Fringe Box



Letter: The Guildford Greenbelt Group Does Not Represent the Majority View

Published on: 28 May, 2016
Updated on: 30 May, 2016

democracyFrom Paul Spooner

leader of Guildford Borough Council and Conservative ward councillor for Ash South & Tongham

Let’s put the GGG mandate in context. At the May 2015 borough elections the new GGG party led by Cllr Susan Parker widely proclaimed that they would sweep to power in Guildford.

What happened in Guildford was a total vote count of 157,865 with 20,622 votes cast for GGG (13%). They did take three seats to hold a mandate in Clandon & Horsley (1 out of 3 seats) and Send (both seats) but to claim that GGG speaks for the majority of Guildford is absolutely ridiculous.

Excluding the wards where they were successful the total vote count was 137,873 with 11,188 for GGG = 8%. I am afraid that the very vocal minority of members and supporters give a very different impression in the council chamber’s public gallery and on The Dragon.

Is it surprising that this is the case on The Dragon when anyone who has a different view is subjected to the same small group of individuals from GGG purporting to be the “voice” of the majority going into print to pronounce anyone who is not GGG to be misguided at best, and deluded at worst.

Some of the most potent names on The Dragon and on social media have failed recently at the ballot box. Unelected: Ramsey Nagaty 4th with 12% at recent AS&T by-election; Anna-Marie Davis 10th with 4% in Friary & St Nicholas; Helen Jefferies 2nd with 22% in Lovelace; Mike Bruton 6th with 5% and Garry Walton 10th 4% in Merrow; Lisa Wright 2nd with 24% Normandy; Karen Stevens 11th with 5% in Onslow; Fiona Curtis 3rd with 15%; Tom Stevens 4th with 10% in Shalford; Stephen Parker 3rd with 15% in Tillingbourne; Neville Bryan 4th with 10% and John Rowland 5th with 9% in Worplesdon.

At the recent Stoke by-election GGG did not even stand. I believe in everyone having a say on our wonderful borough but I am increasingly disappointed when I read and hear Martin Giles [editor of The Guildford Dragon NEWS] stating that he believes Susan Parker speaks for the people. She actually speaks for a minority of the people, as do others in her group.

The council should listen to everyone but please don’t confuse a very vocal minority with the mandate of everyone in Guildford.

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Responses to Letter: The Guildford Greenbelt Group Does Not Represent the Majority View

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 28, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I wonder how residents of Normandy would be voting Tory if there was an election today, after knowing that their villages were to be destroyed. Residents had been told by the Conservative councillors that their land had been ‘safeguarded’ and therefore would not be built on for at least another 15 years.

    A few residents even praised their previous councillor saying what a marvellous job was done to keep Normandy out of the Local Plan. They trusted the Conservatives to look after them and believed the election pledges and now look what’s happened, 1,100 homes planned.

    May I also suggest that support of GGG has increased since the elections with all the green belt development GBC have included in the current draft Local Plan. It certainly looks that way on our membership lists and social media sites.

    Mr Spooner may wish to divert attention away from the mast building agenda held by Guildford and the M3 LEP [Local Enterprise Partnership] but unfortunately, GGG have a large amount of very well educated folk from a range of fields who are dedicated to saving our landscape, even if the majority of Conservative councillors at GBC don’t.

    I look forward to reading the responses on this next consultation as I’m sure it will reiterate the same objections that the majority of residents made last time.

    The Normandy site is to be deleted from the Local Plan, “should it be demonstrated that provision of such a school is not required” according to the Local Plan as amended on May 24. Ed

  2. Paul Bishop Reply

    May 28, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    I think this is an excellent point. Those that shout loudest are not by default the majority opinion.

    As a Guildford resident who has always kept away from the politics and goings on within the many pressure groups created (GGG, Burpham Residents etc) I find it incredible how much their opinions seem to be worth. Especially when the default position seems to be oppose any development in the town.

    As someone who lives in the town with many friends in similar age groups (late 20s to 30s) I have to say these groups seem to talk the complete opposite of what we want.

    From what I hear there is a real desire for Guildford to be improved and not for it to just maintain its status quo. I’m amazed people are so strong to try and protect pretty unused areas of green belt (Gosden Hill Farm) but are happy to waste the prime town centre locations (e.g. the river front) purely for housing. It’s illogical to think everyone needs to live in the town centre.

    Any plans need compromise, the council I believe are doing the right thing by pushing this new plan to consultation. Let’s see what the silent majority think of the plan rather than rely on the screaming, jeering few who attend the council meetings.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      May 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Mr Bishop seems to have a dislike for Burpham residents. Why single us out?

