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Letter: Local Conservatives Could Help By Persuading Government to Change Its Planning Priorities

Published on: 7 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 7 Aug, 2021

From: John Rigg

lead councillor for Regeneration and R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity

In response to: We Should Demand to Know When the Local Plan Is To Be Reviewed

Sadly, the former Surrey County Councillor for the Horsleys shows in her correspondence a woeful lack of understanding of how planning law works with her suggestion that the borough council can just put a temporary hold on planning applications.

I can only suggest she researches planning law and provides examples of where this has happened in similar circumstances anywhere in the UK, especially where there is a recently adopted Local Plan.

To assist Julie: until there is a formal position from central government on the housing numbers for Guildford (and everywhere else) then we will be judged against the housing requirement as set out in the Plan.

A moratorium, even if we had powers to put one in place, would cause mayhem amongst well-funded developers, those with allocated sites, those progressing “pre-app” enquiries and all other applicants. The barristers would have a field day and at the council’s cost with, of course, ratepayers footing the bill.

Ms Illes’ Conservative party made a hash of the 2019 Guildford Local Plan on so many levels from 2010 onwards. Not addressing flooding, not delivering a brownfield first approach, not including any real town planning policies for the town centre, not protecting our green belt or the villages, not ensuring an infrastructure first approach.

They allegedly relied on meetings and verbal undertakings with the minister regarding upgrades to the A3 but where are the minutes of a meeting where this was agreed?

On key measures the Plan was hopeless. Warned repeatedly by residents, professionally advised resident groups and their own supporters they chose not to listen, forcing many to recognise the need for a new party putting residents first.

I am not surprised Julie Illes wants to consign the ill-feeling about the background of the Local Plan to history. Sadly the adverse consequences will affect our villages, countryside and our borough in perpetuity. Within the town centre we have lost decades of progress.

Our R4GV election manifesto in early 2019, as Julie lles well knows, puts forward that we would make changes to a Local Plan that was unadopted at the time.

As with a Bill that has not passed through Parliament we could have easily made changes to an unadopted Plan. Unfortunately, the Conservatives knew this and rushed it through the council in the last few days of their office.

The adoption of the Plan already approved by a government planning inspector, blocks the possibility of any unilateral change without going through the procedure again. So that is what we have to do, at some considerable cost to the taxpayer and with the very limited resources we have available.

We await the SCC transportation review on which in part any change to the Plan relies. Residents should watch this space carefully to see what SCC propose for our communities in the face of the terrible outlook for further congestion, pollution and economic prejudice to Surrey as Guildford’s population rises by an expected 30,000 under the Plan, and other local authorities along the A3 having to deliver similar growth numbers.

Nonetheless, R4GV are getting on with seeking to do good things to make a real difference. We recognise the short-termism of local politics on projects which can take years to deliver. Despite that, we are trying to put in place the right foundations for future generations. We are reviewing and updating the Local Plan as soon as we can.

As we are a hung council we will need the support of other parties to both act and vote to hasten the process.

Meanwhile, l confirm we are working hard on trying to find flooding solutions to include the impact of climate change , we are working to deliver brownfield homes close to the town centre which can also help revive the High Street and avoid further incursion into green belt.

We are getting on, trying to find solutions to the chronic traffic and pollution challenges in our borough which have been worsening for decades.

As transportation is a county council responsibility the community and its voters must hope for the support from the Conservative county council and from the government’s highways agency. This includes support for better buses, better Park & Ride, better cycleways and footpaths and many other SCC responsibilities which really need a joined-up plan for our residents urgently.

Additionally, we are focusing on sustainability and the impact of global warming and our desire for better health throughout the borough will be our driving force.

These are the essential foundations for doing things properly, something that has been absent for far too long.

I would prefer that Julie Iles and the Conservatives focus on trying to help and persuade the Conservative government to address the issues relating to infrastructure deficit, especially the A3, with Guildford having the most polluted road in the UK going through the heart of our town.

Whilst road accidents nationally lead to 1,800 deaths a year premature deaths from pollution are estimated at 40,000 per year. If Julie and her colleagues could put the community first and focus on helping we could all benefit.

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Responses to Letter: Local Conservatives Could Help By Persuading Government to Change Its Planning Priorities

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    August 8, 2021 at 11:58 am

    We all know that the previous Conservative administration in Guildford poisoned the well before it left office.

    The question is what is the present administration going to do to correct the position?

    This comment, “A moratorium, even if we had powers to put one in place, would cause mayhem amongst well-funded developers…” implies the Council does not have the powers to act. But David Reeve’s letter explains that it does.

    As for “mayhem for well-funded developers”, voters want the GBC to challenge developers, not do their bidding.

    The last council created its Local Plan for developers. Voters want this council to create a Local Plan for the people who live here.

  2. H Trevor Jones Reply

    August 8, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    Can we please just all work together for the future, across the parties, agreeing to differ where necessary, but accepting majority decisions, and leave off criticising what may or may not have been done in the past or criticising individuals who may have different well-thought opinions.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 9, 2021 at 6:28 am

    We’ve had enough of these excuses already. They promised to review the Local Plan, and it is time they got on with it.

  4. Valerie Thompson Reply

    August 10, 2021 at 9:23 am

    I agree with Jules Cranwell. The Local Plan is a disaster, particularly for the villages around Guildford.

    Why are the R4GV supporting huge developments? They should be ashamed of their lax attitude to a review, having promised before the last local elections to make changes as quickly as possible.

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