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Letter: Housing Shortage Should Not Be Considered an ‘Exceptional Circumstance’

Published on: 29 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 1 Mar, 2024

Computer-generated image of the proposed development on land around Guildford Cathedral. Image: VIVID Homes

From: Ben Paton

In response to: Cathedral Development Appeal Claims Benefits Outweigh Harm

According to our MP, Sir Paul Beresford (Con, Mole Valley), the need to increase housing does not count as an “exceptional circumstance”.

He had an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons this month and told the minister: “In broad terms, is it not unacceptable to assume that an exceptional circumstance is the need to increase housing? It certainly was when I was in the minister’s shoes. Is it still the case?” The transcript can be found here.

Sir Paul has consistently opposed the Guildford Local Plan, forced through by former Cllrs Stephen Mansbridge, Monika Juneja and Paul Spooner and the current borough councillor for Pilgrims Matt Furniss. All were or are Conservatives.

Guildford Borough Council and its lawyers have consistently argued that a housing shortage is an “exceptional circumstance”.

There are two problems with this argument:

1) if used properly and corrected for the distortions created by a large student population the ONS has projected that Guildford’s population will remain broadly static over the plan period.So the ‘shortage’, at a macro level, is either non-existent or grossly exaggerated to provide a pretext for the disastrous 2019 Local Plan;

2) at a micro level the segment where there is a genuine shortage, council housing, is not addressed or ameliorated by the borough council.

The Lib Dems have not been shy about boasting that they will build 3,000 new council houses. But the reality is that

a) the council has run out of money and may go the same way as Woking; and

b) the council is busy selling off assets – including flats – to pay off the debt it has incurred. (See the Dragon article Council to Sell Grade II Listed Building Beyond Economic Repair on the eight flats in East Horsley that the Council has decided to sell after having allowed them to fall into a state of dilapidation over the seven years since it first thought about refurbishing them in 2017.)

Despite the positive spin put in the sale, it is another example of political hypocrisy.

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Responses to Letter: Housing Shortage Should Not Be Considered an ‘Exceptional Circumstance’

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 29, 2024 at 8:19 pm

    I think the exceptional circumstance of insufficient ability to provide the extra drinking water, electricity, and road capacity commensurate with the increased population should be a more serious concern.

    Houses without sufficient infrastructure is an obvious problem as some of us have been warning for years and as already being proved within the borough.

  2. Olly Azad Reply

    March 1, 2024 at 1:08 am

    It wasn’t that long ago in the distant past that the Liberal Democrats boasted about completely abolishing university tuition fees and what hypocrisy that turned out to be. Again, any thought about the Lib Dems promising to build 3,000 new homes smacks of more hypocrisy and perhaps more U-turns in the making.

    If there is a genuine “exceptional circumstance” to build more dwellings in Guildford then these political parties need to put an end to flannel and allow building to begin where the need is most.

    Being realistic with the public would be wholly appreciated.

  3. Anthony Mallard Reply

    March 1, 2024 at 9:57 am

    I read from time to time that Guildford Borough Council is in dire financial straits which appears evidenced by the the Council Tax uplift of which I have just been notified.

    So can someone please tell me why perfectly clear and serviceable street name signs are being replaced with newly produced ones with the Borough Arms and local postcode. Surely, this is an unnecessary and vainglorious expense by the borough council.

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