      Is it because we got off our backsides and generated a Neighbourhood Plan which others haven’t?

      Or is it because we are grossly offended by a developer/trader (Aldi) who blatantly ignored the planning conditions they agreed to?

      Perhaps it is because he has failed to actually look at the Gosden Hill Plan, so do not realise it is a ‘Box canyon’ and the 4,000 additional vehicles onto the site will all have to exit via Burpham to get to the M25 – when Burpham roads are already running at one vehicle every three seconds (it take four seconds to exit a side road).

      We in Burpham are not looking for the status quo – we are looking for a sensible and fully thought through way forward. I note while Cllr Spooner seems very well up on voting figures he seems very slow in coming forward in providing the background calculations for the actually housing need. Perhaps while in his mathematical frame of mind he could provide them?

  3. John Armstrong Reply

    May 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Cllr Spooner should not crow too much about the continued support of long standing Conservative voters. There is a great deal of party loyalty amongst the British electorate. No party knows that more than Ukip who have struggled mightily for two decades to persuade people that they are being led in the wrong direction.

    I feel sure that most Conservative voters in Guildford Borough do not want the green belt built on any more than GGG do; yet they still vote Conservative, for the same reason that fans support the team even when they’re losing, in the hope that next year they’ll win the league. They only jump ship when they realise that their team has thrown the match.

    John Armstrong is the chairman Guildford Ukip

  4. Garry Walton Reply

    May 29, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Cllr Spooner is right, the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) didn’t get as many votes as the Conservative Party.

    Why would they, when the Conservatives told the electorate it would protect the green belt.

    Few of those Conservative voters would believe us in the GGG when we told them you would not keep that promise. But they believe us now. The Conservatives were not honest with them and GGG were.

    Cllr Spooner shouldn’t complain about a vocal minority who turn up at council meeting to point out broken promises, it’s called democracy.

  5. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 29, 2016 at 9:19 am

    I would suggest that the views of the GGG group on the subject of the green belt are agreed by the majority of Guildford residents even if they did not vote for them.

    Unfortunately, under our voting system most of us have to choose between several parties, none of which express our views, so we vote basically against those we hate the most.

    Regrettably that means in many cases we have to vote for the faux Conservatives to stop the even worse parties getting in. That does not mean that the faux Conservative party has our support.

  6. Jenny Procter Reply

    May 29, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    It should be noted that GGG had only existed as a party for something like three months before the elections. A vote of nearly 21,000 and three seats on the council was pretty good going on that basis. To change even one area’s mindset where Conservative has been king for pretty much ever is a big achievement.

    The British electorate plays it very safe and most people take little interest in local politics. The Tory electoral machine locally and centrally came in with their, “we will save the green belt,” propaganda attack. Time and limited resources meant it was an impossible task then for the GGG to win hearts and minds borough wide.

    We all know just how hollow the Conservative promises ring now.

    I suggest Mr Spooner would not be so determined to quiet the GGG voice if he was not concerned at how they may impact the Conservative position.

  7. Valerie Thompson Reply

    May 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Of course houses should be built in the town, so people can walk to work and not drive.

    Wouldn’t you like to live on the river-front (as long as it doesn’t flood?). What else are you going to do with it, put up more pointless public sculpture at vast cost and create dog-walking areas? But the main areas which should have houses on them are the brownfield sites. Even the government thinks these should be built on first.

    The Guilkdford Greenbelt Group (GGG) is a very new party, who managed to take three seats in their first election. More people will support them in future at the next elections, as they are the only people prepared to stand up and be counted. They are doing what the Conservatives promised to do – protect the green belt.

  8. Graham Moore Reply

    May 30, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    It would appear that our Conservative councillors wish to have nothing to do with the voters who elected them. I have written to both my Shalford councillors asking them whether they feel bound to fulfil their election manifesto commitment to protect the green belt, and whether it is true that the council is refusing to reveal what are the assumptions on which the housing needs of the borough have been assessed. They have both refused to answer.

    I am lead to wonder whether Cllr Spooner has issued a general embargo on all the Conservative councillors from engaging with those they claim to represent? Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    The Conservative councillors may well have got 47% of the vote at the last election, but that does not entitle them to rescind their election pledges or to ignore the voters for the next five years.

  9. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    May 30, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Perhaps Mr Moore counts the number of non exec/mayoral conservative councillors who participated in the vital full council draft local plan debate to get his answer.

    They could be counted on less than one hand; I made it just four of them. It was shocking example of democracy. Why, did they vote the way they did? Were they scared, briefed, ambivalent or embarrassed?

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