Fringe Box



Letter: Let The Planners Plan – Some Expansion Is Inevitable

Published on: 4 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 4 Jul, 2015

housing picFrom Bibhas Neogi

See also: Letter: Is Concreting Over the South-east of England Really The Answer?

So much negativity about any kind of development has contributed to the current housing shortage, inadequate road network and inadequate infrastructure generally.

97% of land is countryside – yes, 97% of land. So the statement by buy-to-let landlord and former maths teacher Fergus Wilson, who has no apparent technical or planning experience, that housing needs could not be met without concreting over the SE England  seems to be a statement without any foundation.

Well developed local authority plans with the aim of achieving an equitable society are needed. Of course there will be NIMBYs rising up everywhere against any development that affects them even slightly. And there will be numerous meetings and challenges for the planners and professionals from totally inexperienced lay people purporting to foresee grave dangers in any such developments.

Expansion of towns and cities is inevitable. The process follows the advancement of civilisation from dwelling in caves to multi-story houses. More and more housing is needed to cater for increasing population be it indigenous, students or migrants.

So instead of being negative and fearful all the time about development proposals, let the planners and professional do their job and let us all aid and assist them in developing good solutions rather than rubbishing their efforts.

There is always a degree of error and uncertainty when planning for the future since predictions are based on past trends and some projections are qualified on the rate of growth scenarios etcetera that are not easy to predict.

However, our positive attitude would certainly help achieve a fair amount of progress otherwise we would continue to live in misery with inadequate housing, bad infrastructure and a fractured society.

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: Let The Planners Plan – Some Expansion Is Inevitable

  1. Nicholas Clarke Reply

    July 4, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    I think residents are correct to be cautious because often the expansion is poorly planned. Almost no new trunk roads seem to get built never mind railway lines. Also Surrey does not have enough school places at present and yet we continue to encourage more and more families to move to the area.

    Most people would be in favour of properly funded and planned development. Unfortunately there is very little of that on offer.

    Instead promises are made about long-term plans while developers get to cash in today. The long-term plans then always seem to fall by the wayside.

  2. John Robson Reply

    July 5, 2015 at 11:04 am

    We’ve let the planners plan, whilst our professional politicians rule and now everyone has gravitated towards the south east. If England is such a green and pleasant land how did this happen?

    Why are vast swathes of the country still deprived areas desperate for investment with plenty of brownfield areas to accommodate much needed housing? If we built on all the available brownfield, there would be no housing problem.

    Our economy is largely service based now, we manufacture little, you can incentivise companies to locate offices anywhere. But as Mr Neogi says, we let the planners plan. They and successive governments have done a brilliant job of creating a balanced country thus far, haven’t they?

    But being seemingly “forced” into opening up the greenbelt isn’t about tough local choices is it? It’s about rewarding the types of organisations that keep the Tories party coffers from running dry, this is pay back. Money and politics, simples.

    Planning eh?

    This wholesale demolition of the green belt has been well planned by “Dave” and Co.

  3. Harry Eve Reply

    July 5, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    There are many aspects of this letter that I would like to respond to here but I will keep it brief.

    I found it hugely positive and reassuring that so many Guildford people rose up to tell the planners where their figures and methods were wrong, and to fight for one particular principle that planners of the past, and Britain, got right – the green belt.

    It would have been utterly negative if the “totally inexperienced lay people” had shown no interest and submitted to a planning system that gives the appearance of being corrupted by greed, ambition and short-sighted political agenda.

    “NIMBY” is not a derogatory term in my opinion. We are all NIMBYs at heart but it is only those who are prepared to fight for their wellbeing, rather than be submissive and weak-minded, who earn the accolade.

    I applaud NIMBYs wherever they live. Far from expecting to be allowed to do their work without scrutiny those involved in planning should welcome the constructive criticism offered by those with fresh minds.

    I think Mr Neoghi supports that – but I would go further and suggest that the planners should expect to get a telling off when they get it seriously wrong. The Draft Local Plan was a disgrace. I will not pre-judge what comes next and hope that it will be a revelation that restores my former respect for Guildford Borough Council and the planning system.

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 5, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    I do not wish to enter into a political debate as to whether allowing to build on some parts of the greenbelt is motivated by some pay back from the developers.

    Brownfield sites should be developed first but there seems to be an assumption that such developments could be carried out easily without affecting the physical infrastructures at the same time. This surely is not the case. Other infrastructures could be expanded but it is not without their own problems when constraints are taken into account.

    The targeted scale of development is such that brownfield sites alone are not sufficient to deliver the numbers. So some expansion into sites outside of current urban areas would be needed. It is also relatively easier to plan and build completely new townships or self-sufficient areas in terms of schools, shops, surgeries and social amenities in order to reduce demand on existing physical infrastructures.

    I think Mr Robson is exaggerating the issue of possible destruction of green belt as if planners and professionals do not have any regard for these to be protected as much as possible. However, a balance has to be made between vertical and horizontal developments.

