Fringe Box



Letter: Sadly People Believed the Fake News

Published on: 13 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 13 Sep, 2023

Examples of fake newspapers distributed in Guildford

From: Chris Barrass

Former R4GV borough councillor

In response to a comment made on the article: We Need Media Organisations to Continue to Publish the Truth

Clearly, Geoff Timpson, by his comment, shows he believed the fake news, misinformation and deliberate avoidance of key truths which were spread across social media ahead of the local elections.

The reality of the North Street development is that it was put into the Local Plan by the Conservatives with the support of the Liberal Democrats’ leadership.

That “policy”, as it is called, enshrined some 40,000 sq metres of retail space alone for that site. That means a developer could submit a plan with that level of development and it would be supported by a planning inspector, unless there are extraordinary reasons not to.

One of those reasons would be having a height policy for Guildford, however the Conservatives and senior planning officers decided Guildford should not have one (and the latter continued to refuse to have a height limit in the Development Management Policies for Guildford).

The plan that came before the Planning Committee, in January before the May elections, had been negotiated down considerably from what the developers were entitled to put forward under the Local Plan.

It was made clear by senior legal advisors that it was most likely to succeed at appeal because of the size of the development proposed in the Local Plan and defending the lost cause of the appeal could cost the council, ie all of us council taxpayers, between £500,000 and £1 million at a time when finances are critical.

In that position those members of the Planning Committee not using it as a platform for election, including myself, believed common sense meant following the officers’ recommendation to approve.
No one wants high-rise buildings in Guildford, let alone us members of R4GV who are exactly what we say we are on the tin, ie “concerned residents”.

But planning is a nightmare when you are tied down by national planning policies and have no weapons in the armoury of local policies to defend or fight decisions made four years ago by the previous administration.

Please understand that, despite the fake and frankly abusive innuendo of the fake news so many were subjected to, we are good people doing our best for Guildford.

The truth is that the perpetrators of the fake news over-simplified, and they continue to over-simplify, what is a complex situation and there is no magic wand to wave over it.

Mr Timpson has every right not to believe me, if that is his judgement, however I would ask that he takes into account that I spent four years as a councillor dealing with a lot of this stuff on the front line.

To find the truth he may want to start with reading the Local Plan to see what our borough has had thrust upon it by law when it was rushed through just days ahead of the GBC elections in 2019. It will cast its shadow over all of us for the years to come.

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Responses to Letter: Sadly People Believed the Fake News

  1. Roger Kendall Reply

    September 13, 2023 at 10:17 pm

    R4GV won council seats from the Conservatives, because residents were concerned about over development.

    A few years later, not weeks, they decided to approve a very ugly, over crowded mass of high rise buildings in the next road to the wonderful High Street and Chris Barrass expects people not to be suspicious!

    • Christopher Barrass Reply

      September 14, 2023 at 3:49 pm

      I would ask Roger Kendall to please read what I have written, which is the hard truth of dealing with real world planning issues.

      His suspicion arises from the simplicity of the case as presented by those keen to distort the complex truth.

      Please also read the Local Plan, the Development Management Policies following it and the National Planning Policy Framework so you can get some sense of what your council has to deal with in cases like this when the decision making process is hidebound by national and local policies out of one’s hands.

      Believe me it is very frustrating.

      Christopher Barrass is a former R4GV borough councillor

  2. David Ogilvie Reply

    September 14, 2023 at 5:20 pm

    Roger Kendall has either not read Chris Barrass’ letter or, if he has, has misunderstood it.

    R4GV, being in a minority in the previous council, could not undo the content of the Local Plan put in place by The Conservatives. That Local Plan is still extant and allows for a massive 40,000 sq. metres of floor space on the North Street site with no limit to heights.

  3. Richard Allen Reply

    September 15, 2023 at 7:29 pm

    If the cohort of RG4V supporters would concentrate on the issues rather than bleating “fake news” every time someone makes a comment that doesn’t suit their agenda, perhaps we could engage in sensible discussion.

    But I’m sure no sane person could ever agree that the proposed North Street development is anything other than a city centre slum in the making.

    Instead of aligning themselves with the developers at every turn, this bunch should be entering into talks on how the situation can be ameliorated.

    But sighs Mr Barrass, the situation is complex – obviously far too complex for simple citizens like us to grasp. Mr Barrass is no longer a borough councillor, I wonder why?

    Editor’s note: Chris Barrass did not stand at the last borough council election in May.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      September 16, 2023 at 11:01 am

      The juxtaposition of these two statements is so good it should be given to a stand up comic:
      (1) “perhaps we could engage in a sensible discussion”
      (2) “no sane person could ever agree”

      Guildford’s very own Henry Kissinger! Alexander the Great cuts the Gordian Knot with one fell swoop. Gosh how stupid everyone must be not to have solved this problem for 30 years.

      How about starting with two facts:-
      (1) the owner is a company called St Edward:
      (2) the Council must decide St Edward’s application according to law.

  4. RWL Davies Reply

    September 16, 2023 at 2:50 pm

    North Street development “a city centre slum in the making”.

    Such hyperbole doesn’t facilitate a sensible outcome.

  5. Alan Judge Reply

    September 18, 2023 at 4:18 pm

    I find it rather amusing that the phrase “fake news” is being used in this case.

    Remember when the phrase was first coined by Donald Trump? It meant things that were true but he wanted to deny without actually denying them, putting himself in a position where he would be lying to the electorate.

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