Fringe Box



Letter: The Handling of the Local Plan Raises Several Concerns

Published on: 15 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 14 Apr, 2017

From Graham Richings

I have written to council leader Paul Spooner after reading reports concerning the newly revealed Local Plan.

It is very concerning that there is a lack of transparency in the way in which the plan has been prepared. The latest version has now been released and will apparently allow comments on any changes to the earlier version.

Housing numbers have been changed and so this will be one of the things that the public can comment on. The fact that these figures can change seems very odd.

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) employed, at great expense, consultants to calculate the housing need figures. They used a formula that we are not allowed to see, surely a lack of transparency.

They apparently, in turn, subcontracted this work to a third party which, I further understand, was in breach of their contract with GBC which specifically stated that they could not subcontract.

If the calculations used were so good how come the numbers are now changing? Did they use the wrong data in the first place? Have GBC considered taking action for breach of contract in respect of the third party mention above?

GBC has paid a lot of money for this consultancy and say that it does not have the formula used. Surely someone at GBC must have seen the formula and be in a position to verify the figures? If they haven’t then surely this is so serious that this is dereliction of their duty to us the tax payer? This information must be placed in the public domain.

How can we the general public take part in a consultation if we are not supplied with the information as to how the housing need figures have been worked out? That is clearly not right. Maybe Cllr Spooner can explain?

I agree that we have a serious housing shortage but this is something that is easily solved without going to the extent of concreting over some of our green belt, which, incidentally, the Conservative Party promised to preserve prior to the last elections.

The main cause of our housing shortage in Guildford is the university. Their students occupy far too many houses that could be bought and lived in by families.

There is a large amount of such occupation near to where I live and there is a scarcity of families and children now living in this area. This does not bode well for the future. (Except they won’t need houses!!).

Press reports mentions a figure of an extra 6,000 students in the years ahead. Why is GBC not enforcing conditions placed on the university as far back as 2003 to provide the amount of student accommodation on Manor Farm that was deemed necessary? Do they actually enforce anything to do with the university?

I have nothing against the university. I actually go there most days. If you could reclaim the very many houses that are let to students you could seriously help solve our housing problems.

If you achieve the housing build that you appear to want you will not have control over many of these houses being rented out to students. Landlords will carry on buying up houses as at present. We are subsiding the profits of these people who do not pay council tax.

GBC are unable to say how much they are compensated by central government or if it covers the loss of revenue. The council must force the university to build many many more students units – at least the number that they have in the past agreed to, plus one for every new student included in the above numbers.

I understand that as a small town Guildford has a far greater number of houses let to students as a proportion of overall housing numbers than any other university town in the country. That cannot be right.

When Cllr Spooner was interviewed on BBC Radio Surrey Breakfast he said that you thought that the decision on Blackwell Farm was the correct one and that the site was sustainable.

I don’t quite know what you mean by sustainable. It’s a bit like the word “affordable”. In housing terms it does not mean very much.

I wonder if Cllr Spooner has visited Blackwell Farm recently? At the moment it looks absolutely stunning with its crop of yellow rape. How he can even consider destroying this area beggars belief.

The indigenous population in this country is apparently not increasing. This leaves only the university and immigration to blame for our serious housing problems. One of these the council can do something about.

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Responses to Letter: The Handling of the Local Plan Raises Several Concerns

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 15, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    The Tories did indeed promise to protect our green belt. As they now propose to destroy huge swathes of it, we can only conclude they lied.

    What else have they lied to us about?

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    April 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    While I agree with the opening statements – I lost confidence in the writer after he stated: “I agree we have a serious housing shortage.”

    But how do we know this is true?

    We are told this it is because of high levels of immigration. We are told it is because of the university and the increasing number of students who require housing.
    We are told it is “because my children can’t afford a house in Guildford,” even if the council leader agrees building houses will not reduce prices – although it will increase pressure on infrastructure.

    In short if we actually need (not want) more homes (not necessarily houses). We actually need to see the base figures.

    Is there a proven influx of immigrants?

    Is there a proven need for more student accommodation?

    Will the houses be “cheaper” or more “affordable” than they are currently?

    Guess what all these facts are, in the base calculation/ numbers for the SHMA?

    Perhaps the council could display these figures then, and only then, can we say we have a “serious housing shortage”. In short, they should provide the proof before they make their claims.

  3. Colin Cross Reply

    April 22, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Well said Jim Allen.

    After all, this is primarily an evidence-based exercise.

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Lovelace.

  4. Alan Robertson Reply

    April 26, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Non council tax paying students occupying family houses is a national problem, which no political party has ever attempted to tackle.

    For example, Birmingham University and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne knocked down halls of residence and sold the land to greedy developers, decanting the students into large areas of those cities which were then bought up by landlords, who were then allowed to turn family homes into HMOs.

    Now those areas are noisy and litter strewn during university term time and dead during the long university holidays.

    Students have no commitment to their local community (they have more interesting activities to occupy their time) they make no financial contribution, yet enjoy all of the expensive amenities.

    More enlightened councils in many university towns are no longer allowing properties to be changed to HMOs and are encouraging re-conversion to family homes whenever they appear on the market. Many of Guildford’s housing problems could be solved if university students were housed in university owned halls of residence.

    Students are a transient population, they do not make a contribution to the communities in which they live on a temporary basis; however, they will continue to occupy much needed properties until a community minded council makes the university responsible for its students rather than depending on council tax payers to provide them with accommodation and services.

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