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Letter: Ash Green Verdict Means GBC Planning Process Must Change to Ensure Fair Play

Published on: 11 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 11 Dec, 2020

From: Sue Wyeth-Price

Member of Ash Green Residents’ Association

In response to: Judge Quashes Ash Green Building Permits Over ‘Seriously Misled’ Guildford Council

As the woman at the sharp end of this legal process, brilliantly supported by a tremendous committee and really committed residents, I don’t think Cllr Bigmore, in his position, could have said anything different.

I’m sure in the old days there would have been big press releases, I would have been pilloried by the council and they would have launched an appeal immediately, so small signs of change are there if you look hard enough.

I also don’t have any criticisms of the councillors, most of whom were new at the time of the decision. I hope they are aware this kind of thing can still happen, and probably will do until there is change.

I am placing my hope in those very councillors, that they recognise how they were misled, and fight to get the process changed to remove the inherent bias in the system.

But I do note the developers have immediately criticised a judgement made by one of the country’s most expert planning judges, and want to discuss options with the same officers who misled the councillors in the first place. They make no mention of discussions with residents or councillors.

Now must surely be the time for GBC to revise how major or contentious applications are addressed at committee meetings. This officer report had 28 errors/omissions and, other than our allotted six minutes at the first meeting, we had no opportunity to address them or explain the flaws in the recommendation to the committee.

We were also denied the opportunity to point out the breach of process at the councillors’ site visit, when the developers and the tree officer were present, contrary to the rules.

Our written objections were simply dismissed, even by members of GBC’s legal team at the time. GBC must do more than the bare minimum provided in law to allow objectors an equal opportunity to present their case.

This continued refusal by the planning officers to acknowledge and investigate the impact on the heritage assets is unexplainable and appears contemptuous of the county’s heritage and of the local residents.

But the real problem here is the refusal by officers to explain any of the issues to the councillors so they can make a properly informed decision. Unless this changes, we will be faced with more judicial reviews if the council fails to rectify their mistakes and force the cost of that rectification on the residents, by court challenges, with the considerable financial risk that places on individuals.

We appreciate the new council have committed to openness and transparency and hope they will encourage the officers to work with us to agree to a solution that benefits the communities they serve.

My final hope is that our victory encourages and inspires other residents to get involved and take a stand. Winning is possible.

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test One Response to Letter: Ash Green Verdict Means GBC Planning Process Must Change to Ensure Fair Play

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    December 11, 2020 at 10:21 am

    And so say all of us.

    The GBC planning department has consistently failed in its duty of candour to the residents.

    GBC puts residents to disproportionate trouble to undo the manifest wrongs in the planning department’s process and evidence.

    One wrong has been righted. So why exactly is the new leader of the council disappointed?

    Plenty more issues need to be addressed.

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