Fringe Box



Letter: No Development Is Not An Option

Published on: 18 May, 2017
Updated on: 18 May, 2017

From Christopher Dalby

Both the outgoing Surrey University Students Union president and council leader Paul Spooner, Guildford spoke very well during Tuesday’s council debate on the Local Plan. Guildford certainly does have a housing crisis although according to some you wouldn’t think so.

The housing plan is not a case of “if” it should go ahead but more about “where” development should take place. Nobody can seriously claim that housing is not in massive short supply in the area; a crisis it certainly is and whether people like it or not development must go ahead and sooner rather than later, as things will only get worse.

We need a serious meeting to go ahead, one where all the proposed areas are put on the table and a vote is made on where to build. Only then can we progress sufficiently.

This bickering between different groups has gone on for far too long, and those that feel obliged to object to any development at all should be removed from the process completely and advised on best how to join the “real world”.

No development at all is not an option, we are a country that has grown immensely since the green belt policy was bought in in the 1950s and we must modernise. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to build over any countryside but with Britain being one of the most densely populated countries in the world we have absolutely no choice.

It is about time we all saw and accepted the situation rather than the most comfortable and well off in our society being allowed to burden the rest of us. This is exactly what is happening here whether people like it or not. Such selfish attitudes must be challenged and a fair and realistic house building program adopted.

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Responses to Letter: No Development Is Not An Option

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    May 18, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Has anyone said the no development is an option?

    The only people who put up this absurd proposition are those who try to discredit reasoned criticism of the draft Local Plan. Setting up an Aunt Sally to knock it down does not engage with the facts or the arguments.

    The fact is not a single critic of the draft Local Plan has ever proposed no development.

    • Christopher Dalby Reply

      May 19, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      I disagree, all I hear from the same old parties are arguments about infrastructure, green belt, traffic etc, but these groups and individuals never come up with any ideas or plans on where and what to build. They don’t say that we should not have any development directly but by a process of elimination of every other option. I think it’s fair to say that is the case otherwise we would know about it and their ideas would be a perfect counter argument.

      I would take any opposition much more seriously should this begin to happen, as would everybody I’m sure.

      Housing is an urgent need, the green belt protection was all good and well in the 50s when the population was a third less than it is today but times move on and there are parts of it around Guildford perfectly suitable for building on. That is without doubt.

      • John Perkins Reply

        May 20, 2017 at 6:05 pm

        Has Christopher Dalby not read any of the letters suggesting that more use be made of brownfield sites? What about those proposing that developers use their existing land banks? Or those offering low-rise blocks of flats as an alternative? Perhaps if he had he might take them seriously.

        The claim that “housing is an urgent need” is not substantiated and especially not by the spurious argument that the population is higher now. There are parts of the country where homes stand empty. Locally, the perceived shortage has, in large part, been created by the activities of the university.

        • Christopher Dalby Reply

          May 26, 2017 at 6:01 pm

          To deny Britain has a housing crisis is nothing short of laughable.

          Yes, there are parts of the country that have homes lying empty (mainly in the North) but there is a very good reason for this in that there is a lack of jobs and opportunities in those areas, are you suggesting that local people that cannot get on the housing ladder here should move there?

          It doesn’t take much research to find that house building is at an all-time low in this country whilst the population is rising at record levels yet it is claimed that housing is not in urgent need.

          John Perkins needs to realise that just because he might be in a comfortable situation, and not in need of housing himself, it does not mean others are. Something of which far too many are unaware.

          • Ben Paton

            May 26, 2017 at 9:26 pm

            To claim that building houses in unsustainable locations will solve anything is laughable. To argue that building houses will make any material difference to house prices is intellectually dishonest. To build the wrong sorts of houses in the wrong places is not just laughable – it is tragic.

            To talk generically about a “housing crisis” without any further analysis is just lazy. To promote building new houses over re-using existing buildings is irresponsible. To build more so-called affordable homes – that are not affordable – in priority to social housing is immoral.

            The housing “crisis” is primarily a crisis of social housing. Building executive homes will no more address this problem than increasing the production of executive cars will allay a shortage of mobility scooters.

            Trite slogans are the stock in trade of the local-government-development lobby.

          • John Perkins

            May 27, 2017 at 10:14 am

            Mr Dalby knows nothing of my situation, though it doesn’t seem to stop him passing judgement.
            He still hasn’t backed up his claim that there is a housing crisis. Telling people to go and look for themselves is not an argument.
            However, he does raise an interesting point. Those people unable to afford a home here and unable to find work COULD move to another part of the country. Their accommodation would then be available to others. It may not be a choice all would make, but it’s certainly a possibility. Only 20 years ago it was quite common, although that seems to have been forgotten.

