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Letter: Council Leader’s Response Was Economic With the Truth

Published on: 28 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 28 Apr, 2019

Council Leader Paul Spooner responding to the public speakers at the Extraordinary General Meeting.

From John Rigg

chairman of Guildford Vision Group and candidate for Residents for Guildford & Villages in the borough council elections to be held on May 2.

At GBC’s recent Extraordinary General Meeting on Thursday, 25 April I criticised the council leader, Paul Spooner, for not planning the town centre and for the council’s failure to engage with Guildford Vision Group and others.  Cllr Spooner quoted, in response, my public statements in 2016 welcoming the Allies and Morrison Master Plan. He was correct, l did respond positively. The A&M plan was good and well received by councillors and the community alike.

But Cllr Spooner was being economic with the truth. My approval and enthusiasm was in the misguided belief this masterplan would be adopted within the Local Plan and, more importantly,  implemented.

I trusted that it would not be another discarded plan (it cost a third of a million pounds), and put on the shelf like all the previous admittedly inferior council plans  which lacked imagination or ambition. I honestly believed we would see a different approach towards master planning and that the town centre would finally realise its potential.

I and GVG soon realised we were misled. This plan has been effectively discarded alongside previous versions, the money wasted. I liked this town centre masterplan, Cllr Spooner liked this plan – so why isn’t it in his Local Plan?

His Local plan has not even addressed the town centre. Why has he not included this or any other quality Master Plan of the town centre in his Local Plan? Does he not care about pollution or traffic, does he not care it is going to get worse because of the choices he made?

Undoubtedly there will be more plans to come from this council but following a decade of cast aside plans it is difficult to trust those in charge. It is clear that the council believes building on green belt is preferable, your town centre is of secondary or tertiary importance.

Recent communications from the council reinforce my arguments.  They suggest that their planning resources will be focussed on the strategic green belt sites rather than the town centre which will be in due course. We know what that means.

So now we have easy money for the developers and land-owners, green belt lost forever, and urban decay continues.

As for his and Cllr Furniss’ lack of engagement with GVG,  l suggest Cllr Spooner or Furniss send me minutes of constructive or productive meetings where we discussed taking forward the A&M or GVG or any town centre master plan. Or any related meetings he allowed with officers one-on-one.

I can show draft minutes we sent for approval, recording both leader and deputy leader rejecting our requests to engage. They then even refused to acknowledge in writing their rejection of this engagement. This is how they really treat residents.

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test 2 Responses to Letter: Council Leader’s Response Was Economic With the Truth

  1. Stephen Mansbridge Reply

    April 29, 2019 at 10:01 am

    I have wondered for sometime about the silence on the Masterplan for the town. This was started on the back of advice from David Elvin QC, who stated in 2012 that the only way to have a credible Masterplan for the town was to have it incorporated into the Local Plan. John Rigg’s account is absolutely correct. Where is this Masterplan?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 29, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    It’s not in the Local Plan because the GBC Executive were 100% focused on delivering as much green belt over to greedy developers, as humanly possible. They did not even attempt to allocate the massive and derelict town centre brownfield sites, which are so much more suitable for key workers, and would have a far less deleterious effect on traffic and pollution.

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