Fringe Box



Letter: The Practice of “Block” Comments is Open to Abuse

Published on: 2 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 2 Jan, 2023
From: Jenny Grove
See: Why Has the Council Not Ensured Everyone Was Aware of This Controversial Plan?
I refer to recent comments on The Guildford Dragon NEWS about “block” or proforma comments on planning applications sent to Guildford Borough Council.

The question of block comments has concerned me for some time.  I find it undemocratic. Individual comments should be just that, not copied time and again from the script of one person.

The practice is also open to abuse as demonstrated in the former Wisley Airfield application and also by possible pressure from a single person.  Who can say that someone has not just contacted a load of friends and said, “put your name and address on this for me and whack it into the Council”?

The duplicated comments for North Street appear to have come from a “make your own forms” website. It’s easy enough to send your friends a link.

I think that if people cannot formulate their own thoughts about a planning application, particularly one of the magnitude of the North Street development, and take a short time to write them down and submit them, it suggests a lack of real interest in the proposals.

People can register with Guildford Borough Council, submit a proforma comment by email and never know what the application is about.

Block comments seem to be used in the applications for larger developments and therefore, possibly, have a greater effect on many more residents than a single household application for example.  This is evident with the North Street application where numerous support submissions use the same proforma text.
Some serious discussion needs to take place on the viability of block/proforma comments and whether Guildford Borough Council should allow them.

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Responses to Letter: The Practice of “Block” Comments is Open to Abuse

  1. Mark Stamp Reply

    January 3, 2023 at 1:02 pm

    I think the answer is that most people in the borough do not have the time or inclination to comment on planning applications.

    Block comments are an easy way for people to make their voice heard. Human nature means that we will much more likely to comment (and put more effort into our comments) if we have stronger feelings.

    I think there are few people who are passionately for the North Street development whereas those against will have stronger feelings. That does not mean those who want to show their support should be excluded so that those who have spare time (predominantly the older, wealthier residents of the borough) can have more of a say.

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