie Thompson Reply

    May 8, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Until the SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment] is published for GBC Councillors to read, analyse, and discuss, there seems little point in reiterating that green belt is important and vast numbers of houses should not be built on it.

    A letter on this subject, by Ben Paton, listed the legal requirements of any council, to make the results of a survey on housing available to the public.

    GBC sub-contracted the housing assessment, to a firm, who, against the terms of the contract, sub-contracted it again, and then claimed intellectual property rights, so they were not obliged to share the reasons behind their inflated numbers. So far the council has ignored the possibility that their actions were incorrect.

    Perhaps the whole affair should be presented to the Ombudsman?

    • Jim Allen Reply

      May 9, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      I have found all the ombudsmen are a near total waste of space. 99.9 per cent of complaints received are ignored or found unjustified and if challenged in court they can simply go through the same exercise again and make the same decision.

      But I still think the 0.1 per cent chance of actually getting the ombudsman to act in the communities favour is worth a try!

      Principle and honesty of purpose is everything.

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 *