    Surely in order to have no incursion into green belt and building high-rise blocks would not be the solution. Sixties high-rise blocks in London have created social problems that cost the country much more.

    A balanced mixture of housing inclusive of all types of people in various trades and professions make for stable communities. Filling in brownfield sites with predominantly low-cost housing might again create the same problems that London has experienced.

    It is easy to blame governments for failures but if we look back on achievements over the last 50 years, there are many areas of successes. My personal experience is in the building of the motorway network. It may not be generally known that it used to take four hours to drive from Guildford to Dover and now the same journey takes an hour and a half.

    Of course a great deal more needs to be done in improving the local networks, improving them to reduce emissions and congestions and thus enhance quality of environment. But undue opposition to proposals could prevent such improvements if the culture of opposition based on fear of change continues to thrive.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    July 5, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    To be called a NIMBY (Not In My back Yard) to me is as insulting and offensive. It is like the finance ministers of the EU who say ‘We need to have an “adult” conversation, as if until now the other party has been childish. Such terms display arrogance and self righteousness.

    When we are discussing future plans for our community we must consider all factors. Ideas and suggestions from all people should be considered fairly, properly evaluating and noting the pros and cons.

    Eventually any plan must have the support of the majority and our representatives must carefully ensure this is the case.

    In the meantime let’s have less insult and more appreciation of the other fella’s point of view.

  6. Janette Panton Reply

    July 6, 2015 at 8:56 am

    If we had let the planners plan in relation to the Guildford Draft Local Plan and not had our say, which of course we are entitled to, I dread to think what would be happening to Guildford moving forward.

    The Draft Local Plan gave no consideration to infrastructure and I feel sure we would have suffered as a result.

    As with regards housing numbers – what numbers? We did not have any firm numbers when the Draft Plan was submitted for consultation. It would seem most people, apart from the Planners, believe a yearly housing number of between 300-400 would be sustainable and fair to meet local need, not the 650-800 per year proposed by our Planners.

    I for one don’t believe Mr Robson was exaggerating with regards destruction of the green belt. Some 60% of developments put forward in the draft plan were in the green belt. Had we not had our say, destruction of the green belt would have been inevitable.

    If we let the planners plan, developers would have a field day and ride roughshod over our Council, as they have in other areas. Given time, Guildford would just become an extension of London.

    It is not about fear of change, we all experience change daily and it is a good thing in many ways. But, in this instance, protecting our green belt from change is important. If we don’t do our best to protect it now, in years to come we could very well regret not having our say and letting the planners plan.

  7. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 6, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    It was a Draft Local Plan and Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has to be given credit for holding exhibitions at a number of locations and for inviting ideas, suggestions, criticisms and comments.

    That the Draft Local Plan did not include consideration for infrastructure, is because transportation, for example, is Surrey County Council’s responsibility also other utilities cover areas outside of Guildford borough and would require cross boundary planning when applications begin to filter in.

    Other infrastructure concerning schools, shops, medical centres and social amenities etc. cannot be planned so far in advance, especially when brownfield sites are isolated pockets, often too small to warrant new premises. That is why I said it is easier to plan and build new townships and self supporting areas.

    I consider the term “Local Plan” is somewhat misleading. Borough councils would only build a tiny proportion of housing themselves but would facilitate developers by identifying possible sites to build housing under a planning guidance that would set out percentage of affordable homes within their sites.

    Therefore the councils would not have control over the schemes nor the numbers, with any degree of accuracy, because market forces would determine how the developers respond to meet housing needs. I think Local Planning Guidance rather than Local Plan would have been a more appropriate title.

    Planners are obliged to consult under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF – now covering all the previous planning policy statements and planning policy guidance notes) format and revised guidance launched on 6 March 2014.

    These clearly state the need to protect green belt and circumstances when they could be altered.

    The number of new houses in a borough is part of the overall number for the county and that in turn is part of the total housing target in the SE counties.

    At this stage I think it is not material whether the target is set too high. Since the majority of the building would be done by the developers not the Councils, the actual numbers achieved would be driven by developers willing to commence building. If the returns are not profitable enough, houses will not get built.

    What the government and the councils could do is to allow building on land that is currently agricultural and getting subsidies. Please see George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian –

    As I have said in response to another letter here in the The Guildford Dragon News, out of three million houses needed, only one million could be built on brownfield sites, so the remainder has to be on largely the subsidised agricultural land. The government needs to legislate such that excessive profit from land sales destined for change of use is taxed appropriately.

  8. Ben Paton Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    The draft local plan was released before Guildford Borough Council (GBC) had even approved a housing target, before a single ‘exceptional circumstance’ justifying building on the green belt has been set out and before the transport assessment had been carried out. The list goes on.

    There are no excuses for these failures to apply common sense let alone the rules. It is ridiculous to blame Surrey County Council for the lack of a Transport Plan. It was GBC which rushed out the draft local plan, not Surrey County Council.

