Fringe Box



Letter: Rules-based Planning Decisions Are Worthless If They Don’t Respect Democracy

Published on: 8 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 8 Jul, 2023

From: David Roberts

See: Date Set for Wisley Airfield Planning Application Debate, But Councillors Won’t Have Final Say

Dragon readers may think resisting mass housebuilding in unsuitable locations is futile, and that the big developers will always win in the end. But they may like to see the following letter that I sent yesterday to members of Guildford council’s planning committee about the Taylor Wimpey application for Wisley.

I fully expect them to endorse the council planning officer’s reluctant recommendation to refuse planning permission on this occasion. But that will only trigger an appeal whose outcome is far less certain. I wrote:

“I am taking the liberty as a private resident of making a direct appeal to you to support your planning officer’s recommendation to refuse Taylor Wimpey’s application for planning permission for Three Farms Meadows (alias Former Wisley Airfield).

The officer’s report cites five good reasons to turn this application down, but you need to be aware that there are at least ten others, as clearly set out, for instance, in the joint submission by my local parish councils, East and West Horsley.  

Residents aren’t stupid.  They know that officers would prefer to be overruled on appeal, by setting the bar for accepting the application as low as they can, rather than attract the opprobrium of recommending the application be approved immediately.  It's a standard ploy since, ultimately, they make their career by getting big projects approved, not rejected. 

It’s up to elected councillors, however, to take an objective decision.

As Planning Committee members, you must be guided purely by planning considerations.  I therefore urge you to study the fifteen or so major objections to this application.  This is going to take you hours of study, since this is perhaps the biggest planning application ever to come before the council. 

Many residents are cynical about the diligence of most councillors in this regard.  But happily, you are in a position to prove them wrong.

For many unfortunate reasons, planning in Guildford faces an historic crisis of legitimacy and public confidence.  On Monday, you have the opportunity to show you are on the side of the 1,400 residents who have objected to this application and the 20,000 or so voters in the northeast of the borough whose votes in the recent local elections showed how strongly they oppose over-development in our villages. 

Next year’s general election is bound to follow the same pattern.  Rules-based planning decisions are worthless if they don’t respect democracy.”

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