Fringe Box



Letter: Council’s Meeting Over Homes Bid Appeared To Be Stage Managed

Published on: 8 Feb, 2014
Updated on: 8 Feb, 2014

From Graham Richings of Guildford

Hogs Back LetterOn Monday, January 13, an extraordinary meeting of Guildford Borough Council was held to enable those opposed to the University of Surrey’s proposal to build up to 2,000 houses on the slopes of the Hog’s Back.

Residents of West Horsley were also given a similar facility in respect of other proposed developments in their area.

In total 11 members of the public were permitted to give their views in front of the full council meeting.

This meeting was held because a large number of people had signed a petition against these proposed developments being included in the Guildford Plan.

Each speaker was allocated five minutes to speak.

When these presentations were complete the lead councillor for planning and governance gave her response. This response was given from pre-prepared notes that would have been made before the meeting and the presentations were given.

The managing director (MD) of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) admits this. How can that be?  Clearly the councillors had made up their minds in advance as to how they were going to respond and vote without hearing the arguments.

So do you think that your councillor will represent you? In a vote at the end of the evening there was no time between the time when a show of hands was called for and the time when the hands went up. It was instantaneous and appeared stage-managed.

Obviously not in favour of those protesting again the university proposal to build on the green belt. These were your councillors.

I had expressed a view in writing to the MD of GBC that this meeting felt like it was the public as against elected councillors.

In a written reply to me she said that she was confident that this was not the true position. She went on to say: “Only a small proportion of the public attended and it is certainly arguable that this is because the rest of them do in fact trust their councillors to represent their best interests, and do a good job in the plan making process.”

Actually something like 100 members of the public filled the public benches. A lot more than other council meetings are likely to attract.

I can’t believe that the MD of the council would say something like this. It is wrong to assume that, because members of the public did not attend the meeting that they therefore trust the councillors to represent their best interests. Those who didn’t turn up would have had many reasons for this; such as other commitments, illness, transport or babysitting problems. Not to mention the bad weather.

Many would not even be aware of that the meeting was taking place. I hope that GBC is not going to apply this same skewed logic to the planning consultation process, otherwise everyone who has not stated that they want the green belt area protected will be assumed to want to see it built on.

Two days after the above meeting there was a meeting between GBC representatives, Nick Boles MP (planning minister) and Anne Milton MP.

Nick Boles emphasised that the Government does not impose housing targets on local authorities and stressed that inappropriate development should not be approved on green belt land except in very special circumstances. Let us hope that our elected representatives take note of this and comply.

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Responses to Letter: Council’s Meeting Over Homes Bid Appeared To Be Stage Managed

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    February 8, 2014 at 5:18 am

    Well said.

    The minutes of the meeting are here.

    I put a note up here that I had seen an item on the BBC website advising that the meeting was being held and that it would be broadcast via webcam.

    Otherwise I would not have known anything about it.

    I note from the minutes that six councillors were absent.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    February 8, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    You have a very naive view of representative politics.
    It has actually got even worse with the reorganisation to ‘cabinet’.
    Elected members have rarely had any intention of representing their electorate, they don’t have the time or resource to canvas their ward or even have a representative poll.
    This has been express many times by councillors through to council leaders.
    It’s a shame, as I remember a few decades back when a councillor did represent their ward, rather than the party whip.

    • Graham Richings Reply

      February 13, 2014 at 11:05 am

      I am not naive. I know exactly what is going on!!

  3. Mark Rostron Reply

    February 9, 2014 at 11:02 am

    When taxi matters were considered by the Guildford Borough Council, councillors of all parties held a private meeting together beforehand presumably to pre-decide the outcome of the public meeting.

    Public council meetings are a charade and mere window dressing. As the letter says, the councillors’ speeches have been pre-written and take little or no account of speeches by members of the public.

    The only way this will change is by residents organising and removing current councillors who at the moment get elected by a very small number of voters who vote out of habit.

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