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Letter: The Hypocrisy of Guildford’s Conservatives is Breath-taking

Published on: 23 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 23 Mar, 2021

From: Ben Paton

In response to: Now Tories Demand Review of Their Own 2019 Local Plan

How can Surrey County Council change a Local Plan created by Guildford Borough Council? It can’t. So why put it into an election manifesto?

The county council has done nothing to rein in the crazier ideas of our borough council.

In 2013, the county council passed a resolution that stated, council resolves:

  1. To use its power to protect Surrey’s green belt.
  1. That any green belt development in the county is in line with the needs and wishes of Surrey residents.

You can read the full minutes of the meeting here.

The then leader of the county council wrote to support Guildford’s application for a Garden Village grant. You can read his letter here.

Only later did we learn the letter and most of the application was written not by Guildford planners but by Savills for the property developer. You can read SCC’s FoI disclosure here.

And the county council’s Natural Environment team manager approved Guildford’s request to change the boundaries of the Wisley airfield Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) to suit the unpublished requirements of the Local Plan inspector. You can read the email exchanges here.

Cllr Julie Iles may be sincere. But she has chosen some strange bedfellows to co-sign her letter. Where were Matt Furniss and Bob Hughes when the Guildford Local Plan was approved?

Mr Furniss was the deputy leader of GBC. Bob Hughes was chairman of Guildford Conservative Party. One was an architect of the disastrous Local Plan and the other an avid promoter of it.

Did they deliver on their election promises to protect Guildford green belt and green infrastructure?

Now they are asking electors to give them another chance to run the show at SCC. They’ve run it for decades. Cllrs Paul Spooner and Furniss created the problem at GBC. They are not part of the solution.

The Conservative Party in Guildford have had their chance. They didn’t just muff it. They mis-sold it. The hypocrisy of Guildford’s Conservatives in disowning responsibility for what they created is breath-taking.

  • They were in complete control of the Local Plan creation for more than 10 years, aided and abetted at every opportunity by the Lib Dems;
  • They made all the key choices and fixed the evidence to support their preferences;
  • They chose to go for the highest housing-need figures their consultants could contrive, even misusing national statistics to exaggerate housing demand from university students in Guildford;
  • They chose to ignore thousands of objections from Guildford residents;
  • They refused to apply any constraints to housing, in stark contrast to Woking’s Plan;
  • They ignored the National Planning Policy Framework guidance on sustainable development;
  • They designed the Local Plan with all the major developments dependent on the strategic highway network, aka the A3 and M25, knowing full well it was already at capacity;
  • They knew the borough council and the county council had no direct control over the strategic highway network, but they chose to rely on massive road expansion, despite their inability to deliver it;
  • They failed to supply any material net increase in social housing over the past 30 years, the figures actually showing a decline;

They wined and dined with the developers and wrote to central government for Garden Village subsidies etc;

  • Matt Furniss, who signed Cllr Iles’ letter, was directly responsible for the borough’s transport strategy. He made it car-dependent and A3-dependent, in flagrant defiance of basic principles of sustainability;
  • They were in power for many decades and still failed to come up with a plan for housing in Guildford town, the most sustainable place in the borough for housing; and
  • Where were these people and what were they saying when GBC passed its disastrous Local Plan? Uniformly either silent or on the wrong side of the argument.

They have no credibility. Why would anyone listen to them now?

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Responses to Letter: The Hypocrisy of Guildford’s Conservatives is Breath-taking

  1. Simon Mason Reply

    March 23, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    An excellent letter from Ben Paton reminding us of the facts.

    One more thing I would like to add.

    They failed to introduce a Community Infrastructure Levy despite it forming a major part of the plans viability studies and communities are missing out on millions.

  2. Wayne Smith Reply

    March 24, 2021 at 8:55 pm

    All excellent points raised by Ben Paton. The chutzpah exhibited by the Tories demanding a review of their own Local Plan really is quite something.

    Three weeks ago they were demanding a review of the £2.7 million Right to Buy fiasco, a portion of that money having been repaid, it appears, under their own previous Conservative administration because of their own inaction.

    In light of this newfound Tory demand for openness perhaps GBC Cllr Spooner and SCC Cllr Furniss would care to step forward and explain their parts in the infamous Wisley Garden Village letter of support and indeed let us know if they were even interviewed about it as part of the wishy-washy GBC report into that very sorry state of affairs?

  3. John Ferns Reply

    March 25, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Wayne Smith will not have to wait too long. He may find the answer on 19 April, when the Overview & Scrutiny committee considers “The report of an investigation by VWV LLP appointed by the Monitoring Officer for Guildford Borough Council relating to the Garden Village at the former Wisley Airfield”. If the specific point he wishes to make is not covered in the order paper, I am sure he can ask for a speaking slot, or alternatively ask his ward councillor to speak on his behalf. Item 30

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