Fringe Box



Letter: Guildford Will Need A Strong Leader

Published on: 26 Oct, 2015
Updated on: 26 Oct, 2015

Masterplan Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 11.54.36From Julian Lyon

In response to: Opinion: The Masterplan – GGG say Too Little, Too Late

Writing entirely for myself and not in any other capacity, I can say that I have known Mr Procter for many years and respect his professional credentials.

But I do not agree with all of his conclusions and I recognise many ideas as the basis of previous GVG concepts. Also I do not think that GGG should view Guildford town centre as a logical or sustainable white knight for the rural villages and areas earmarked for potential development.

Mr Procter challenges the premise that there is demand for 500,000 sq ft of retail. However, I do not doubt this demand exists for the right kind of retail units. More valid, perhaps, is to question the priorities that suggest it should be built at the expense of other uses.

GVA Bilfinger’s viability report anticipates that office rents for modern office space will support development. In fact they concluded there is ‘demand’ for every type of development imaginable. Again, this does not mean this is what we need.

Allies & Morrison were asked for a deliverable plan. Perhaps this is why it is a little short on ambition.

I personally prefer to see a greater density of residential than is shown, but the challenge will be to meet the requirements of the Environment Agency in the flood risk areas (no easy task to be taken for granted) and to provide supporting infrastructure such as schools, doctors’ surgeries, etc.

I believe we can develop around 10 acres of residential over the station but this means agreeing a deal (in the absence of any statutory rights) with Network Rail – a task almost all local authorities shy away from – and at a density that can justify the cost of the construction of a raft.

Guildford Borough Council had better select a strong leader if the town is to be able to make a bigger difference and pull a greater weight in the provision of housing to save some of our rural areas.

I personally signed the petition for a directly elected mayor and collected signatures for precisely this reason – we could do with a ‘Boris’ to knock heads together, to promote development opportunities and to make things happen.

In fairness, Marmite politician though he may have been, Stephen Mansbridge had made great strides in that direction over the past three years.

It is always worth pointing out that the development pipeline on brown field land is pretty slow and unlikely to make much of a dent in our recent housing development shortfall let alone the likely annual target backdated to 2012.

We need to get real, have a meaningful, considered and polite debate about these issues and desist from any pretence that nothing need change in 89% [the green belt area] of the borough.

In the meantime, we need lots of responses to the masterplan which has plenty of good things in it. Please visit the Swan Lane shop and have your say.

Once again, I confirm these are my own views and not necessarily those of any other groups or individuals.

Julian Lyon is chairman of the Guildford Society but writes in a personal capacity.

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Responses to Letter: Guildford Will Need A Strong Leader

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Interesting to re-read the letter Mr Lyons wrote to the Surrey Advertiser on 23 May, 2014 singing the praises of Monika Juneja – reproduced on the GVG website here:

    ‘In many ways we are incredibly fortunate to have someone of Cllr Juneja’s undoubted ability [emphasis added] who is prepared to spend vast amounts of time and energy managing the Local Plan process.’

    He went on to write: “In my own efforts to shape the Local Plan (and leading the response for the Guildford Society), I have tried to stick to the evidence, find the facts and track the logic and imperatives that lead us to adopt one particular solution or another.”

    In the interests of setting out the facts it is worth noting that the draft local plan was sent out against the recommendation of the scrutiny committee and without the necessary Transport, Environment and Heritage assessments having been completed or in some cases even begun. More damning still, the plan was sent out before a figure for housing need has been established. We still await that figure.

    The strongest advocates of building on the green belt seem to be those who would prefer that development takes place as far from Guildford (their backyard) as possible. There’s not been much sign that the inclusion of Three Farms Meadow in the plan was based on a proper evaluation of the evidence as opposed to an attempt to predetermine the outcome.

    Strong leadership under the old regime seems to have had a lot to do with ignoring facts. That was not strength so much as bad judgement.

    In the 1930s many commentators in England approved of strong leadership in Italy, for example, until its true nature became more obvious.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    An elected mayor? Such as Boris?

    Such a position would hold power such as a thirties dictator?

    Do we in Guildford really want to see the final demise of democracy?

    I think not.

  3. Frank Phillipson Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    I would say that, given recent history, the last thing Guildford needs is a single individual deciding everything.

    What is needed is a return to a committee system where all councillors can openly debate council matters. We do not want a return to a small number of councillors, or a Mayor, hiding away and making decisions behind closed doors.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Guildford certainly does not need another “strong leader” if that means a continuation of the arrogance and complete lack of accountability we have suffered over the past years.

    What it needs is a return to a “strong committee” system which gives all councillors a voice to truly represent their constituents.

    As to the need for more retail, has Mr Lyon failed to notice the growth in on-line retail, and the consequent reduction of high street retail outlets. It is perhaps time to wake up and smell the coffee.

  5. John Robson Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 11:14 am

    The characteristics of the next Conservative leader matter little, whoever it is will just be a puppet for Westminster.

    Whatever local issues you thought you were voting for will be blown out of the water, once Lord Adonis turns up in his Bob the Builder outfit.

    As Mr Mansbridge constantly alluded to, the “trajectory” for Guildford has been set, it’s been pretty clear to me for a long time it wasn’t just his hand on the tiller.

    The “Localism Act” should be renamed the “Tokenism Act’.

    Sadly for Guildford, I don’t see any local Conservative politicians with the desire to put their heads above the parapet and demand the Town be allowed to grow organically, because that would upset Tory HQ.

  6. David Roberts Reply

    October 27, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    The very last thing Guildford needs is yet another bombastic leader who will, in Mr Lyons’s violent phrase, “knock heads together”. Beware advice offered by such a loud admirer of Mr Mansbridge and Ms Juneja.

    As a general rule, controversial decisions taken by overbearingly strong leaders rarely last. They create their own wall of resistance – or even backlash. That is how GGG were conjured into being.

    Except in times of dire emergency, the slow, frustrating process of building compromise and public consensus is always going to lead to better, more sustainable outcomes. That, I’m afraid, means a lot of messy politics and grown-up community engagement. Hours and hours of boring consultation, drafting and re-drafting – not childish surrender to some father-figure.

    For vast, complex cities like London there is a role for a visible figurehead like Boris with a direct popular mandate in convening and coordinating powerful interest groups like the City and Boroughs, although his actual powers are quite limited. Guildford is “Toy Town” by comparison, so none of that applies.

    So, back to the question. Do we need an elected mayor or a return to the committee system of council governance? Would you rather live in Russia or Switzerland? Silly question.

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