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Letter: North Street Debacle Was Caused By the Influence of National Politics

Published on: 17 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 17 Jan, 2023

From: Julian Lyon

In response to: Lib Dem Claims of Working with North Street Developers Shows a Divided Party, Says R4GV

Quite simply the North Street debacle is the outcome of a cocktail of national political parties disrespecting Guildford and being found out.

The die was cast by, (1) The Conservatives’ flakey national planning policies, (2) the Guildford Conservatives’ Local Plan, supported enthusiastically in 2019 by the Lib Dem leader immediately before and after the last borough council elections and then (3) the protection of that Local Plan from challenge by the same Lib Dem dogma (or inertia) when GVG and GGG wanted to review it at residents’ requests after those elections.

The situation was exacerbated when those Conservative and Lib Dem councillors felt it was beneath them (or maybe just not a good use of their time?) to attend any of the developer’s briefings about the scheme when they could have influenced the outcome.

The barrister in this case advised the council that the development as submitted for approval was compliant with the (Conservatives) Local Plan, and yet those Conservatives and Lib Dems are now crying “foul”.

The two national parties have delivered for us in the town, Ash urban area, and in our villages and countryside, the havoc so many of us pointed out would happen; and now, with an election looming, they are seeking to hide behind their own emperor’s new clothes. Let’s be under no illusion here; the successive failure to deliver homes in the town centre will lead to greater pressure on the green belt and will inevitably require more land to be urbanised.

This scheme, and the cash Guildford Borough residents will spend defending this irrational decision, are entirely and directly attributable to the fundamental and structural inadequacies of that Local Plan.

This must be addressed quickly by a comprehensive review of the plan and the tools available to residents and community groups to understand the context and impacts of developments and to set and police suitable strategies and policies for defining characteristics of schemes such as North Street and Debenhams.

It is not necessary for me to say whether I like the North Street development or any of these development proposals. This is about the process and, quite frankly, the lack of integrity of those national parties in our local council.

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Responses to Letter: North Street Debacle Was Caused By the Influence of National Politics

  1. Sue Wyeth-Price Reply

    January 17, 2023 at 1:44 pm

    Given that the government intends to publish its response to the ongoing NPPF consultation in Spring this year, with all its changes to land supply figures and objectively assessed housing need, surely all the political parties, be they national or local, should now be committing to a review of the Local Plan immediately following the election.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    January 17, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    Spot on. We need to regenerate the town to protect the countryside. We need to protect the countryside to regenerate the town. Both are necessary.

  3. Paul Spooner Reply

    January 20, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Perhaps The Dragon should declare that Mr Lyon works for Savills, the promoter for the North Street application.

    Paul Spooner is leader of the Conservative group at GBC and a borough councillor for Ash South & Tongham

    Editor’s comment: A spokesperson from GBC has responded: “Savills, categorically, has nothing to do with the “promotion” of the [North Street] scheme. The scheme developer has a full team of specialist consultants related to all the different elements of the project. They have no promoter and any promoting is undertaken by the developer themselves and would only be undertaken closer to completion.

    “Savills have advised on the planning application documentation. The scheme also has communications consultants to undertake the public consultation process who are unconnected with Savills.

    “Developers and local authorities across the UK Consult external experts of which Savills is acknowledged as a leading housing development consultant. Besides advising this developer, they advise Guildford Borough Council periodically as well as other authorities nearby.

    “Mr Lyon has no involvement with this project. He is one of over 20,000 people who work for Savills in the UK and abroad.”

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