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Letter: GBC’s New Master Plan Should Be Subject to Full Public Consultation

Published on: 2 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 2 Mar, 2022

From Richard Mills

vice-chair of Guildford Town Centre Conservatives

David Ogilvie, in his letter A Guildford Ring Road Is A Better Solution, asks what qualifications I have to express concern that a new Town Centre Master Plan is likely to entail onerous costs and disruption as well as the prospect that, in the very lengthy period required for implementation, changing circumstances could result in even more vacant and derelict sites than currently scar the town.

He is right in assuming I have no formal qualifications in architecture or planning. I can only draw on my experience in the Department of the Environment, where all my postings – from initial involvement with regional policy to a final posting as head of air and environmental quality – touched in some degree on planning, frequently rather more than I would have wished.

My qualifications, like his, are however of only marginal relevance here. The planning system is surely intended above all to be a democratic process balancing the conflicting concerns and aspirations of different groups and individuals in the community, rather than predominantly the domain of professionals whether they be planners or civil servants.

This leads me to another concern. Whereas statutory plans, like our current Local Plan, are subject to extensive formal consultation at all stages, with the authority having to defend its judgements and demonstrate that it has properly considered all representations, such Master Plans are non-statutory and subject to less restraint.

The Master Plan now in preparation seems to have emerged from the minds of a few councillors much as Athene sprung fully clothed from the head of Zeus. This somewhat opaque process of preparation makes it doubly important that, should the full council consider adopting it, it should be subject to full public consultation and interrogation.

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