Fringe Box



Letter: Conservatives Have Always Pledged To Protect The Green Belt

Published on: 30 Nov, 2014
Updated on: 18 Jul, 2016
From Matt Furniss, 
Conservative ward councillor for Christchurch and lead member for transport, infrastructure and environment

emails letter

The news that this Guildford Borough Council Conservatives will not be supporting green belt development is to be welcomed by all.

The Conservatives have always pledged to protect the green belt and we will continue to do so.

It is clear that this view is supported by the many letters of objection to potential development in the green belt.

The process set as out in the National Planning Policy Framework I feel is a poorly designed by the coalition government. It has caused a lot of anguish by Guildford residents over how the possible future of the borough will look.

We, however, are not alone. The same process has been happening all over the country with varying results dependant on formulas used.

I welcome, along with my colleagues, the constraints highlighted in the revised Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) planning practice guidance, which will allow us to develop a more suitable and sustainable plan for Guildford and her residents.

This change in direction by the DCLG allows us to reassess the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and Draft Local Plan against more constraints.

This is the key work I am doing now with the officer teams and my colleagues. Constraints such as flooding, infrastructure and transport along with schools, burial ground and open space for sport, allow us to see what development can be supported in Guildford.

The housing number, land availability and each development site will be rigorously reassessed against these to test the potential harm of each proposal.

Without this core infrastructure going in first we cannot fix the current problems we face.

Guildford over the years has struggled with its infrastructure. This does not only cover the transport network which can be a daily struggle but also what I deem the social infrastructure, schools, burial ground and open space for sport and leisure.

By way of an update we are:

  • Working with the Highways Agency and looking at each junction along the A3 for improvement.
  • Traffic modelling the entire borough with Surrey County Council, looking at junction improvements, site suitability and additional Park and Rides at strategic points to reduce congestion.
  • New railway stations at key points along the lines.
  • A sustainable corridor going through Slyfield, Spectrum, Guildford College, town centre, main station, university and hospital. To connect up the entire town for cyclists, pedestrians and busses.
  • Improvements to the gyratory and a new footbridge over the River Wey from the main station.
  • Additional car parking sites around the town and at key locations to prevent congestion around the gyratory.
  • Identifying and proposing mitigation to prevent surface water and fluvial flooding in the borough.
  • New burial sites, providing for the next 50 years.
  • New play and open space as well as sport facilities.

These are just some of the points we are looking at. It will not be solved within a few years but will take cooperation which we are getting from all our partners as well as the public.

I am currently meeting all parish councils and resident associations to see on the ground their flooding and infrastructure concerns and including everything in a plan to see what we can do to resolve current issues and plan in the flexibility for future demand.

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Responses to Letter: Conservatives Have Always Pledged To Protect The Green Belt

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 1, 2014 at 8:33 am

    This really is the the most cynical electioneering.

    Fact: The GBC Tories promised to protect the green belt in their 2011 manifesto.

    Fact: The Draft Local Plan proposes to destroy much of the borough’s green belt, with 16 villages taken out of the green belt, and a massive expansion to the settlement boundaries.

    Fact: The Tories have kicked the local plan into the long grass, until after the may elections, after which they are most likely to trot out a largely unchanged plan.

    Yes, they pledged OK, but the local plan, as it stands proves that the pledge was meaningless. They ignored their pledge, in order to sate the voracious appetites of developers.

    The only way to ensure that the green belt has a voice at Millmead is to vote GGG in May.

  2. Tony Edwards Reply

    December 1, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Councillor Furniss is, of course, right – the Conservatives have always “pledged” to protect the green belt. Unfortunately, their words have not reflected their deeds and the draft Local Plan – prior to being stopped in its catastrophic tracks by an avalanche of public opinion – is a monument to the planned wholesale destruction of the borough’s green belt.

    But I’m not alone in wondering why we have to wait until after the election in May next year to re-commence the Local Plan consultation process. Perhaps Councillors Furniss or Mansbridge will be able to clarify?

