Fringe Box



Letter: Public’s Arguments Expose SHMA Document As Unsound

Published on: 11 Mar, 2014
Updated on: 11 Mar, 2014

From Michael Mortimer

I watched the recent Guildford Borough Council debate in response to a petition that challenged the findings of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), and was struck by the level of research and analysis that members of the public had put into their assessments of the relevant data.

Their arguments exposed the SHMA as an unsound document on which to determine Guildford borough’s housing needs.

In contrast to the public speakers’ well researched arguments, a couple of councillors spoke up in defence of the flawed SHMA and in favour of more homes and of urbanisation by giving anecdotal evidence of demand, not need.

We heard for example, Cllr Tony Rooth talk of current and prospective companies that want more housing in Guildford to accommodate their workforce. Surely companies are more likely to put off moving to (or remaining in) Guildford by the traffic congestion that additional housing would bring?

Nor does this argument seem to tie in with Cllr Graham Ellwood’s claim that there are lots of people who are already resident in Guildford who are in need of jobs.

We also heard about Cllr Ellwood’s son who refused to sign the St Martha’s Parish Council petition to stop house building in Chilworth (in a conservation area) because he wanted a house in Chilworth.

What we did not hear was that Cllr Ellwood is managing director of a local mortgage advisory company and therefore may have a personal and financial interest in having more houses built across the borough.

He made no comment on the SHMA data or on the analyses by groups and individuals at the meeting, but did speak in favour of large-scale developments, which he said would fund infrastructure.

It seems strange that a member whose income is based on property sales (albeit indirectly) should be able to contribute to a debate (and to vote on a motion) which relates to housing numbers, as these could potentially benefit him financially.

I don’t know whether owning a mortgage advisory company falls within the Localism Act’s strict definition of ‘pecuniary interest’ but I would think that this is something he should at least make the public aware of before voicing his opinion in the debate.

I agree that the borough needs better infrastructure to support people of Guildford and its future needs, but we need infrastructure improvements in the right place – not merely infrastructure that wouldn’t even start to mitigate the impact of a large-scale development on the green belt and the traffic problems that it would generate.

The information presented at the council meeting showed that Guildford doesn’t need 800 houses a year and it seems clear from Cllr Manbridge’s recently publicised comments that councillors recognise that the people of Guildford don’t want them either.

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: Public’s Arguments Expose SHMA Document As Unsound

  1. Fiona Curtis Reply

    March 18, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I concur with all the points made by Michael Mortimer.

    I am not currently a member of Guildford Greenbelt Guardians but support the enormous amount of hard work they are doing to ensure the Local Plan is right for Guildford. I have no idea why anyone thinks it is a good idea to take 20% more housing than we need when our roads are already congested and employers have stated this, as their primary concern.

    GBC are throwing everything at the electorate bar the kitchen sink. Thousands of pages of confusing reports, reams and reams of technical data, re categorisation of villages, reviews of greenbelt and questionnaires that require weeks of study to give informed answers or are so simple and leading, they cannot be of any value.
    In amongst all this are images of plots of land and lots of rhetoric about ‘need’ and government ‘double speak’ such as ‘rolling back’ the green belt, ‘insetting’ villages and elected papers / statistics to support the case for high numbers, omitting to mention there are indeed many more that do not.

    GGG and various other groups are doing a fabulous job on our behalf, which is more than I can say for some councillors whose comments are so wide of the mark, they beggar belief. The fact that their children can’t find somewhere ‘suitable’ to live despite the many thousands of properties that are for sale within the borough, is hardly justification for supporting growth on the scale suggested.

    I thought Rob Burch from ‘Save the Hogs Back’ put it very well indeed when he said:”If it is due to a desire to generate income for investment, the Executive should show leadership and be transparent about this: what is needed, how much will it cost and crucially what other options are there for funding apart from through housing. A housing-based solution for infrastructure development, for all the talk of garden neighbourhoods and car-free living, will only bring more traffic worsening the very problem it is supposed to solve.”

    I would strongly advise electorates to ask their councillors how they voted on the debates and why, before deciding where to cast their vote next May.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    A very accurate assessment of the councillors’ response to the debate. We heard very little about protection of the green belt (a solid commitment in the GBC Tories’ manifesto) but an awful lot about the ‘need for growth’.

    We still have yet to receive an explanation as to what is driving this demand for growth, apart from the well reported rapacious interests of property developers, and those with similar vested interests.

    Guildford is already one of, if not, the most prosperous borough in the UK. Growth is indeed needed in the UK, but elsewhere, in the less prosperous areas of the country.

    Guildford is also one of the most densely populated areas, which will only be exacerbated by further growth.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *