Fringe Box



Letter: ‘I Approve Appointment Of Planning Forum Chairman’

Published on: 9 Dec, 2014
Updated on: 9 Dec, 2014

From Alderman Gordon Bridger

emails letterThe appointment of Julian Lyon by Guildford Borough Council to be chairman of a new forum to advise them on major planning issues is an inspired choice.

Julian has a long standing record of community service and was born and educated in Guildford having lived here for most of his life.

A highly successful surveyor with prodigious energy and a great integrity and a genuine concern for the future of our community he has taken a lead in assisting The Guildford Society and the Guildford Vision Group to evaluate the Guildford Draft Plan.

Susan Parker, who represents the newly established Guildford Greenbelt Group political party, set up to protect the green belt, objects to his appointment. Her objections are puzzling as this is only an advisory body and his is only one vote.

His involvement with organisations who have had a long concern for the environment and the development of Guildford is surely an indication of genuine balanced concern for the future of Guildford.

This should be a great reassurance to those who fear that commercial considerations would be of paramount in planning decisions?

On the more general and controversial issue of where new housing should be located, my personal view is that until we know how many houses we will be required to build, ruling  out an area on principle, is unwise.

Ruling out 87% of the borough which is designated as in the green belt is surely premature.

However, it is reasonable  to assume that brownfield sites should be top priority, provided we ensure that developments are in scale and character (not like Woking) with their environment.

It may well be that once we have final target housing figures that we will have to make a difficult judgement as to whether as a society we think rural views are more important than homes.

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Responses to Letter: ‘I Approve Appointment Of Planning Forum Chairman’

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    December 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

    If it’s one thing I detest about the whole local plan it’s the smug mutterings of ‘not like Woking’ as if it were somehow inferior to Guildford. ou only need to mention the word Woking in a GBC meeting and there’s a ripple of giggles.

    Why not build high rise? Guildford sits in the valley of the River Wey so can accommodate some vertical development. What about the two high rise flats already near The Mount?

    How else do you manage to build the amount of affordable housing that’s needed in Guildford or would Mr Bridger and perhaps GBC prefer to house the ‘cashing in’ Londoners with nice 4/5 bed houses on Blackwell Farm?

    I notice that although GBC may have said they will reassess green belt and AONB sites, Mr Bridger seems to be continuing on Mr Mansbridge’s ‘trajectory’.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      December 11, 2014 at 12:11 am

      High-rise in Guildford would be contrary to the 2003 local plan as it would be out of character.

      Guildford is not like Woking. Woking was created only 150 years ago in the railway age, to serve a planned Brookwood Necropolis, huge in scale, which did not fully materialise. Guildford is a gap town and a county town of great antiquity, important in Saxon times even before ‘1066 and all that. So Woking is hardly a comparison site.

      As for the planning forum chairman, I’m not sure who the detractors would wish for? King Solomon perhaps or maybe Zeus? Given their unavailability, I know of no more able or fitting man than Julian Lyon to chair forum meetings to discuss all the options within the Local Plan.

      A meeting with no legal standing, no ability to ‘order’ and no ability to put pen to paper – but a meeting where problems can be aired, like how the documents need to show changes, so everyone can understand them.

      I believe this new forum can make a difference, not to the political thought patterns of future plans, but to the practical side issues such as: parking, roads, sewage and flooding – using local knowledge, rather than politics, to shape the future of Guildford.

  2. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    December 10, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Lets hope all development proposals “are in scale and character with their environment.” My opinion is that none of the green belt proposals pass either test.

    Opposition to the 652 per annum housing figure and insetting of villages, extending village boundaries and “rolling back the green belt” is not a rural view. It’s a demand that the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] and laws are adhered to in full and the plan is based upon sound up to date evidence.

    To date none of that has occurred. So I agree with the point about being too premature regarding locations.

    But the starting point at this stage has to be that all green belt locations are out and they may need to be ruled in only after “exceptional circumstances” are proven.