          • John Robson

            May 27, 2017 at 10:39 am

            Why shouldn’t the sons and daughters of Surrey migrate to the North?

            There has been economic migration from north to south since Thatcher turned the North into what the Conservatives endearingly call the “wastelands”.

            It’s ironic that Conservative economic policy will now wreak as much havoc to the affluent South as it did to the impoverished North.

      • Ben Paton Reply

        May 24, 2017 at 4:27 pm

        1. The National Planning Policy Framework puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of the council and developers to show that their proposals constitute sustainable development. To disregard this responsibility is to disregard the law. Many of the objections to particular developments are made on multiple grounds – not just because the land is green belt. To ignore all the other grounds is yet a further distortion of the facts. The law in many cases puts a precautionary obligation on the council – to refuse permission unless it can demonstrate that adverse consequences for Special Protection Areas, for example, will not follow.

        2. Protecting the environment and the quality of life of those who live in the borough is also an urgent need. The natural environment is under greater threat than at any point in human history. To add 25% more houses without proper regard for the consequences is both irresponsible and contrary to the planning rules.

        3. As a matter of fact housing is not an urgent need. There is no shortage of physical housing – as the ONS statistics make clear. What there is is a shortage of social housing. That’s not the same as so-called “affordable’ housing”. This shortage is the creation of Conservative housing policy. There are fewer social houses in the borough because the council has consistently sold them off, did not build any for twenty years, and still does not replace all of those sold. Building executive homes for the profit of the national house builders on the pretext of a housing need does not address this problem.

        4. Central government (DCLG) has written to MPs to say that housing need is not in and of itself an exceptional circumstance.

        5. Surrey is one of the most densely populated parts of the country and also of Europe. It is not feasible or responsible to seek to meet demand – which is driven by international migration of people and investment funds – just because it exists. Our politicians are elected to represent our residents ie the people who live here now – not those who may wish to migrate here in the next ten years. There are plenty of cities in Germany where the populations are lower than they were in the 1930s and that could much more sustainably satisfy the international demand.

        To try to turn the argument into a simple binary choice of building or not building on the green belt is a disingenuous distortion of the more complex reality.

        There is no evidence for the claim that anyone is arguing for no development at all. It is just more play acting by the house building lobby.

    • Hilary Minor Reply

      May 19, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      Well said, Ben Paton. This is definitely the setting up of an Aunt Sally in order to discredit opposition and drag the argument to the extreme of silliness.

      I also intensely object to sentences like: “…those that feel obliged to object to any development at all should be removed from the process completely and advised on best how to join the “real world” and “whether people like it or not development must go ahead and sooner rather than later”.

      Comments like that smell of intransigence, intolerance and arrogance – the opinion of someone who has decided what is going to happen and will impose it “whether people like it or not”.

      • Christopher Dalby Reply

        May 20, 2017 at 9:24 pm

        Hilary Minor and I may well have different views as to exactly what intransigence, intolerance and arrogance actually are in this case because if she is suggesting that Guildford and the surrounding areas do not have a housing crisis then there really is no hope for anybody.

        She should remember that a housing crisis doesn’t have to include her own private and personal situation (which I suspect is ‘comfortable’) but that of hundreds and probably thousands of others desperately need a home in the area. They are being deprived of one due to quite unacceptable attitudes, many of which I read on websites like this every day.

        I wish that all those constantly fighting this cause would for once put themselves in the following position, one of need where opportunities were being denied to them by those already leading a comfortable life. Maybe then they would understand how intolerable their views are.

        Our prime minister speaks often of the haves and have nots in this country and what we have here is a prime example of that.

        • John Perkins Reply

          May 21, 2017 at 11:17 am

          Hilary Minor clearly states that she is objecting to the intransigent, intolerant and arrogant language used in expressing a desire to remove from the debate some with opposing views. Mr Dalby might find more support if he were to answer the point being made and refrain from personal slights. In fact, he illustrates her point perfectly with his use of the terms “unacceptable attitudes” and “intolerable views”.

  2. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 18, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    The destruction of our the green habitats, green belt and our environment and its subsequent benefit to human life is very selfish.

