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Letter: Planning Committee Councillor Displays Jaw-dropping Cluelessness

Published on: 20 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 20 Oct, 2022

Wisley Airfield plans. Image: Taylor Wimpey And Vivid

From: David Roberts

Without wishing to destroy a reputation by naming the author, I think readers might be taken aback by the following reply sent last week by a councillor on Guildford’s Planning Committee to a resident opposed to the proposal to build 2,000 houses at Three Farms Meadows (the former Wisley airfield).

The councillor wrote: “One of the problems we have is that the site already has planning permission as a result of the Local Plan agreed in an untimely fashion by the previous Tory Administration. We can do nothing to stop this – it is enshrined in law now.

Additionally, we have targets from national government which we have to adhere to in order to get any monies from them – monies which support our endeavours at GBC including services for the elderly and vulnerable etc which all residents who participated on [sic] our public consultation asked us to do.

If we do not build the houses on FWAF [Former Wisley Airfield] – then we have to build them somewhere else. Any ideas??

The planning application now is for “reserved matters”; i.e. what is built and what it looks like.

I too wish we didn’t have to go down this road but can see no option other than to try and make it the best we can for the residents and the environment. We cannot throw it out. It is already enshrined in law.”

This letter is shocking on several levels. For a start, every single fact it asserts is wrong:

  1. The site emphatically does not have planning permission.
  2. We can do something to stop this – or, rather, planning committee members
    can, by voting to reject Taylor Wimpey’s application and make them think again.
  3. The site is not “enshrined in law”.  It is simply an allocated strategic site in the hated and defective Tory Local Plan.  That does not require it to be built on. It can be removed by the R4GV/LibDem council if they wish.
  4. A decision on individual planning applications is a matter for the council and will not affect central government funding.
  5. We do not have to build houses elsewhere if this application is rejected, since Guildford is already exceeding its five-year housebuilding target. We don’t, therefore, don’t need these houses.
  6. The present application is not for “reserved matters” only.  Taylor Wimpey
    has no planning permission, outline or otherwise, for anything on the site.
  7. Councillors on the planning committee CAN throw it out simply by voting
    against it.

The cluelessness displayed by the letter’s author is jaw-dropping. This is perhaps the biggest planning application for housing Guildford has ever seen, running to hundreds of pages.

It has attracted (at today’s count) 562 public objections. This councillor seems to have read nothing and done no homework whatsoever.

More worryingly, the letter smacks of pre-determination in favour of the developer. This would be grounds for suspending the councillor from the committee or at the very least requiring them to undergo serious training. Faith in our planning system depends on councillors approaching each planning application on its merits with an informed, independent and open mind.

Councillors need to read the documents and question everything the officers and applicants tell them. They need to be rigorous about the detail and courageous in championing the public interest against private greed.

In other words, everything this letter is not. If this is the calibre of our local democracy, we are in trouble.

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Responses to Letter: Planning Committee Councillor Displays Jaw-dropping Cluelessness

  1. Helen Jefferies Reply

    October 20, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    This is truly shocking.

    I would go further and insist that all members of the GBC Planning Committee (and substitutes) undergo training by an independent person. No further decisions should be taken by this committee until training has been satisfactorily completed.

    Indeed, perhaps the same lack of awareness occurs on other committees too? I look forward to hearing how GBC is going to handle this.

    Helen Jefferies is a Wisley Action Group campaigner.

  2. Peter Bennett-Davies Reply

    October 20, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    The councillor who wrote these totally incorrect and biased statements in his or her letter to a resident, needs to be suspended immediately from GBC’s Planning Committee, for lack of understanding of planning law and an obvious failure to read even the fundamentals of application ref 22/P/01175, submitted by Taylor Wimpey seeking planning permission for the development of the former Wisley Airfield.

    As Mr Roberts observes the councillor’s letter is tantamount to pre-determination in favour of the developer.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    October 21, 2022 at 8:27 am

    This astonishing letter/email was written by an R4GV councillor.

    R4GV was elected to sort out the Guildford Local Plan.

    The residents of Guildford have a right to know whether R4GV’s councillor spoke for its party and its policies.

  4. Robert Boyle Reply

    October 21, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Hear, hear!

  5. Lisa Wright Reply

    October 21, 2022 at 10:52 am

    That’s surely a sackable offence for the councillor.

    I would also suggest an enquiry to be held for the officers and staff at GBC planning who are obviously unaware of planning law.

  6. Jeff Williams Reply

    October 21, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    Quite unbelievable. If this view is that of the entire planning committee they are clearly not fit for the important role they perform on our behalf.

  7. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 21, 2022 at 6:07 pm

    I’m beyond being shocked by the workings of the GBC planning committee and officers, but this takes the biscuit. Since when did we give GBC the mandate to kow-tow to developers only and ignore residents.

  8. Christopher Campbell Reply

    October 21, 2022 at 6:43 pm

    Absolutely agree that the 953 objections (so far) demand our councillors taking those genuine concerns very seriously indeed. Especially so when seen against only a dozen or so supporting letters, this gives a very clear picture of the weight of public opinion.

    On which point, it is of course public opinion which will determine which councillors will constitute the borough council in the elections due in May 2023. That time happens to coincide with the most likely time for this hugely illogical planning application to be heard.

    The logical decision has to be to refuse on exactly the same grounds as The Planning Inspectorate cited in the 2018 Appeal by the previous landowner.

    Taylor Wimpey’s decision to apply again four years later cannot rely on the previous Tories in GBC removing this site from the green belt. The Conservatives subsequently lost most of their seats on GBC the following week due to, yes – public opinion.

    The criteria in this case is all about building the right amount of houses in the right locations and not buckling to untoward pressures.

    It might be useful for residents to seek out the views of their own councillors and hope that they are better informed on planning law than those expressed by the inadequately informed councillor quoted above.

    I imagine councillors will be watching the views of their electorate very closely as regards this most critical application.

  9. Simon Mason Reply

    October 21, 2022 at 9:17 pm

    This Councillor would seem to be completely ignorant of the planning process and needs to be trained before he or she sits to determine this application.

    David Roberts should alert the chairperson of the Planning Committee so that the correct training can be undertaken.

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