  3. Lisa Wright Reply

    December 1, 2014 at 10:22 am

    If GBC had read the responses on the first issue of the Draft Local Plan in November 2013 then they would know the opposition to green belt development and which areas flooded etc.

    GBC chose to ignore everyone, ignore the wise people of GGG etc, who supplied concise reports of incorrect data.

    GBC has had every opportunity to remove Blackwell Farm, Wisley etc from the Local Plan over the last year and has chose not to, continuing on their ‘trajectory’ for growth.

    It’s nice to see that improvements will be made to our road network in conjunction with SCC. I note that the strategic green belt sites were still included on the appendices of the SCC/GBC meeting last week. If GBC were serious about protecting our green belt then why weren’t those documents changed to reflect that?

    More smoke and mirrors!

  4. George Day Reply

    December 2, 2014 at 8:14 am

    New railway lines at key points so the green belt will be built on? Godson Hill comes with a railway line and a park and ride, so is Cllr Furniss telling us nothing has changed?

    As a Bupham resident I would like these points to be clarified. Cllr Furniss sounds like he doesn’t agree with the recent statement of the council and wants to continue with building on the green belt.

  5. Matt Furniss Reply

    December 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    I would like to start by thanking everyone for their comments to my letter.

    Working with residents to protect the green belt is a pledge that I stood under at the last election and one I continue to support.

    In response to Mr Day, I have never said that new rail stations equals green belt development and am disappointed that he feels this is the only way to improve transport in Guildford.

    We need to fix the current deficiencies in our transport and infrastructure prior to any new development.

    As we are one of the most congested towns we need to look at Modal Shift including rail to encourage less reliance on the car for travel. New stations have been identified in the Surrey Rail Strategy and we need to put these nearer residential areas to reduce reliance on driving to these key transport points.

    We have been successful in gaining new funding for the gyratory including improved pedestrian and cyclist access to the town. This is only the first steps in a complex plan to help improve transport and infrastructure in Guildford.

  6. Bernard Parke Reply

    December 4, 2014 at 8:35 am

    No doubt the councillor will be aware that, some years ago, Guildford Borough Council once produced an in depth study on “train and ride scheme” where stations outside of the town centre would be encourage to help with traffic congestion.

    Every avenue should now be explored to keep unwanted traffic from the town centre without perhaps creating a replica “spaghetti Junction.”

  7. Colin Cross Reply

    December 5, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Well let’s face facts, Mr Furniss has consistently voted to support the Tory’s draft plan, in spite of it being woefully bloated numerically and fundamentally unfair to the parishes.

    That simply does not chime with his and,no doubt, his colleagues, pre-election mantra of “it wasn’t us, honest.”

    Then who was it that tried to foist this developers’ charter on a trusting electorate, was it the Liberal Democrats? No, as they clearly opposed its publication.

    Was it Labour? Well they strangely voted in support of the Tories throughout, but let’s put that down to a complete incomprehension of rural concerns,being kind.

    We cannot blame the greens or UKIP and GGG have always cried foul from the sidelines, that may soon be an altogether different position however.

    The answer is simple: judge the deeds not the words. Easily spoken electioneering “pledges” will hopefully not work a second time around.

    The Guildford electorate has set its trajectory and that will not be changed by false promises again.

  8. Ben Paton Reply

    December 10, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Guildford Conservatives pledge to defend the green belt? They have had plenty of chances but have muffed them all.

    Did Cllr Furniss vote to reject all of the petitions elaborating the flaws in the draft Local Plan? Yes.

    Did Cllr Furniss vote in favour of the current Draft Local Plan – now known to be unsound in many respects? Yes.

    Is Mr Furniss credible? No.

  9. Colin Cross Reply

    January 5, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Perhaps a simple question to Mr Furniss? Define the words pledge and protect?

  10. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    July 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    How wrong was Cllr Furniss or was it just electioneering?

    How right were those who made comments at the time?

    Now, who should the public believe?


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