Fringe Box



Letter: The Real Problem With Guildford’s Local Plan Was Insufficient Scrutiny

Published on: 4 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 3 Oct, 2018

From Ben Paton

In response to: I Have a Horrible Suspicion About the Conservative Handling of Housing Numbers

Cllr Liz Hogger’s comments would be more convincing if it were not for the fact that the ‘Standard Method’ had not been conceived or even thought about when the GBC Local Plan process began or when it commissioned the Guildford Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).

The Standard Method is not a valid excuse or even a valid ex-post rationalisation of what happened. In fact, the ‘Standard Method’ is a red herring.

It is not, as I understand it, yet adopted as compulsory. It is, moreover, extremely controversial. It is based on a facile formula that just relates the number of houses needed to the average house prices in a given area. That’s Soviet central planning, not free market economics based on pluralism. It is a perversion of the pricing signal that will in fact further distort rather than correct failings in the housing market.

There are many things wrong with the way planning controls work in the UK. But the worst of them all is the failure of local civil servants and elected representatives to do their best to apply the rules consistently, transparently, and accountably. If only that had happened in Guildford the problems would have been much reduced, even if not entirely removed.

What really happened with the GBC Local Plan is that elected local politicians failed properly to scrutinise what was being done in their names. They were quite happy at the time to delegate to consultants and to go along with the Mansbridge trajectory.

Whatever the machinations, at least it seems as if Liz Hogger now accepts that the current Local Plan is profoundly misconceived and needs root and branch reform.

Rather than trying to change the electoral system, over which local politicians have next to no influence, let’s hope that Cllr Hogger now provides some effective scrutiny of and opposition to this Local Plan. Isn’t that what local politicians are elected to do?

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Responses to Letter: The Real Problem With Guildford’s Local Plan Was Insufficient Scrutiny

  1. Liz Hogger, Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham Reply

    October 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    The real problem is central government diktat, which in this case means local councillors have to go with the least worst option. We have to be aware that any Local Plan can be torn up by the government and planning inspectorate if it doesn’t meet their rules.

    I would also remind Mr Paton that I personally have opposed this Local Plan at many of its earlier stages, including supporting Cllr Cross when he proposed deleting the site allocation for the Wisley Airfield new town before the Plan went out to consultation.

    Unfortunately we have now reached a stage where we desperately need an adopted Local Plan to protect our borough from speculative development. However there is a glimmer of hope that we may be able to reduce the housing target within the government’s rules given the latest ONS projections. That is why the Lib Dems are now calling for a halt while we reconsider the housing target and the site allocations.

  2. John Fox Reply

    October 6, 2018 at 8:41 am

    There is a brewery I know and they organise tours. Just a suggestion.

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