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‘Letter of Support’ FoI Revelation – Questions That Were Not Answered

Published on: 8 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 10 Apr, 2019

This afternoon’s (April 8, 2019) statement from Tracey Coleman, director of planning and regeneration at GBC, did not answer all the questions posed by The Guildford Dragon NEWS on the FoI revelations relating to the letter of support, ostensibly from the leader of Surrey County Council to the leader of Guildford Borough Council.

Ms Coleman was asked:

  1. How did the letter, originated by Savills, reach you/the planning department?
  2. Who was the most senior person aware of its receipt?
  3. Had you asked Savills to draft such a letter? If so, why?
  4. Why was it given to Cllr Matt Furniss?
  5. Was the origin of the letter made known to Cllr Furniss?
  6. Did he already know its origin?
  7. Will you order an enquiry into this?

Tracey Coleman Head of Planning at GBC

Tracey Coleman’s response in full reads: “The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a new prospectus for their Garden Communities Programmes requesting bids for locally-led garden villages in August 2018. It is not part of planning procedure or a guarantee of funding. After consideration and to be open and transparent, although Executive approval was not required, the report went to a meeting of the Executive on 30 October 2018 for approval proposing a submission for Wisley Airfield.

“Wisley Airfield is a strategic site in our emerging Local Plan and could provide up to 2,000 new homes, schools, employment opportunities, retail outlets and open spaces going some way to address the acute housing need across the borough. In his report published on 27 March, government inspector Jonathan Bore said the borough’s strategic sites would bring ‘substantial housing contributions’ and ‘other significant benefits to the borough through their critical mass and well-chosen locations’.

“If successful a bid could secure substantial government funding and help enable the delivery of the Council’s wider infrastructure and sustainable transport proposals with Homes England advice. In order to submit the bid and as required by the government, the Council worked collaboratively with relevant stakeholders; Surrey County Council and Wisley Property Investments Ltd. The Council and Savills (on behalf of Wisley Property Investments) worked together to agree and produce a draft text for supporting a garden village, for onward use by stakeholders.

“Like all proposed sites, Wisley Airfield will still be subject to the usual planning application process, with or without garden village status.”

The email trail from GBC planners to Cllr Matt Furniss to Cllr David Hodge, then leader of SCC.

Cllr Matt Furniss who took the letter to the SCC council leader to be signed was asked:

  1. Did you know who had written the letter?
  2. Did you ask Savills to write the letter? If so, why?
  3. Did you inform David Hodge of the origin of the letter?
  4. Why did you ask David Hodge to sign such a letter?
  5. Do you consider that you acted properly in this matter?

No responses to the questions have been received.

Cllr Paul Spooner

Cllr Paul Spooner, the leader of GBC was also asked:

  1. What did you know of the origin of the letter of support sent to you by David Hodge?
  2. Did Cllr Furniss tell you of his intention to ask David Hodge to sign and return the letter to you?
  3. Do you consider that Cllr Furniss has acted ethically in this matter?
  4. Will you order an enquiry into this?

He replied: “No comment”.

There’s one more question we have. In the reply from WIPL’s Mike Murray, he said the Savills letter was supplied “for reference only”. Was this clearly marked on the letter given to Mr Furniss? We shall be asking.

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