Fringe Box



Letter: The Tory Local Plan Will Cost Us All Another Fortune

Published on: 15 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 15 Apr, 2019

From Nils Christiansen

Independent councillor for Holy Trinity

I do not understand why Guildford Conservatives are so intent on wasting ratepayers hard earned money. As if the millions blown on the Pop-up Village and the Bedford Wharf Bridge-to-nowhere were not enough, their insistence on pushing through the Tory Local Plan during election purdah, in the dying days of their administration, will almost certainly cost us millions more.

Local Plans are always political “hot potatoes”, and Guildford’s is no exception. Indeed with over 80,000 responses to its various versions, I understand that the Guildford Local Plan is one of the most politically divisive anywhere in the country.

The full council meeting last week (April 9) demonstrated that the Conservatives are now the only political party supporting the Local Plan in its current form, and numerous articulate resident groups continue to oppose it too. It seems undeniable that this is a contentious political issue which the Conservatives administration wants to put safely to bed before the election.

The problem is that this would appear to be unlawful. The Local Government Act makes clear that Councils “must not publish during purdah any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party”. It is hard to see how the Tory Local Plan could be described as anything other than affecting the public support of a political party, yet the council is still publishing information about it.

This is likely to have consequences. Because the Local Plan will have such a major impact on developers profits and on residents lives, there will be many people looking to unpick it. By brazenly seeking to pass it during purdah while the Conservatives still have a majority, my forecast is that someone will subsequently attempt to challenge the inevitable approval through Judicial Review. This will force the next administration to waste time and money on trying to defend the indefensible.

This could all be easily avoided by delaying the Local Plan vote until after the local elections. The Conservative leadership have come up with no good reasons to hold the vote now other than saying they have taken advice from counsel, and that the current councillors are already familiar with the plan. If this is the case, why do they feel it is necessary for councillors to have ‘Local Plan training’ on 18 April in advance of the debate, and why won’t they publish the advice from counsel – in full – even if only to councillors?

I fear that this unaccountable, incompetent council leadership is once again going to cost us all dearly.

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test One Response to Letter: The Tory Local Plan Will Cost Us All Another Fortune

  1. Alan Davies Reply

    April 16, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Cllr Christiansen is absolutely right. The Tories rushing through their Local Plan is likely to cost Guildford council taxpayers a fortune.

    Look what is happening in Waverley where the Tory-controlled council adopted their Local Plan within three weeks of the Planning Inspector’s report being published. Waverley taxpayers now face the huge cost of legal challenge to the plan which is apparently being heard by the Court of Appeal in November.

    Guildford has the same Planning Inspector as Waverley and its Tory-controlled council now plans to adopt their Plan in four weeks after publication of the Inspector’s report.

    So Guildford faces a similar tortuous and expensive result of Tory arrogance. They deserve to be cut down to a much smaller size at the May elections.

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