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Letter: The Local Plan, Like Suez, Was a Major Error of Judgement

Published on: 8 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 8 Apr, 2021

From: Ben Paton

In response to: Were Tory Council Leaders Breathtakingly Naive?

The Local Plan was an error of judgement equivalent to Anthony Eden’s attempt to seize control of the Suez Canal by force. Both were premeditated, dishonest and disastrous.

Matt Furniss wrote to The Dragon in 2019 to say: “Guildford Borough Council and its councillors made transport and infrastructure the main part of the Local Plan.”

They didn’t. Transport was an afterthought. The “Sustainable Transport Corridors” were invented at the very end of the Local Plan process, which took well over ten years and cost millions of pounds.

Mr Furniss and Mr Spooner allege that their Local Plan was satisfactory because a government inspector passed it. In fact, as the planning inspector stated at the start of his examination, his job was not to find the best Local Plan, only to determine whether their Local Plan met the government’s minimum criteria. Since the inspector stated that the government’s goal was to increase housebuilding all around London, he was never going to fault GBC for seeking to build the maximum number of houses without any constraints.

Mr Furniss is wrong to imply that the inspector endorsed his Transport strategy. The inspector only noted that Surrey County Council and Guildford Borough Council had approved it. That was not a strong endorsement – since neither body has a track record of scrutinising policy closely (or at all) or holding the executive to account.
Neither SCC nor GBC has any control over the A3. This multi-billion pound national asset is under the exclusive ownership and control of Highways England (HE).

The “Statement of Common Ground” between HE and GBC promised nothing more than that HE would only “commit to continued dialogue” and “consideration of emerging evidence”. Those woolly words were just window dressing for a politically inspired Local Plan that sold residents down the river.

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