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Letter: The Green Belt Gives Us the Opportunity to Grow

Published on: 14 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 14 Jul, 2022

From: Howard Smith

vice-chair, Guildford Labour

In response to: 2021 Census Confirms Local Plan’s Population Projections for Guildford Were Wrong

So Mr Laub thinks they got the population projection for Guildford wrong. Big deal.

I was born and brought up in Guildford and have seen the town develop over my lifetime and most of it has been a great improvement.

I don’t see any problem in building a greater number of homes. Who cares if there is slightly more than a boffin originally thought needed. Do we think we’re going to cursed by lots of empty, unwanted homes, of course not? Perhaps prices will come down by a few per cent.

Before the adoption of the Local Plan we were surrounded by 89 per cent green belt. What that meant was we had a great deal of scope to build homes for our children, for our key workers and for all those young people currently having to continue to live with their parents and more so for those stuck on the council housing list.

Let’s build homes here. Let’s let other people climb on a housing ladder that has been made so much more difficult since we got on ourselves. Let’s not be a NIMBY town, let’s build homes for those that need them.

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Responses to Letter: The Green Belt Gives Us the Opportunity to Grow

  1. John Perkins Reply

    July 14, 2022 at 11:43 am

    The obvious flaw in Howard Smith’s argument is that nobody is building, or will build, homes for those he lists as needing them. Councils cannot do it and Housing Associations no longer do. Instead, it’s left up to big developers, who naturally choose to build houses that provide the most profitable return.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    July 14, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    So we should build more houses hoping prices ‘might’ drop. Perhaps Mr Smith can show examples of this happening in living memory.

    As for more houses, what about the lack of water, electricity, road capacity, food supplies, medical facilities, public transport ie infrastructure? It is time reality took charge.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    July 16, 2022 at 8:42 am

    Howard Smith offers a very crude justification for concreting over the green belt. Here are some reasons why he’s wrong:

    1. Building more houses than are objectively needed is objectively unnecessary. As Niels Laub has shown, that is precisely what the Tories’ Local Plan, consistently supported by Labour councillors, does.

    2. Building more houses will not reduce local house prices, given the influence of the London market that creates effectively infinite demand. This is not a simple supply-and-demand market of GCSE economics: Surrey house prices are set by complex factors such as the cost of credit, overseas investment, supply rationing and land-banking by the big housebuilders, the country’s million unused planning permissions and 600,000 empty homes, misguided government policies to stimulate demand and the long-term historical over-concentration of prosperity in the South-East.

    3. The green belt around Guildford is not just “empty” building land. Nature has an intrinsic value, and destroying it has a measurable (but seldom measured) cost in terms of beauty, clean air, greenhouse-gas absorption, water catchment, flood control, recreational space, biodiversity, physical and mental health, food production and alternative amenities and economic uses such as tourism. Along with human and produced capital, nature is a store of value that any serious party should want to protect for future generations.

    4. Continued over-development in the South-East will only aggravate the North/South economic divide that has bedevilled Britain for more than a century. At least the Tories, with their fuzzy “levelling up” agenda, claim they want to address this. But what is Labour doing siding with the haves against the have-nots, supporting growth-at-any-cost and the big housebuilding lobby?

    The whole country is relieved that the Labour Party is at last becoming credible again at a national level but I am dismayed to see that such primitive thinking persists locally.

    I won’t name the Guildford councillor who said at one meeting that there was no need to protect ancient woodland because, being ancient, “it will soon be dead anyway”. But if this is the best that Labour can do, is it any wonder that this great national party can muster only half the number of local councillors as GGG?

    Modern voters may still want to “climb the housing ladder” but I believe their vision of social justice embraces a stronger green agenda than some Labour dinosaurs seem to recognise.

  4. Howard Smith Reply

    July 17, 2022 at 11:40 am

    I don’t know who these people commenting are but I don’t imagine they are having to still live with their parents. But to address a few points:

    1. Building more homes based simply on population growth is silly. Forgets people already here on the housing list, in “houses of multiple-occupancy (HMOs) and people having to travel miles to work here.
    2. You can’t argue developers are reducing supply to boost prices on one hand and deny the increase in supply having a positive effect on prices.
    3. You cannot house people without increasing house numbers it’s illogical and illiterate.
    4. Arguing that every blade of is sacred argument is wrong. We had 89 per cent green belt. A few per cent is all that is needed.
    5. It’s absurd to claim Guildford is overdeveloped, see above. You also can’t house key workers needed in Guildford by building homes in Scotland or Wales.
    6. Give us all a break. It’s always the guys with a nice house telling people without that they are the problem for wanting one too.

    Howard Smith is the vice-chair of Guildford Labour

    • Ben Paton Reply

      July 29, 2022 at 11:37 am

      For those naive enough to believe Marx’s unscientific and objectively false “theory of history” everything looks like “class war”. But it ain’t.

      As a matter of fact most people love their parents and enjoy living with them. Better to focus on housing and leave parents out of it.

      Nor has anyone (even GBC or HMG) ever proposed “building more homes based simply on population growth”. To make a worthwhile contribution to the debate, it is necessary to take the trouble actually to engage with the calculations.

      Nor has anyone ever suggested that “every blade of grass is sacred”.

      It is not absurd to point out that Guildford lacks critical water, power, road, school and health infrastructure. (Nor to point out that cities in East Germany like Dresden have much smaller populations than in the 1930s and have much greater capacity for population growth.)

      Give us all a break and give up the unreasoned and unevidenced propaganda.

  5. Brian Creese Reply

    July 18, 2022 at 5:06 pm

    I wonder how many of the above correspondents have adult children living with them, or indeed adult children and grandchildren living in their houses?

    I am of the age that when I wanted to leave home a cheap flat was available for a reasonable rent, and I was able to get on the housing ladder having managed to save a large sum at that time, £1,000. It was large but achievable.

    Young people today – and older people come to that – have to pay huge amounts in rent and need sums for a deposit that would take years to save even on a good salary. If you care to drop into a discussion between good, middle-class, high-achieving 30-year-olds all you will hear is the need to build homes that they can afford (not the same thing as affordable as I am sure you understand).

    What we need is more council housing (not affordable) for those on lower incomes and small, genuinely affordable houses for our rising young graduate population. Building more houses doesn’t in itself solve the situation, but it is difficult to see how the situation can be improved without doing so.

    Even the Liberal Democrats recognised the need for building council houses and promised to build 3,000 at the last borough elections. Sadly, they don’t seem to have actually built very many at all.

    Brian Creese is the chair of the Guildford Labour Party

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 19, 2022 at 5:07 am

    Of course we need more truly affordable housing, preferably council-owned. However, the Local Plan is not delivering these.

    Take a look at the estates strangling the Horsleys. They are all executive homes that are unaffordable to key workers. Giving in to the unending greed of developers by handing over our green fields is not the solution.

    We also need to be able to feed our young. Recent developments have shown that we cannot afford to import 60 per cent of our food any longer, and cannot afford to sacrifice any more fertile farmland.

    In answer to the question of children living with their parents, this is not my experience. Both my children worked hard to gain master’s degrees, then worked hard again at their careers, and saved to pay a deposit on their homes which they owned by age 28. Before that, they rented what they could afford.

  7. Ricky Sonn Reply

    July 21, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    We need to build but we also need to restrict who buys those homes and who can profit from them.

    There are already far too many buy to let properties in Guildford and we need a government who addresses that issue by stopping it being profitable.

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