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Letter: Parish Forum Survey Results Are Unsurprising

Published on: 9 Sep, 2014
Updated on: 9 Sep, 2014

Parish Council Forum SurveyFrom Adrian Atkinson

The Guildford Parish Forum survey does not surprise me in the least. [see: Widespread Discontentment Over Local Plan – Say Parish Councils]

emails letterYet again the council, albeit represented by one Labour group member, seems medieval in her defensive attitude, standing on the ramparts of the Millmead fortress. She says: “It is disappointing to see such a negative result, but I wonder how truly representative of overall residents’ opinion this survey is”. To answer her question it is representative. Clearly her need to ask this means she is out of touch or hoping for a different reaction.

It is certainly representative of the people who realise what’s going on, those who understand the impacts and the general impression they get from attending the GBC road show that this is a done deal – which it’s not. When are people in Millmead going to listen to the residents of the borough and act on their feedback rather than come up with all the excuses in the world as to why it is wrong for people to think the way they do. Would it better for us to say yes, what a good idea just because it is convenient for them?

With regards to the evidence, I think many will wade in here much harder with their own rather well crafted reposts. The evidence may be the size of a small library but that doesn’t mean it is fit for purpose. It is not all accurate, it is not all up to date. Conclusions reached are not objective (repeatable by another equally qualified person based upon the facts and data only) and it is certainly doesn’t only need time to understand it. Hence the many Freedom of Information requests, many still unanswered, to fill in gaps.

Then I come to her remark about the Joint Scrutiny Committee passing the plan for consultation. I think she needs to re-look at the conclusions and recommendations of that committee. I understand they were ignored as they felt the housing number, driven by a population forecast, was wrong and was too high for the borough to cope with and needed to be looked at again and corrected. The council leader said there wasn’t time to and railroaded it through at the full council meeting.

Why can’t the council face facts and face the monster they have created for this borough.

I think, for the benefit of my parish, we need about 20-30 affordable houses for young families and for elderly downsizing. We need our roads freed from flooding but not 400+ houses on the green belt with two proposed sites already in flood risk areas. We don’t want the harmful effects of rainfall and surface water issues displaced elsewhere due to excessive housing causing flooding elsewhere. Nor do we don’t want the threat of compulsory purchase orders to make the access to sites viable for traffic.

Cllr Gunning clearly sees the residents as negative, hence her demand for “positive ideas”. Does that mean negative comments about the plan (too many houses, wrong place, inaccurate population forecast, flawed evidence, no constraints applied, no windfalls added, no “exceptional circumstances” proved, green belt/AONB not seen as a limiter for development but as an opportunity for profit etc) will be disregarded?

I get the sense that this is the underlying thinking in Fortress Millmead.

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Responses to Letter: Parish Forum Survey Results Are Unsurprising

  1. Kelly-Marie Blundell Reply

    September 9, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Adrian Atkinson raises some valid points in his letter, but in common with Angela Gunning, I have fears these views only reflect that of the rural areas.

    It should be noted that the urban areas in Guildford are not parished, and not all Residents’ Forums are as active as Parish Councils.
    Indeed, with a substantial amount of planning proposed in urban areas, comments from urban residents should also be highly valued.

    The Lib Dems have been working to ensure urban voices are heard, holding street stalls across the town to engage. What we found is many people still know little about the local plan or what it means for them, and we are encouraging responses.

    Any proposed development burden, as many believe it to be, should be shared fairly across rural and urban areas. While brownfield should be prioritised, the housing need is clear with a long term social housing waiting list and young professionals residing in multiple occupancy housing due to the high rents and prices of housing across the borough.

    The consultation seeks to speak to as many people as possible – and if we want to make sure urban area voices are heard as well, we must get out there and talk to them.

    The future of Guildford should be in the hands of all residents, and this extends beyond Parish councils.

    Kelly-Marie Blundell is the Prospective Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford

  2. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    September 10, 2014 at 7:51 am

    I agree with virtually everything Kelly-Marie says except I would like to add one thing and clarify another. What does “fairly shared” mean? Nearly three-quarters of the inflated proposed housing is planned for green belt development. On any measure this isn’t “fairly shared” with much concentrated in certain areas with some getting new green belt.

    Don’t penalise parishes, ignore their views and create an unsound plan just because other areas apparently were not surveyed. However, I leave it to others to comment on the urban feeling as the green belt is equally important to the urban areas. Urban Guildford won’t be able to cope with the proposed expansion of Guildford Borough by a growth driven by migration from outside the area.

    I totally agree that the future should be in the hands of all residents and their elected representatives but currently it’s not. The executive system we have at Guildford means that policy is decided by eight to ten councillors many representing one area of the borough.

  3. Paul Spooner Reply

    September 10, 2014 at 11:39 am

    It should also be noted that by far the largest parish in the borough (Ash Parish Council) did not participate in the “consultation” questionnaire.

    Guildford Borough Council (GBC) does not ignore parishes and certainly does not penalise them. Just last Friday was the most recent borough/parish liaison meeting held at Millmead.

    A few weeks ago GBC held another special Local Plan session for parishes. Many borough councillors are also parish councillors and I believe all councillors recognise the significant value of parishes (and their predominantly elected representatives).

    Paul Spooner is a Conservative borough councillor for the ward of South Ash & Tongham. He is also the lead councillor for governance at GBC.

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    September 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Kelly-Marie, like many others, speaks of the shortage of social housing.

    I see from GBC’s accounts that in around 2000 it had about 5,800 houses in its Housing Revenue Account. The number has since fallen to some 5,300. This year’s draft accounts state that the council is now spending money to build new social housing – but remarks that these are the first to be built for twenty years.

    I find it remarkable that no social houses may have been built by the Council for twenty years – and that’s an understatement.

    Let’s suppose that Marie-Kelly is right about the social housing situation (I think she is) what should be done about it?

    Surely the obvious answer is to invest in social housing. The Housing Revenue Account shows a substantial surplus – even after paying interest on the loans taken from the government to buy the council out of the subsidy scheme. It seems like a sensible idea to invest some of this annual surplus in social housing.

    Planning for population growth – a very large proportion of which appears to come from international immigration – is not a solution to the social housing issue.

    Giving planning permissions for thousands of houses so that two out of every five or 400 out of every 1,000 should be a social or affordable house seems are rather round about way of getting to the result that most people probably regard as desirable.

    What have the Lib-Dems (or the Labour party for that matter) done or said about this? They appear to have supported the council’s policies for many years and have also supported this Draft Local Plan at every stage of the way, except the final vote.

    Ben Paton is the Conservative candidate for Lovelace ward in the forthcoming borough council by-election.

  5. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    September 11, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I would like to ask Cllr Spooner, why didn’t the Ash parish take part?

    It would have been good to hear what such a large parish would say, especially about the plan for the new green belt in their area. I guess they would be quite positive.

    I wasn’t saying that GBC ignore them, it is just the constant refrain of “how representative is this of all residents” when challenges are made to local plan/process that concerns me. Of course we will never know what everybody thinks.

    I wonder what percentage of the population the responses to the survey represent? If it was over 50 per cent then that passes my test of “representative”. Perhaps Fiona Curtis can clarify this?

  6. Fiona Curtis Reply

    September 11, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    24 parishes and 13 parish councils took part, so the response rate from Parish Councils alone was 54 per cent. In fact, in real terms, the response rate was higher as I couldn’t confirm that two received the details and six out of six of the Rresidents associations responded responded and were included.

    I have posted a response to some of the other points raised, but posted them on the original thread, as there are two threads on this topic. I hope this answers Adrian Atkinsons question.

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