Fringe Box



Letter: Housing Numbers – What is GBC Trying To Hide?

Published on: 1 Jul, 2017
Updated on: 30 Jun, 2017

From Graham Richings

As many Dragon readers will already be aware, Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) new draft Local Plan went out for consultation to the public on June 9 and is available for comments, via, until July 24,  but I wonder if GBC are being straight with the tax paying residents of Guildford?

I have been trying since at least 2014 to ascertain how they have arrived at their housing need figures, now 12,426 in total. Others have also tried.

For instance, within the above plan is a proposal to build 1,500 houses on Blackwell Farm, at the Guildford end of The Hog’s Back. It is also proposed to provide there six unfenced Travellers pitches, a supermarket and other shops, possibly two schools and to extend the University Research Park onto this farm land.

Blackwell Farm is within the green belt and some of it in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I have recently written again to GBC asking for details of how the housing needs figures have been arrived at. They currently seem much too high.

In summary, I posed three questions in my letter:- (1) Please supply all relevant figures and the calculations used to arrive at the annual housing need. (2) Why wasn’t the calculation carried out ‘in-house’ in the manner suggested that I do it and (3) Are you able to supply any “Very Special Circumstances” for building on the green belt.

I have now received a reply from the new Chief Executive of GBC and this reads as follows:

“Dear Mr Richings (Housing Figures).

Thank you for your letter delivered to my office on 1 June 2017. Please note that, as stated in Mrs Sturgeon’s letter dated 12th May 2017, this council will no longer answer any queries in relation to this or similar issues.

I would add, however, that Consultation on the changes to the Local Plan begins on 9 July 2017.

Signed James Whiteman (Managing Director)”

Just who do these people think they are? They should remember who is paying their salaries and that they are our servants and not our masters.

They tell me in writing that I can buy software and interrogate certain web sites to get the necessary figures to work out our housing needs. Not what a caring council should be saying. Had it been that simple why did they spend a lot of our money paying a consultant to do it for them? Are there own staff not up to it?

So what are GBC trying to hide? Why will they not tell us how the overall housing need figures have been arrived at? Will the calculations used not stand up to scrutiny? How can we take part in the consultation if we have not been given the facts?

These figures are one of the things that have changed since the previous plan and so are open to comment by the public. The housing need figures have apparently been calculated by GL Hearn on behalf of GBC at our expense.

So our local council trusts a large company with an interest in development to produce figures and the council is saying that they do not have the calculations used!

I have asked GBC who, from the council, has checked the calculations but they are unable or unwilling to say. Any Freedom of Information Act requests that I and others have made have been turned down.

I have complained to the Local Authority Ombudsman about the refusal of GBC to supply us with this data and have appealed her decision but to no effect.  She will not investigate.

Those who are concerned about the massive development that is planned for The Hog’s Back should visit where there is plenty of information.

Parts of the land planned for development is in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Once development takes place on The Hog’s Back where will it end? Farnham? What is planned in house numbers is twice as large as Onslow Village. It will be a small town.

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Responses to Letter: Housing Numbers – What is GBC Trying To Hide?

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 4, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I strongly believe that this obfuscation is deliberate. The fact that the council stands to trouser over £70 million (over £46 million from potential green belt sites) in new homes bonuses*, may go some way to explain things.

    And don’t expect any reductions in council tax from this massive windfall. It will be spent on vanity projects, such as “the village”, and creation of new green belt in Cllr. Spooner’s ward.

    You should also expect councillors’ “allowances” to rise, as a pat on the back for their brilliant work.

    * Calculation based on Times article: “Anger as councils approve plans for thousands of homes on green belt”

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    July 6, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    Regarding GBC’s new managing director…

    For living in the borough plus one point.

    For his initial response, I found it unacceptable – minus one point.

    For his last sentence, suggesting the initial wording was not of his choosing – plus one point.

    We will have to see if the: “…out of statistical probability housing numbers…” will be acceptable to the planning inspectorate.

    Personally, I find the numbers provided very difficult to justify, both statistically and practically. Along with the approach by the council to the electorate.

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