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Letter: The Local Plan Does Not Consider The Long-Term Consequences

Published on: 10 Feb, 2017
Updated on: 10 Feb, 2017

From Karen Stevens

The current draft of the Local Plan for Guildford does not appear to constitute a plan at all. It is simply an allocation of sites for development, without addressing their long-term impacts or how these will be mitigated.

For example, it is putting forward an allocation of land at Blackwell Farm without facing up to what this means in terms of the wider infrastructure.

If we’re being generous, we could suggest that this is due to not having the resources to think it through at this stage; if we’re being cynical, we might suggest that it is a way of getting the site put forward now, knowing that large environmental and transport impacts would take place downstream, but failing to bring them to the public’s attention in case they stop the land allocation.

Aside from compelling environmental and landscape arguments, there is no doubt that a site of this scale on the west of Guildford would have major impact on the town, particularly on east-to-west traffic movements, on the A3 and on the Egerton Road (by Tesco) roundabout, which serves the Hospital’s A&E unit.

Congestion at the Egerton Roundabout was identified as a significant problem by the Planning Inspector during the 2003 Local Plan, who tried to impose a cap on traffic generated by the Manor Park development. This cap has now been reached and traffic is as bad as ever.

Traffic at the Egerton Roundabout will become dramatically worse with the proposed development at Blackwell Farm, which will include expansion of the Research Park, a new supermarket, 1,800 houses and a school to serve this swelling population.

In an attempt to alleviate these problems, the council is proposing a new access to the site from the top of the Hog’s Back at Down Place. However, the proposed signalised junction controlling this access would be impractical because of existing queues at this point, which stretch back from Guildford every weekday morning.

The only viable solution, which would allow people living and working in this new development to get on and off the site, would be a massive roundabout on the Hog’s Back, which is what the landowner (the University of Surrey) originally proposed.

This would be multi-level, cost huge sums of money (potentially making the whole development economically unviable) and occupy a large section of land designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, changing the whole character of Guildford on its western side.

Matt Furniss, lead councillor for infrastructure, has categorically and publicly stated during a council meeting, held on May 24, 2016, that a new roundabout is unacceptable to the council, from a landscape point of view.

So how can the council put forward Blackwell Farm as a development site knowing that this roundabout would be inevitable? This is why the Local Plan isn’t a plan at all. It is a blind wish to meet the arbitrary need to meet a housing target, set by the government.

Guildford Borough Council has a duty to do the best for Guildford, and this means putting forward a viable and transparent plan that considers its long-term impacts. It would be failing in this duty if it allocates Blackwell Farm knowing that doing so would require greater environmental and cost impacts than it is disclosing to the public. Such action would suggest that it is pandering to the wishes of developers and central government, and not meeting the needs of the people it is supposed to represent.

A roundabout on the Hog’s Back is not acceptable to the council and therefore neither can be a development at Blackwell Farm. The council will be continuing to waste time, money and resources if it persists in putting forward sites that are undeliverable.

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test 5 Responses to Letter: The Local Plan Does Not Consider The Long-Term Consequences

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    February 10, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Until this post, I have not heard of the proposal of a huge roundabout on Hog’s Back and a signalised access off it at Down Place.

    When the congestion at the town centre is relieved using a plan to divert traffic away from it, traffic on Farnham Road would flow much better. Whether the gyratory is replaced by a suggestion I made, or by any other suggestion, is a matter for the councils to explore and decide.

    I have suggested a re-aligned and widened to a two-lane A31 slip road and a re-routed lane of the A3 taken under Hog’s Back and widened also to two lanes meeting up with this at a signalised junction from where a link to the university land could be made.

    Access from the Hog’s Back could be a new one way road in and Down Place made the one-way exit at a signalised junction. All this is in conjunction with my suggestion for the widening of the A3 and providing an access to Onslow Park & Ride and possibly Beechcroft Drive at the same time.

    The sketch below from my website illustrates this,-
    https://tinyurl.com/Widening-the-A3

    Other sketches on the website show various ideas of improvements to the gyratory – short, medium and longer term to make town centre pedestrian friendly, relocation of the bus station, bus routes and of course possible improvements to the A3 through Guildford.

  2. Olive Edwards Reply

    February 10, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    I am disappointed that the Local Plan stands for nothing with regard to the Cathedral Hill development, which is about to be considered by the Planning Committee on Wednesday. In the current draft Local Plan, Cathedral Hill is designated Protected Open Space and although its status seems to have been somewhat arbitrarily changed in the new plan as appropriate for development, a limit of 100 homes has been placed on the site.

    Yet despite this, an application for 134 houses by Linden Homes on this site has been submitted and recommended for approval. It makes one wonder why we have a Local Plan at all and the Cathedral Hill proposed development does provide further support for the argument above that council policy is based on “pandering to the wishes of developers and central government, and not meeting the needs of the people it is supposed to represent”.

    So all in all it seems like the Local Plan is a waste of time, effort and money. It certainly seems like that to those living in the shadow of the cathedral.

  3. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    February 11, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I concur with Karen Steven’s conclusion. Traffic is already at a crawl into town down the Farnham Road from Down Place from early morning to 9.30am.

    The situation would be made additionally unfeasible should the town centre plan,for the gyratory proceed with the GBC proposal for rush hour traffic to be banned from crossing the bridge into the gyratory, other than buses. Traffic would be forced back along Madrid Road to the Cathedral roundabout and the A3.

    Despite a substantial response against development at Blackwell Farm in the draft Local Plan and petitions with over 1,000 respondents calling for GBC to take Blackwell Farm out of the plan, the site re-emerged as a strategic site.

    The government white paper alludes to protecting the green belt, AGLV and AONB the designations of which Blackwell Farm site comprises, yet Cllr Spooner still claims the Local Plan continues to comply with government policy.

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    February 12, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    What does anyone expect? The Guildford Conservatives do not represent local residents. They are just there to implement: implement half baked policies from Whitehall that have been written by people with no local knowledge.

    The planning policies are couched in terms that seek to balance multiple interests but are executed by the local Executive with every intention of favouring developers and ‘development’ – if any pretext can be found. Local objectors are just so much ‘wildlife’ – to borrow newly elected Executive Cllr Bilbe’s incendiary description.

    Most local Conservative councillors leave their thinking minds at the door of the council chamber. They are there to denounce anyone who disagrees with the doctrine and salvation of eternal economic growth. Perhaps naively they really do glory in the vain idea that Guildford can be the ‘economic powerhouse’ of the UK economy. Given the borough enjoys full employment only vanity can explain this absurd ambition.

    Once inside the chamber they are just lobby fodder, for a development dogma they can’t explain – because they don’t understand it themselves and it makes no sense. These are the same people, after all, who loyally voted for Mr Mansbridge and Ms Juneja and their policies. Perhaps after the Local Plan has irreversibly changed the borough the politicians, like the developers, will go and live somewhere else.

  5. Lisa Wright Reply

    February 14, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Has anyone considered the huge increase in housing being allocated in Aldershot, Farnham and the Hampshire towns?

    In addition to the already swelling number of cars travelling north on the A31 and A3 every morning, do the council really think adding a couple of thousand houses in the west of Guildford is really a good idea?

    Can you imagine the gridlock? It’ll stretch for miles from Godalming, Aldershot and Ash.

    That’s aside from the fact it’ll be built, no doubt with powerful lighting, on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    How the Blackwell Farm site has stayed in the Local Plan for three consultations remains a mystery as it defies all law and logic.

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