    Yes, we need fair and reasonable housing. Unfortunately, our council seems to prefer the great big new homes bonus carrot from the government and the huge sums of money floating about for infrastructure improvements from developers to fill the shortfall of investment from central government.

    When you have that much much money at stake, it’s no wonder we’ve been left with a “build at any cost” Local Plan.

    • Christopher Dalby Reply

      May 24, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      The green belt protection was brought in in the 50s when the population of the country was a third less than today. I do not see how it is selfish to build on parts of our countryside. If we had always gone with the “benefit of humankind attitude” argument we should never have built anywhere at all which would have been to the detriment of the human race, I’d say.

      We do need to protect areas of countryside, of course, but there are also many parts around Guildford suitable for building on. Simply protecting everywhere, for the sake of it, is not of any help whatsoever, people will just increasingly struggle to get homes to live in.

      Also, Lisa Wright speaks of “build at any cost” but a counter argument of “don’t build at any cost” doesn’t work for me.

      Anyway, if there are any ideas of exactly what we can do and where we can build to solve the housing crisis? I’m all ears.

      • Neville Bryan Reply

        May 26, 2017 at 5:08 pm

        I watch Mr Dalby’s blind support of development at any cost with growing interest. If he lives in this area he will be victim, like the rest of us, to the traffic, fumes and decreased quality of life this brings.

        The concept of town redevelopment and improvement of what we already have it seems to me is lost, and the focus on is on, “Let’s have some farmland (and that is what is being asked for) instead.”

        Our town is looking tired and there are areas which are ripe for redevelopment. Moving some large traffic based business out of the centre (particularly those on Walnut Tree Close) and closer to transport hubs makes sense. Moving students to the university campus makes sense. Neither is part of this “plan”.

        If we called this process “land recycling” perhaps it would be more trendy and headline catching, and perhaps put emphasis in restricted area’s like ours, back on where to should be. Instead, GBC and the developers want to butcher our green belt and stop us feeding ourselves.

        Right now it seems to me that the word “plan” is incorrect. It isn’t a plan, but a raw mechanism to build houses so developers can make money, and councils obtain government funding.

        We’re just the noisy majority of people who live here, so clearly not important to the decision makers.

        • Christopher Dalby Reply

          May 31, 2017 at 12:23 pm

          I absolutely do not support development at any cost and have never ever claimed to do so.

          A well planned Local Plan is what I support and the most recent one is excellent, in my opinion, as have been proposals put forward in the past such as the Blackwell Farm development.

          I will happily make it clear though that I also do not support no development at any cost, something you do actually seem to agree with.

          There are many areas which are prime for development and despite all the ignorance and denials about our massive population increase and housing crisis we simply must not deny a future for generations to come. I don’t see how anybody can disagree with that, although those already in a comfortable position have proved me wrong time and time again, which is sad.

          • Lisa Wright

            May 31, 2017 at 3:22 pm

            Aside from all the other problems with the university proposals, I take it Christopher Dalby won’t be needing to go to the Royal Surrey County Hospital anytime soon?

            Does he realise the chaos on Gill Avenue and Egerton Road that will be caused by building thousands of houses and an extension of the Surrey Research Park on Blackwell Farm?

          • John Perkins

            May 31, 2017 at 4:41 pm

            If the Local Plan is so good then why does it not address the shortage of social housing? Or even housing genuinely affordable by those not already comfortably wealthy?

            Large developers don’t seem capable of looking at any green space without seeing profit for themselves, so perhaps they are not the best people to help formulate a Local Plan. Yet that is what seems to have happened.

            Future generations, if they exist at all, might take a dim view of all the concrete around them – they might prefer trees. Regardless, it would be better to concentrate first on those already on the council waiting list.

  3. Peter Shaw Reply

    May 19, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Yet again the opposers to excessive development are made out to be ‘the nasty party’, with myths once again perpetuated.

    The opposers to the Local plan are not against development. We are against the excessive development that is proposed.

    Meaningful discussion on the housing need for Guildford (i.e. how many houses Guildford actually needs over the plan period) can’t be achieved until we have a SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Assessment a.k.a how many new homes are built each year in the borough) that can be properly scrutinized.

    For those new to the argument this means the calculations used to generate the numbers reported in the SHMA to be known and released. The current SHMA calculations (which should be public, after all we paid through our taxes for the work) have never been scrutinised and have never been released by the council. This means the public have never been able to verify the work.

    Cllr David Reeve has tried to replicate the methodology used in the SHMA with information open to the public from other sources and has arrived at a calculation very different from what is in the official SHMA. His calculations were freely and publicly released for scrutiny.

