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Letter: We Need A ‘Save The Green Belt’ Party

Published on: 18 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 18 Nov, 2013

Hogs Back LetterFrom Susan Parker

When it comes to green belt protection and the Local Plan each councillor will need to account to his/her own voters in relation to whether or not he or she has taken their views on board.

There is actually a lot of brownfield land available.   The council’s own plan identifies about 184 hectares of brownfield land. Of that there are 20 hectares they won’t contemplate using for houses because it is needed for “economic development” (although we already have high employment and a shortage of homes for key workers). They are concerned we don’t have an Aldi or Lidl.

They have decided not to use some of the brownfield sites that they could use for housing and that they think would be “good” for housing.

Here are some simple facts, all from the GBC consultation document. Sorry about the maths, but it is worth doing the sum:

  • They have identified brownfield sites totalling 184 hectares inside the town settlement boundaries. These are car parks, disused factories, scruffy land. I’m not including Merrist Wood, Guildford College, RHS Wisley or the open spaces near the Cathedral (I’ve taken those off their list).  These are GBC’s own identified sites. There are other sites which they haven’t identified so there is actually more land available.
  • They propose using a density of 40 homes per hectare. (Actually terraced houses count for about 64 homes per hectare, and 3 storey flats could be 115 homes per hectare (source: Greater London Authority),  but let’s use GBC numbers for now).
  • If you multiply 40 homes per hectare x 184 hectares, you get 7360 homes.  That’s a bit more than their estimate of building only 3302 homes on previously developed land. Why don’t they want to build more on those brownfield sites?
  • GBC have – roughly – said that they built 322 homes per year over the last few years and there was no pressure to build more.  That means – at current rates – we have 22 years’ supply, before we go outside the existing settlement boundary.  That number is using their (low) density number, and doesn’ take any other brownfield sites into account.

That means we don’t need to touch the AONB.  We don’t need to touch the green belt.   We don’t need to change settlement boundaries nor build on any green fields.  Including  the land beyond the green belt near Ash and Tongham.  Nor am I talking about “garden grabbing” but rather, mostly, about car parks, derelict factories, and urban regeneration. All on sites that GBC wants to develop anyway.

We even have time to decide on which brownfield sites to use first, so we can get the planning and design right. All the car parks in question are “surface” – which means that any building can have underground car parking for the same number of cars as a condition of planning permission. No loss of parking either, in fact. And we keep the countryside.

Building on the green belt means high profit five-bedroom executive homes, with lots of land being used, and we all lose. If we want affordable homes, then we have to look at these brownfield sites.

But the plan to carry out the local consultation was voted for unanimously by Guildford Borough councillors. I think they need to be held to account.

I think we need a “Save the Green Belt” party, with an agenda for no building on greenfield sites until every brownfield site, surface car park and derelict factory is used.

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test 4 Responses to Letter: We Need A ‘Save The Green Belt’ Party

  1. Adrienne Golightly Reply

    November 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I agree with this idea. Maybe it would get the political parties listening to their constituents?

  2. Julian Cranwell Reply

    November 19, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I concur 100% with both Susan’s views and her analysis, the background data for which I have analysed extremely thoroughly.

    GBC needs to tell us why they are so bent at preserving vast areas of brownfield, at the expense of the green belt.

    I propose Susan as our first candidate for the ‘Save the Green Belt Party’.

  3. Paul Bridgland Reply

    November 20, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I am utterly baffled and astounded by recent planning decisions. As a passionate local supporter of all things local, they appear to be totally at odds with my own personal views and also many others that I know.

    Firstly, the Planning Committee (who is it that elects these people into office?*) have recently refused permission to extend the Mandolay Hotel, even though the town desperately needs more business accommodation. We are losing out to other towns.

    The Mandolay’s proposal was to spend £2m of their own money building on their existing footprint to add another 25 rooms with little or no effect to anyone nearby. I understand that the majority of the few objections were from tenants of nearby flats?

    Tenants are people in transient residence and not owners of the properties . Go figure!

    This was countered by letters of support from businesses. Some of these were from out of town businesses and were rejected on that basis. Surely the idea of a hotel is to accommodate non-local people so why are these users of the hotel’s facilities views not relevant? The decision was voted down by 17 councillors and two abstained. Why?

    Guildford’s residents and Guildford’s facilities survive and prosper as a result of local businesses. The council planning committee should be seeking to support issues such as this not blanking them with little or no consideration or consultation.

    Next I hear that these same councillors are proposing to build on one of Guildford’s beauty spots, the fabulous Pewley Downs** Utterly ridiculous and something that must be stopped at all costs, in my view. I don’t live there but like many other local people I enjoy visiting the area and walking there, especially in summer. It is an iconic and historic part of our town.

    There is an opportunity to have some say by visiting http://www.save-our-downs.org. You can print out a form and send in a petition if like me, you feel strongly about this issue and would like to do all that you can to stop it happening. You must do this before 29th November.

    Paul Bridgland is the Director of Best of Guildford

    Editor’s footnotes:

    * Planning decisions which are considered especially important or controversial (e.g. where more than 10 letters of objection or support against the planning officers recommendation are received) are taken by those borough councillors who sit on the Planning Committee. It is made up, proportionally, of councillors from all political parties on the council represented. All Guildford Borough councillors are elected by the residents of the borough.

    **No decision has been taken on Pewley Down yet. Nor has any planning application been made. It has been identified as a possible area for development as part of the current Local Plan consultation.

    See also: Mandolay Hotel Planning Application Refused – Despite Hotel Room Shortage

    This comment has also been published as a letter.

  4. Michael Bruton Reply

    November 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Why do we need a ‘Save the Green Belt Party’? Because the Tories on Guildford Borough Council (GBC) cannot be trusted with the green belt or the Surrey Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

    They have distributed a policy document and questionnaire on the Local Plan that presumes inroads/destruction of much of the green belt. The Tories voted in unison for this £100k consultation questionnaire.

    The difficulty now is that we have a pro developer document as the talking point in terms of so called ‘consultation’. And we all know what consultation means where politicians are concerned.

    At a meeting in East Horsley Village Hall on 7 November we were treated to a bizarre explanation from Cllr Wicks on why we should oppose proposed development (as proposed in the questionnaire) in a consultation process/document that she and her colleagues had supported.

    Having read the latest Tory Newsletter for Clandon and Horsley I am not sure that we can rely on the Horsley Borough Councillors to protect the villages we love.

    So yes to Susan Parker’s suggestion. A ‘Save the Green Belt Party’ would probably sweep the board in the Horsleys at the next GBC Elections. New brooms all round?

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