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Letter: It Is Tory Planning That Should Concern Us

Published on: 25 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 24 Sep, 2021

From: Fiona Davidson

chair of Residents for Guildford & Villages and county councillor for Guildford South East

Julie Iles’ latest opinion piece in the Dragon, Planning is Still Not Joined Up, reminds me of a similar article that she  wrote in the run-up to the Surrey County Council elections in May.

At that time she was assuring voters that her influential pals in Westminster would make a special exception when it came to the number of houses that Guildford Borough would have to build – despite all the documented statements to the contrary.  It didn’t happen.

Now Ms Iles is once again taking to The Dragon, this time as part of a concerted Conservative campaign right across Surrey to undermine all those borough and district councils which no longer have a Conservative majority ( 9 of the 11 in Surrey), and the resident association and independent councillors who reduced the Conservative majority on Surrey County Council. Remember those tawdry Conservative leaflets distributed in the summer – full of misinformation, misrepresentations and factual inaccuracies?

I’d like to point out to Ms Iles that it was her fellow Conservatives on Guildford Borough Council who forced through a deeply unpopular Local Plan just a week before borough elections in 2019. This despite 80,000 comments (a huge response for a borough the size of Guildford) on the proposed Plan, and with very little evidence that any of these comments were taken into account.

And it was the Conservatives who decided that it would be much easier to build in the green belt than regenerate the town and build on brownfield – and the Conservatives who then moved vast swathes of our countryside out of the green belt.

In contrast, R4GV has developed a plan to build on brownfield in the hope that we can relieve pressure on the green belt and it is R4GV that has initiated a Local Plan review in an attempt to remedy our housing numbers. However, in undertaking a local plan review we have to abide by the lengthy and inflexible processes required by the Conservative government which enacted this legislation.

Guildford Borough Council may be the planning authority, but in the areas that Ms Iles is concerned about it is actually Conservative-led Surrey County Council who set the agenda for Guildford to follow. Perhaps she could use her influence and relationships with ex-colleagues on these issues?

As Ms Iles will be very well aware, if school places are no longer required as a result of the Wisley development, Surrey County Council – as the Education Authority for the county – should formally advise Taylor Wimpey that the places are no longer required and the school should not be built. Guildford Borough Council does not act independently of SCC in education matters.

On cycling, I would point out that Guildford Borough Council is currently still waiting for the much delayed Local Cycling Plan from Surrey County Council.

On health, Ms Iles will also be very well aware that it is Surrey County Council that works with Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group to deliver front line services to three-quarters of Surrey’s population.

I note that since the county council elections Ms Iles has started providing information and views to Dragon readers. I don’t remember her doing this before the elections. As in the story of the Trojan horse, beware Conservatives bearing gifts.

Editor’s note: Julie Iles was invited to write for The Guildford Dragon NEWS. It remains our policy to seek views from all our local political parties.

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test 4 Responses to Letter: It Is Tory Planning That Should Concern Us

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    September 25, 2021 at 9:20 am

    I agree with the criticism of the current (and future?) planning regime. I accept also that the fake Conservatives who are now at the top of the Conservative party are not following Conservative principles on this matter nor on many others.

    By the way, I note that the heading of this article mentions “Tories” not Conservatives. All I can say is – if only. Genuine Tories would not behave in this way but the faux Conservatives are perfectly happy to disown not just their promises but also their principles.

    However, having said that I do not think there is any other existing credible party that would not be worse. So where are we going to find a party or person to vote for next time, and even if one appears, how is it or they going to stop the virtually unrestricted immigration which is the root cause of all this?

  2. Ian Sams Reply

    September 26, 2021 at 8:57 am

    It’s all very well for those that want to preserve the green belt to bang on about building on brownfield sites but they seem not to realise that so doing only lays the foundations for an overcrowded and inhospitable environment in the future.

    Usually, the “protesters” are concerned with preserving the view from their own back window. Until the population and its aspirations stop expanding, more houses will be needed so it’s time for “garden villages” and sensible rural development. After all, we are all living on what was once someone’s green field.

    • John Perkins Reply

      September 27, 2021 at 8:33 am

      Contrary to what Ian Sams claims, responding to an incessant stream of demands to build, build, build should not be described as banging on. Surely a less offensive term could be found for the actions those with views he does not share.

      Attempting to limit new development does not lead to overcrowding, though excessive development certainly leads to an inhospitable environment.

      Without any justification whatsoever, he imputes to “protesters” (using quotation marks in what can only be described as a supercilious manner) an entirely selfish concern. Perhaps he can provide some evidence for that.

      The desires of the population he gives as the sole reason for building on greenfield sites, implying that demand must be met simply because it exists. That same expanding population also demands new cars, gas, water, and schools and hospitals, which are often available on brownfield sites, but never greenfield.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    September 26, 2021 at 10:51 am

    The plans to develop Three Farms Meadow (aka land at the former Wisley airfield) in the Parish of Ockham were always the wrong sort of development in the wrong place.

    GBC’s own sustainability assessment ranked Ockham as the second least sustainable settlement in the whole borough.

    The only reason that the developer wished to put a school on the site was to fake up the presentation to make it appear “sustainable” when it is not.

    The council’s approach to sustainability in its Local Plan was box-ticking. A sustainability score was achieved by giving points for “facilities”. More facilities equalled more points: more points meant more prizes for the developer. A school on a site got it more points. So the developer, in collusion with the GBC planners, included a school on the site. This was typical “Councilspeak” because the Education Authority has always said (if asked) that it did not want a school at that location.

    The school on the site is just one of many examples of the GBC faking the facilities to beef up the sustainability score. Another is the plans to create cycle routes – which don’t go anywhere useful and will never be used. Why create them? to create sustainability points and make fees for the planning consultants.

    Real sustainability means putting energy-efficient housing physically close to places where there are jobs and access to mass transport without the need for more cars. Typically that means brownfield sites close to existing urban centres – like Guildford Town.

    The Three Farms Meadow site is in the middle of nowhere with regard to mass transport and jobs, as Planning Inspector Clive Hughes wrote in his report. It is totally car-dependent and will only create more traffic chaos at J10 of the M25.

    The problem with planning is that the rules are not applied in an honest manner. Too much is at stake for planning to be left to the planners. The Guildford Conservatives who created their disastrous Local Plan were “institutionally corrupt” in the sense used by the Daniel Morgan report. They should never be allowed anywhere near planning in this borough again.

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