Fringe Box



Letter: Smears from Cllrs Spooner and Potter Are Nasty

Published on: 23 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 23 Mar, 2023

Model of the proposed North Street development refused by GBC’s Planning Committee

From John Rigg

R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity

In response to comments from Cllrs Paul Spooner and George Potter

As a new councillor coming to the end of my first term, I have been warned that national political parties will get increasingly nasty approaching the election and that it is inbred.

So it appears with Cllrs Paul Spooner (Conservative) and George Potter (Liberal Democrat), both attempting through The Dragon to smear me and Julian Lyon (prospective [R4GV] candidate for Stoke Ward) for our connections to Savills.

I had retired from Savills by the time I became a councillor, following a career delivering major and challenging projects on behalf of leading institutional property investors. This included major projects in Italy, Ireland, France and the UK.

I understand Mr Lyon joined Savills in 2015 to advise corporates, charities and government entities on their property holdings, focusing on social value, sustainability and governance, and using his substantial commercial experience to bring about community-led developments as positive legacies for organisations whose primary business is not property.

Mr Lyon is involved in developing funding solutions for homelessness units and social/ affordable housing. He has a community centre named after him in a community-led development with 35 per cent affordable housing in central Bedfordshire, where the funding mechanism he developed provides many of the services that otherwise the government’s costs make so difficult for local authorities to provide.

It seems to me that this type of pedigree should be welcomed in the council chamber in Guildford.

Mr Lyon has been chair of the Guildford Society, and I was chair of Guildford Vision Group. Mr Lyon also chaired the Property Group on the CBI and was on government panels for carbon reduction and for the code for leasing business premises in England & Wales.

It should not be a barrier to entry, nor be any particular surprise that, being passionate about Guildford and interested in the environment, a candidate for councillor might have worked in the property sector for a company such as Savills, which now has 40,000 employees. The council has controls and processes to manage potential conflicts of interest.

Cllr Potter continues by suggesting that North Street is a “fiasco” that l caused but offers no evidence. He and his party have somehow been content to see Guildford expand into the green belt whilst (for decades under the Conservatives and the Lib Dems) sites like North Street have sat undeveloped and an embarrassment to our town.

He should perhaps celebrate the fact that I am the first councillor in decades to get a scheme progressed to a full planning application stage for a scheme offering major public realm wins, a refurbished bus station, a pedestrianised North Street and an improved market

It is the first to require of developers a major and phased series of public consultations including producing a scale model, and the first to ensure all councillors be given presentations by the full developer team, on four occasions over four years, as the scheme developed, at which, notably, no major objections were raised to the application scheme progressed by the developer and planning department.

The North Street fiasco was having a Lib Dem leader and Lib Dem Executive members supporting the proposals at every turn, only to find at Planning Committee that the Lib Dems (with the Tories) playing to the gallery – no doubt with an election impending and a perception the North Street progress was led by R4GV – then voting en block against the exact same scheme they had had presented to them weeks before, where the raised no significant objections.

The evidence is available and factual.

Seeking to be positive however, I am still hopeful we can find a solution to regenerate the North Street site sooner rather than later. Despite the obstacles from politicians and at many levels of government, I believe the four years’ work will stand us in good stead to achieve a good outcome for Guildford while recognising it may not be possible to please all the people all the time.

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