Fringe Box



Letter: Why Is Our Housing Number Out of Step With Nearby Local Authorities?

Published on: 26 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 26 Jul, 2014

Local Plan Letters imageFrom Peta Malthouse

Why is it that all other boroughs and district councils in Surrey have a annual build number around 300-350* and Guildford persist with 680? This is what is putting the pressure on the green belt: a stupid “evidenced based” document that the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Executive has insisted should be put forward in this consultation, without amendment, despite hard facts and figures being produced to show our annual build should be around 400.

If I felt that by building in Guildford our young people would be able to live here I would support it but we are a commuter town and always have been. I spent the first 15 years of my married life in Aldershot before finally being able to afford Normandy and I would say, to younger aspiring home owners, there was nothing wrong with that, it is not that far away.

I am sure Carol Humphrey finally had enough of just doing what she was told by the council leader, Stephen Mansbridge and Cllr Juneja and of being treated so badly by the leader (as reported in The Guildford Dragon NEWS) in public.

Such a huge housebuilding number requires schools, shops and medical facilities. It is difficult to find non green belt land for these. So perhaps GBC should not only consult but listen and learn from the huge talent provided by the Guildford Society and GGG, amongst others.

Personally I am very concerned by the choice of the contractors who have prepared the papers. Their website says that they are “one of the UK’s leading independent property consultancies providing trusted commercial property advice to the public sector, developers, investors and occupiers”. So we can see what the figure is based on: the drive to expand Guildford as a commercial centre.

*Source: April 2014 press release from CPRE, EGRA, GRA, GGG, GSoc, GVG, Save Hogs Back, entitled “Key Local Groups Combine on New Homes Target for Guildford”

Extract from the release:

“Comparison with other authorities

Whilst not a formal step in the Local Plan process, it is well worth comparing Guildford’s targets with those of other neighbouring authorities. Those with agreed targets include:

Epsom 181; Tandridge 125; Spelthorne 166; Mole Valley 188; Surrey Heath 190; Rushmoor 374 (includes a major brownfield opportunity); Elmbridge 225; Woking 292.

This benchmarking demonstrates that a target for GBC of 300-345 is in line with other neighbouring authorities and demonstrates to the public that Guildford is delivering its “fair share” of housing.”

Editor’s note: It has been reported that Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan was rejected by a Planning Inspector because the housing number it contained was too low. It has also been reported that the housing number for Woking Borough Council is now subject to review.

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Responses to Letter: Why Is Our Housing Number Out of Step With Nearby Local Authorities?

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    July 26, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    While in total agreement that the housing numbers lack logic (the court case of 2010 was fighting against 420/440 as 340 was considered sufficient) it is clearly illogical to claim a requirement of greater than 440 per annum less than four years on.

    But one must keep asking the same question, who sat on the documents for years and which council officer signed them off? Additionally why was there not a local plan revision in 2007/8?

    It was council officers who created, or ordered from third parties, the documents presented to the councillors. Councillors simply pass on the contents and the message. The situation is a mess. Past, pre-2010, councillors, I believe failed, to ensure that planning officers carried out reviews in accordance with the correct time-scales.

    As for the future, we must ensure that each and every failing of each and every document is highlighted such that when the plan is put before the inspector the housing number is rational, logical and sustainable and the reason for its sustainability is clearly documented. At present I would argue it is not.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 26, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Traffic congestion in Guildford with its resulting pollution has, it has been said, the same health detrimental effect as passive smoking.

    A congestion charge would be a small price to pay by those using town centre roads for the people that live and work in central Guildford.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    July 26, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    It is stated on page 5 of the Draft Local Plan: “Our housing number has been derived by looking carefully at every piece of land offered in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and by applying all possible constraints.”

    It is stated on page 7: “Whilst it is not desirable to develop on Green Belt sites, Government policy…gives us a situation where we have no alternative.”

    Are these statements credible?

    They come from a council which has not even set out the “exceptional circumstances” required by law to alter green belt boundaries.

    How can any citizen form an opinion on a draft which does not include the essential legal justification for the plans it proposes?

    What constraints could be applied to a housing requirement figure since it has not yet even been finalised?

    If “all possible constraints” were applied where are they set out in the draft local plan?

    If there is “no alternative” where are the possible alternatives set out and appraised in the draft local plan and where is the logic and supporting evidence set out to show that none of the alternatives are feasible?

    Can councillors and their officials please direct us to where the answers can be found in the Draft Local Plan?

    Why was the plan issued before many essential studies on, for example, transport, wildlife and heritage have been completed, let alone agreed?

    At some point the deficiencies of the document must to be traced back to their source.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 27, 2014 at 8:58 am

    The number is excessively high because the GBC executive have consulted widely – but with developers who tell them that they need to build large housing estates, on the green belt, because that’s where the profits are.

    In return, they will build affordable homes, pay for infrastructure. Except they won’t, as has been demonstrated in any number of similar cases.

    Once building has been completed, and the green belt has been concreted over, these same developers will suddenly find that such promises are ‘not financially viable’ and we will have no affordable homes or infrastructure improvements.

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