    Mr Neogi’s comments on housebuilders: “If the returns are not profitable enough, houses will not get built”, suggest he has not read the accounts of the main housebuilding companies. They are some of the most profitable businesses in the country and the world.

    Does Mr Neogi believe that the council’s Codes of Conduct have been complied with? If he cannot assure us that they are properly enforced (and the method of enforcement is a mystery) he cannot have any assurance that his other assertions about planners and developers are true.

    Can Mr Neogi demonstrate that the farmland at Three Farms Meadows, Blackwell Farm or Gosden Hill receives one single solitary brass farthing in subsidy? The farmland at Three Farms Meadow is Grade 3a land without need of any subsidy.

    If it is true that this land is subsidised then let’s see the evidence. If it is not true that these farms are subsidised then aren’t agricultural subsidies a red herring?

    Mr Neogi does his credibility no good when he tries to defend the indefensible.

  9. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 8, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    My comments are from my observation of the consultation process followed by Guildford Borough Council (GBC) of the Draft Local Plan.

    Whether the Draft Plan was hurried through for whatever reason or that its preparation did not follow the guidelines are for GBC to explain and defend. Following their consultation with the public, the new plan should hopefully address the issues raised.

    Identifying possible sites suitable for building can be quite independent of targets because the building of these would be led by market forces and the council would need to review the numbers actually being built as the years progress against a number predicted to be needed using various assessment criteria.

    So the target is not a hard target, it would need to be reviewed periodically. There aren’t sufficient brownfield sites to provide even the lower estimate of houses needed. So the council had to look for possible sites outside of urban areas.

    There must be something not quite right here when ‘the most profitable businesses in the country and the world’ has not taken up building 1,500 houses with approved planning permission in the GBC area.

    I suggest Mr Paton ask GBC for an explanation about their Code of Conduct. I am not in any way connected with the council and therefore such allegations are not for me to defend.

    Agricultural subsidies are not a red Herring. In 2013, €295.5 billion have been paid to 23110639 recipients.

    As far as I am aware the three areas Mr Paton cites here are not farmlands taken out of cultivation and therefore do not receive any subsidies.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      July 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      ‘…the three areas Mr Paton cites are not farmlands taken out of cultivation and therefore do not receive any subsidies’

      QED: Agricultural subsidies ARE a red herring. Despite receiving no subsidies these three areas appear prominently in the draft local plan.

      The link posted by Mr Neogi throws no useful light on any planning issues. It appears to be no more than a list of amounts of subsidy received by particular recipients – no more or less. It is not even readily apparent what the source of the data may be. It certainly does not make a case that the recipients of these subsidies are getting payments in respect of land which would more appropriately used for development.

      Is there any factual basis for Mr Neogi’s uncorroborated statement: ‘There aren’t sufficient brownfield sites to provide even the lower estimate of houses needed.’

      It is a gross over-simplification to suggest that unfettered ‘market forces’ will solve the problems.

  10. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 17, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    As far as I am aware, Blackwell Farm and Gosden Hill Farm are still under cultivation. Three Farms Meadows, if I have located it correctly, appears to be a park area. Therefore the question of farm subsidy is not relevant to these areas.

    My initial comments were for the possible building opportunities in SE England and not specifically in Guildford.

    It is often argued by many that more buildings, I n the numbers the government is aiming for in the SE England, could not be built because there are no more land left to build on.

    George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian, points the way to release land for house building.

    Of course, green belt should be protected and only encroached upon under exceptional circumstances. However, not all green fields are in the green belt.

    Extension of built-up areas adjacent to open fields may be permitted provided adequate separation of these areas are maintained. To say green belt must never be altered is unsustainable because of increase in population requires more housing.

    The alternative to restrict building only on the inside of existing urban boundaries would force the planners to go for high-rise developments.

    Is Mr Paton advocating building high-rise blocks like those, for example, in Battersea area of London?

    Infrastructure to go with such developments would have to be provided and these are not without their own problems regarding capacity for expansion of the existing services.

    Brownfield sites are often not too large but isolated pockets and hence pose enormous challenge for the planners and designers of infrastructure. So there is a limit to building on brownfield sites.

    Guildford Borough Council gave this response (please see to a specific comment on Gosden Hill land: “Whilst Guildford Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) 2013 shows that there is capacity for more homes on brownfield sites.

    However, it also shows that we do not have enough specific brownfield sites that can be delivered over the next five years to meet even our last formal housing number of 317 homes). We are therefore most likely to need to develop some green field land.”

  11. Stuart Barnes Reply

    July 19, 2015 at 9:06 am

    The only way to stop building more and more unnecessary homes is to put a complete stop to immigration, including those immigrants masquerading as asylum seekers who pour into our poor little country.

    That in turn means getting out of the hated, undemocratic EU as soon as possible.

    I have to say that I do not trust David Cameron and the “not Conservative” party to do the right thing.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *