Fringe Box



Letter: Letters from R4GV Members Concern Me

Published on: 4 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 7 Sep, 2023

From: Robin Horsley

In response to: Social Media Attacks Did Affect Election Result and Will You Fall for Social Media Fake News?

I was very concerned to see two articles published over the weekend in The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

First, the piece entitled “Social Media Attacks Did Affect Election Result” by former [R4GV] councillor John Rigg alleges that I had made up half-truths and misrepresentations during the election campaign.

Second, the letter entitled “Will You Fall for Social Media Fake News?” by R4GV Cllr Dawn Bennett claims that my campaign “was presented so well to mislead so many”.

Neither piece substantiates the allegations made.

There have been various instances on social media of similar allegations being made without substantiation despite various people asking.

At no time since I started campaigning at the local elections earlier this year have I been contacted by R4GV asking me to correct any mistakes I may have inadvertently made in my communications or to retract any statements – not a single instance. None.

If there had been any mistakes made, or inaccuracies, I would have been happy to correct accordingly.

I would therefore urge The Dragon to check any further articles for accuracy and substance. I think it reflects very badly on R4GV that they continue in this manner but that is for them to decide how they communicate.

But for The Guildford Dragon NEWS to publish unsubstantiated allegations surely cannot be good for The Dragon or for reasonable public discourse? Surely your readers would reasonably expect that you had checked facts and substance to allegations prior to publication.

I went to great lengths during my campaign to ensure that I evidenced all the information I conveyed and to ensure that I was campaigning on a sound legal basis. As I think you know, I contacted the Electoral Commission and sent a copy of the “Battle for Guildford” video to them before I released it. They were happy that it was consistent with the framework for a “non-party campaign” and complied.

I note that this morning, a piece has appeared on The Dragon by former [R4GV] councillor John Redpath [Is This the Way We Want Councillors To Be Influenced?] which seems to suggest that councillors on the Planning Committee were pre-determined in favour of the North Street application prior to the planning meeting which refused the scheme on 11th January.

Again the article fails to substantiate this with any evidence. Councillors are required by law to make their decisions at a planning meeting without being pre-determined so Redpath’s allegations are a serious matter and publishing such unsubstantiated allegations may also be.

Redpath seems to have got his dates muddled. I didn’t meet with Cllr George Potter until over two months after the scheme had been rejected. We met in a public place (a pub) and discussed the question of viability. This was long before any new application or an appeal was lodged.

Redpath seems to think it is unacceptable for local tax-payers to lobby councillors on issues of public concern. He seems to fundamentally misunderstand how democratic politics functions. The context of the warning about my considering running a campaign at the local elections was following grave concerns that I had about the lack of public awareness and consultation that had taken place over this site – which is partly council-owned land.

I simply could not see how the application complied with planning policies and therefore could only be approved by ignoring sound policies – by “pushing it through” by ignoring its non-compliance with such policies. Surely not something that should have been considered unless there truly was overwhelming public support and public interest to be served.

In the event, despite R4GV councillors on the Planning Committee expressing considerable reservations about the scheme but voting for it, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives voted against it.

The decision notice detailed a total of eight reasons for refusal with each of these reasons for refusal detailing multiple planning policies that the application did not comply with.

So, as far as I can see, despite R4GV councillors attempts to vote the scheme through, the proper process was undertaken and on a logical basis the Planning Committee decided that the application was not acceptable.

I hope that if my communication with councillors did influence them, it was to exhort them in their efforts to carefully consider the application. That was certainly my hope at the time although I note that Redpath conversely claims otherwise to an extent. I don’t know who read what or when.

This is a very odd situation. If I have understood it correctly, Redpath seems to be implying that had it not been for my efforts to make people aware of what was going on and my emails sent to councillors the scheme would have been passed because it had already been decided – by R4GV committee members and others? Is that really his allegation?

If there is any substance to that then it is indeed a serious matter particularly coming from a previously serving member of the Planning Committee. But again, surely such an allegation needs to be substantiated.

I appreciate that R4GV candidates who did not get elected in May are disappointed that they were unsuccessful. But surely they would better serve their own interests by accepting the electorate’s collective decision and reflecting that the scheme was not popular with the electorate whom councillors are there to serve.

R4GV had far greater resources at their disposal for their campaign than I did working alone and I think their attempts to suggest that I was misleading people back-fired considerably. I substantiated every key point made because I don’t just expect people to believe me without evidence.

R4GV seem to think that people will just blindly follow any assertion made on social media. They should surely have learned to their cost that this just is not the case. I had numerous messages from people who were concerned about the manner of their unsubstantiated allegations.

I don’t know what has motivated R4GV to author this flurry of attack pieces at such a belated stage. But I note that one of their two county councillors has just resigned his post, so perhaps they are trying to rejuvenate themselves in advance of an impending by-election?

Or perhaps they hope that this will somehow persuade the Liberal Democrats to pass the revised scheme for North Street. I doubt it.

As far as the revised North Street scheme is concerned it is now in the hands of the Lib Dem led council and I see every reason to hope that they and others on the Planning Committee will carefully consider the new application in line with planning policy and make a sound decision on a basis that receives broad public support.

Personally, I don’t see any reason at this stage to further involve myself in it other than to follow what is occurring. I have shared some commentary on the application already.

Please feel free to publish this letter as you wish. I will circulate it in any case.

Editor’s response: Reader’s letters are by their nature opinion expressed by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of The Dragon, as stated in our published policy. But we have already published copies of emails to councillors from Robin Horsley referred to in the letters and they are also contained within John Redpath’s letter. The video Battle for Guildford is in the public domain.

Interviews with Robin Horsley can be found here.

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Responses to Letter: Letters from R4GV Members Concern Me

  1. John Ferns Reply

    September 4, 2023 at 6:01 pm

    Methinks the gentleman doth protest overmuch. In politics, as in life, you reap what you sow.

    • Robin Horsley Reply

      September 4, 2023 at 7:45 pm

      I agree John assuming you are referring to Redpath’s protestations. I am very dubious about his claims. It seems to be clutching at straws to me.

    • Marion Gooding Reply

      September 4, 2023 at 11:11 pm

      I think you’ll find that the electorate protested by placing their votes at the ballot box. Robin Horsley alerted the electorate to a scheme that was hardly known to the wider Guildford community, something that should have been done by the developers.

      • Peta Malthouse Reply

        September 5, 2023 at 7:52 pm

        But the developers did communicate.

        There were two years of consultations, which I certainly participated in, and meetings advertised in this online newspaper and other media.

  2. Keith Parkins Reply

    September 5, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    Well done for exposing R4GV. A local hero.

    You exposed them for what they were, and it was good news they lost their seats. It’s only a pity their leader did not lose his seat.

    They promised to oppose any bad development. Once in power, they tried to push through an ugly development that would have destroyed Guildford.

    But it was not only the ugly development. They cast 27 Yes votes for Experience Guildford that is killing struggling local businesses with the BID Levy. And car park fees were hiked and public toilets closed.

    Once again well done for helping to kick out R4GV.

  3. Keith Parkins Reply

    September 7, 2023 at 11:40 pm

    Yesterday Experience Guildford handed out its worthless Customer Services Award.

    Meanwhile in the real world, a gang of yobs looted Waitrose.

    We should be very concerned where the funding came from. The very same developer who wishes to trash Guildford with their ugly North Street development.

    Shame on any local business that accepted this award. Any that has, should hand it back.

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