    Some concerned members of the public want to know why there is such a difference as it will make an impact to all the citizens of the borough. However after several freedom of information requests and repeated questions at council this matter has still not been resolved. Quite rightly people are questioning if there is something the GBC Executive is trying to hide within the current SHMA numbers.

    I am led to believe the council has stated one of the reasons it is not releasing the calculations, is that it contracted GL Hearn to write the SHMA. GL Hearn subcontracted the calculations to a company ‘Justin Gardner Consulting (JGC)’. JGC have refused to give up their calculations and although this work has been funded by public money and in the contract clearly states this work is owned by the public, this private company is refusing to give up the intellectual property that the public now owns.

    GBC Executive are, in my opinion, using this as a convenient smoke screen to hide behind these figures rather than questioning their validity.

    Once the numbers are known and scrutinised, then we can have a proper debate about where in the borough to put houses. But because at the moment we have to take the numbers at their face value, without public scrutiny of the calculations, we have no confidence in them. So the numbers could be too low, the numbers could be too high, the numbers could be about right. The fact is we don’t know and we don’t have confidence.

    So thanks for the offer, but no, I won’t just blindly accept the situation. I won’t blindly agree to develop parts of the borough unnecessarily. I won’t blindly be fooled by an Executive who may have ulterior motives.

    I want to have the facts so, during this summer’s consultation, I can make an informed decision. Don’t others not also want to know the facts or will we all be following blindly what is being fed to us?

    • Christopher Dalby Reply

      May 22, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Do we really need a SHMA to tell us we have a housing crisis in the area? Really? And if anything the areas primed for development are actually too small rather than large. The council waiting list alone is in the thousands.

      It does not take much research to see that our population is rising by over 500,000 a year which includes currently over 270,000 in annual net migration alone. If anyone claims we need a survey done to see if we need houses built then I disagree.

      • John Perkins Reply

        May 23, 2017 at 3:58 pm

        Yes, we need a verifiable SHMA to tell us if we need to build houses, otherwise we might have to rely on people who present their opinions as fact.

        How many council houses will be built in those areas primed for development?

        Why should anyone assume that, just because someone wants to come and live here, residents must accommodate them?

  4. Linda Cooper Reply

    May 19, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Here in Alfold, we too have over development problems and I often wonder about how SHMA figures are arrived at.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      May 20, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      I’m terribly sorry for Linda Cooper but Waverley and Woking Borough Councils subcontracted to Guildford for a joint SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment]. Guildford then sub-contracted the work to GL Hearn, who in turn (contrary to the provisions of the contract) sub-contracted to J Gardner Consulting.

      One has to wonder if so many layers were used as deliberate obfuscation of the methodology. Not one councillor in any of our boroughs has been allowed to see the workings or methodology used to generate this SHMA. A ‘black box’ methodology has therefore been used, which is disallowed under the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework].

      You could not make this up.

  5. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 23, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Once and for all, there is not a “housing crisis’ in the UK; don’t let anyone tell you different. It is a myth perpetrated by the development lobby to inflate their already eye-watering profits.

    What we have is a demand crisis for executive homes in Surrey and the South-East, due to generations of governmental incompetence.

    And, no, there will be no ‘affordable’ homes build under the Local Plan, unless you consider 80% of market value of £500,000 homes affordable.

    When houses are available in other parts of the country for as little as £100, do not tell me there in a national crisis.

    If GBC builds all it proposes, on the basis of a discredited and secretive OAN and SHMA, what we will have is a self-made infrastructure crisis so devastating that no one will want to live in the borough.

    • Christopher Dalby Reply

      May 25, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      House building is at an all time low yet the population is rising at record numbers. Maths does not appear to be Mr Cranwell’s strong point.

      Added to this are record highs in council house waiting lists, all over the country, and rents are through the roof because of the law of supply and demand.

      Once again someone’s personal situation is being confused with the general situation, just because Mr Cranwell is not in need of housing does not mean thousands of others are not.

      Areas of cheap housing mainly, in the north of Britain are in areas of high unemployment and less opportunity so that example is also a bad one.

      A fair and sensible house-building scheme needs to start in Guildford and the surrounding area, there are more than enough suitable areas for construction that will have little effect on the area overall but will give a home to many deserving people including doctors, nurses etc, people that are much needed.

      This constant act of denial is quite offensive to many people but is easy to see through. We should all be supporting the rights of others, not fighting against them.

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