Fringe Box



Letter: The Local Plan – How to Ignore Democracy

Published on: 23 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 23 Jun, 2014

Local Plan Letters imageFrom Michael Bruton

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) showed just how to ignore democracy at their meeting on June 19th: first pack a meeting with supporters and then be rude to dissenters.

This was the observed behaviour of the Tory council. The Executive forced through the next stage of the draft Local Plan – with its housing target of 652 homes per annum. We are now faced with another so called ‘consultation’ period from 1st July for 12 weeks.

It is important, however, that we do respond so that when the proposed plan is examined at a public enquiry in the Spring of 2015, the conduct of the council – its councillors, officers and advisers – can be fully examined and the flaws in the plan fully exposed.

Earlier this year there were 19,000+ submissions to the initial consultation which GBC largely ignored. The council failed to analyse these submissions and provide us with a summary of what people feel. No wonder. A majority were against the intentions of GBC. This perhaps is the reason that many electors regard a consultation from GBC as a sham.

One of the main threats to the green belt countryside around Guildford is the insatiable demand of the University of Surrey over Blackwell Farm. This is the area where the A31 Hogs Back joins the A3. This vast area is owned by the university which wants to make enormous profit by selling off this protected land for housing.

But the university is already sitting on planning permission for 2000+ student homes on its own campus. If they were built they would free up loads of affordable homes in central Guildford. At the meeting pride of place was given to pro-development speakers from the university including a professional consultant who appeared unable to confirm whether or not he lived in the Guildford Borough.

My greatest shock at the meeting was over the treatment of a young female student who spoke passionately in favour of the green belt and who was quite relaxed about renting property in Guildford. Because she did not give pro-development councillors the answers they were after she was sneered at and badly treated by some of them.

If councillors were treated in such a manner they would be the first to complain. No councillors including the chairman of the meeting intervened on her behalf. Shame on them. It appears that the ‘Nasty Tory Party’ is in charge here.

One consequence of their action is that this Tory Council is damaging the re-election chances of its Tory MP, Anne Milton, in 2015, in what is today a marginal constituency.

On a principled note all but one Lib Dem councillor opposed the draft plan in its current state and four Conservative councillors did likewise.

Electors will remember that the Tories within GBC stood on an Election Manifesto in 2011 with an unequivocal promise to protect the green belt. Such a betrayal of their manifesto promise may not go unnoticed in the borough elections also scheduled next year. After all, what will such a manifesto be worth?

(Michael Bruton is the former Conservative Surrey county councillor for Guildford East and a campaigner for green belt protection.)

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Responses to Letter: The Local Plan – How to Ignore Democracy

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    June 23, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Well said Michael Bruton.

    I watched the 4.5 hours of it on the webcam (which kept dropping out) and was similarly appalled. So much for the frequently vaunted localism and ‘We are all in together’. Our views were disregarded. We have no representation. The content of next May’s ballot boxes will be of great interest.

    It was like a piece of theatre that had been choreographed beforehand and there was never going to be an alternative to the vote for the local plan. A steamroller was in the room. A travesty.

    Nor did I need to hear again of Ms Juneja’s harassment. What had that got to do with the subject of the evening’s proceedings?

    We hear time and again that planning applications that are refused will go to appeal. It is like a gun to our heads.

    Btw. I heard that 27 councillors voted ‘for’, 14 ‘against’ with 1 abstention, making a total of 42. I believe there are 48 councillors so where were the other 6? I might have missed any apologies for absence.

  2. Kelly-Marie Blundell Reply

    June 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Dear Michael,
    All Lib Dem Councillors opposed the Draft Local Plan going out to consultation because it is not fit for purpose.
    If the Conservatives weren’t so keen on slamming through development without infrastructure, and failing to address constituent needs, we wouldn’t have had such an evening on Thursday.
    The Conservatives have dithered over getting a local plan in place for four years. They have put their own re-election at risk as a result.
    Kelly-Marie Blundell

  3. Bernard Parke Reply

    June 24, 2014 at 9:35 am

    I am sure that I am not alone in hoping that this debate is not to be clouded by a division amongst representatives of the national parties.

    Such a divisions will not help the cause of us whose concern is not just for the quality of our lives but for the future quality of life of our children and our children’s children.

  4. Peter Shaw Reply

    June 24, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Action groups (Guildford Greenbelt Guardians, the Guildford Society etc.) have been highlighting the point, since February, that the Office of National Statistic (ONS) data forecasting population growth was deeply flawed.

    The groups then directly conversed with the ONS, who admitted there was a flaw in the forecast data. The population figure was revised down by 5000, which would have a huge impact on housing need numbers. Yet Guildford Borough Council (GBC) have ignored this advice.

    Instead GBC have released a document for public consultation based on wildly inaccurate data, wildly inflating the housing need required for the borough and putting both rural and urban residents at risk from over development of this historic market town and green belt land.

    One of council leader Stephen Mansbridge’s comments during the 19th June meeting was especially shocking. He told councillors that voting against sending the draft local plan to consultation, would delay the whole process by several years (I believe 4-5 was mentioned).

    How can it take 4-5 years to redraft a few pages of a local plan document with more accurate data? If that is the state of how things operate at the Tory led GBC at Millmead then I can’t wait for next year’s ballot boxes to arrive.

  5. Michael Mortimer Reply

    June 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Oh how I agreed with Michael Bruton’s comments concerning the behaviour of some councillors at the recent GBC meeting. I observed behaviour from one particular councillor ill befitting an elected member. The councillor added nothing to the debate.

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