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Letter: Another Master Plan Will Not Help

Published on: 23 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 23 Feb, 2022

From: Richard Mills

Vice-Chair (Policy) Guildford Town Centre Conservatives

In response to: Old Style Politics Have Served Guildford Poorly

From the terms of Cllr Rigg’s recent letter, it is clear that my comments about fantasy and psycho-drama in Cllr White’s response to criticism of GBC’s recent budget should rather have been directed to her R4GV colleague

What is less clear is whether, as a mere vice-chair of one of the numerous local branches of Guildford Conservative Association, I should be flattered or dismayed that my comments should excite Cllr Rigg to another assault on the “old-style” (pre-John Rigg?) politicking of those who disagree with him.

As for his substantive points may I just add a few further comments:

  • All councils, like other public bodies, face financial challenges in the wake of a devastating pandemic. My simple question remains why the council could not have used some small part of its still relatively healthy reserves to avoid decimating the town’s public toilets;
  • If it is indeed the University of Surrey or the county council, rather than the borough council, that scuppered a valuable traffic scheme and entailed the return of funds to Whitehall I will of course redirect my comments;
  • If use of agency staff really was required to sustain refuse collection I am sure none of us would object, but by what stretch of the imagination can such hard cases require a four-fold increase to £21 million in expenditure on consultants and agency staff from one year to the next;
  • As for the poor financial management reflected in the Liongate case, I have nothing to add to the comments of Howard Smith and Cllr Bilbe in response to Cllr Rigg. An inquiry is now clearly needed so that lessons can be learnt.

Cllr Rigg summons us all to “bravery” and “commitment” in defence of a new Town Centre Master plan. I fear it would be a futile gesture.

Without doubt, we need better planning in Guildford, including some significant infrastructural changes, but long-term “Master Plans” are not the solution. They are too often costly, disruptive, take too long to deliver and squeeze out the investment needed elsewhere.

More important they are often out of date almost before the ink is dry, and leave a legacy of further dereliction. The Conservative’s 2015 Town Centre Master Plan was quickly undermined by changing projections for population and other key factors.

Cllr Rigg’s first attempt, with GVG, was quickly scuppered by the Solum decision, in so far as it was not already holed beneath the waterline by questionable financial assumptions.

Another Master Plan will not help. What we badly need is a more responsive and opportunistic approach to planning in the borough.

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