    Again, no evidence has been presented regarding exceptional circumstances. It has been made clear in law, ministerial guidance and the NPPF, that green belt boundaries should be only changed in exceptional circumstances and housing need alone is not an exceptional circumstance.

    Until now no real constraints have been applied, green belt is just one of those constraints and that every location offered by developers has been seen as possible by the plan makers.

    The interview in the media in October is clear:

    “Specifically the new guidance makes clear that councils do not have to build on the green belt just to meet the locally set five-year housing targets.

    Councils will have to “take account of any constraints such as Green Belt which indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need”, it says.

    A Government source said: “Many council planning officers are telling their councillors that they have to remove green belt protection when drawing up their Local Plans, in order to meet [housing] demand.

    “We are making clear that this isn’t the case, and they can take into account development restrictions – such ongoing green belt protection – when drawing up their Local Plans and determining how many houses they want to plan for.”

    So we must move away from party politics, rural v. urban “views”, take emotion and historic grievances out of this. Seems that the council have been listening too much to officers, developers and consultants and have taken the wrong path with regards to the process and interpretation of the NPPF as a whole.

    It needs to be done properly and not based upon “views” either way.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    December 10, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Mr Lyon has made some good points about the mistakes in the demographic projections for Guildford but he he has not said a word in defence of the Probity in Planning Code or the Code of Conduct and he has been anxious to defend Cllr Juneja against her critics.

    This may be a laudable desire to defend the underdog. Except in this case the cause that he supports is the establishment rather than high standards in public life. Far from being impartial, the appointment of Mr Lyon has the appearance of being an ‘inside job’.

    Mr Lyon is professionally qualified for work in the property development business. But does this not also make him institutionally biased? Is he not partisan?

    If asked to give a casting vote on development of a green field can he be relied upon to vote for development? One could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Lyon is in favour of development – provided that it is a long way away from Guildford town.

  4. Simon Bragg Reply

    December 11, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Lisa Wright can’t see any alternative other than building high-rise blocks to provide affordable housing in Guildford.

    Didn’t councils try this in the 1950s and 60s? Sink estates is what they turn into, no go areas of deprivation.

    I think Guildford can do better than that and if it means releasing small parts of green belt as has always been the case then so be it. Not everyone wants to live in a high-rise!

    I think Alderman Gordon Bridger would be an excellent chairman of the new forum. His letters to the Guildford Dragon NEWS and the Surrey Advertiser show that he is very balanced and aware of the complexities of the problems facing the council formulating this local plan. In his absence Julian Lyon will suffice!

    • Lisa Wright Reply

      December 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      I beg Simon Bragg’s pardon, but I only asked “why not high rise?”

      Furthermore, at a housing figure of 652 pa, most of which should be for young people and/or affordable with a slant on green features such as easy access to trains, buses and cycle paths, that all implies urban homes, not countryside ones.

      • Simon Bragg Reply

        December 14, 2014 at 9:40 am

        In reply to Lisa Wright’s comment, I think the word you are looking for is sustainability and if you read the Greenbelt and Country Side Study you will see that the potential development areas have been assessed and scored against how close they are to all the services and scored accordingly.

        Funnily enough there are railway stations in some of the villages as well as bus routes, cycle paths, shops, schools, medical facilities.

        IMHO high rise in Guildford is not the answer, The town is already full to bursting having taken the brunt of new development over the last 30 years, and that is why I think it is right that the council have tried to spread it across the borough this time round (obviously excluding the AONB).

        It is the fairest solution to an extremely difficult problem.

  5. Gordon Bridger Reply

    December 18, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    “Why not high rise” says Lisa Wight and then refers to the two blocks of flats next to the station as justification.

    I would have thought that’s just why we would not want more.

    But for those who want more high rise, see the recent Solum application details which have just been circulated around the town.

    For some strange reason they do not mention a 14, yes 14-storey building – it will provide a great view of the planned 34-storey building in Woking.

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