Fringe Box



Letter: The New Local Plan – Vision and Better Evidence Required

Published on: 8 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 8 Dec, 2013

Local Plan Letters imageFrom Bill Stokoe

Chairman of the Guildford Society

The council is to be congratulated on its very wide public consultation on the issues and options for the new Local Plan. Sadly the exercise has been effectively hijacked and diverted by focus on the number and location of new housing over the plan period.

And now the university, with clever timing, have announced their plans for 2000 houses on green belt land at Blackwell Farm, with access across an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It raises questions as to the validity of the consultation as presumably the council knew what the university was planning?

The Guildford Society thinks the Local Plan needs a vision akin to that set out in the council’s recently adopted 3-Year Corporate Plan. It would help bring purpose and consistency to local planning. Otherwise it’s disjointed and fragmented, with unfortunate consequences for the borough infrastructure. Guildford, our county town and the regional hub, would be especially at risk.

We want a comprehensive, professional masterplan to establish the vision, and we want it started right now. The masterplan would complement and enhance the effectiveness of the new Local Plan. It would help, for example, to identify key sites to be ring-fenced for essential infrastructure improvements to combat congestion. The university’s plans, for instance, might close off some A3 options.

We also think the evidence on the local economy and its drivers is poor and inadequate. There is no proper examination of the case for substantial retail development. There is little or no evidence on what drives the local economy, employment prospects and what the impact of growth might be. No coherent economic strategy is set down. Surely the new Local Plan needs that bedrock?

As for new housing, any attempt to settle a rational and acceptable figure has been frustrated by a lack of information and a confusing range of options. An ill-judged survey of land surrounding the urban and village settlements seems to threaten AONBs unnecessarily.

We will object to any development within an AONB, and believe that all brownfield sites should be fully developed in a well-planned, joined-up program before there is any incursion attempted into the established green belt.

I encourage your readers to visit our website and follow the links to our submission. It makes for interesting reading. There’s an executive summary which is a ‘must read’.

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