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Letter: This Was No Witch Hunt

Published on: 10 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 9 Jun, 2021

From: Ben Paton

In response to: ‘Wisley Bid Errors Must Not Recur’ – GBC to Consider Constitutional Changes

Cllr Spooner says GBC’s Overview & Scrutiny meeting felt like a witch hunt.

But asking questions about the council’s blatant attempt to use its political influence to get the leader of Surrey County Council to rubber-stamp its application for a government grant, is the opposite.

It is a belated attempt to hold Mr Spooner to account for his flagrant breaches of GBC’s planning code of conduct.

Guildford Council ceased to be an impartial planning authority and acted in the interests of the site promoter. It took the site promoter’s letter, which was unbalanced propaganda, and passed it off as its own work.

Mr Spooner spoke in the council chamber to say, “The primary authors are the planning policy team at Guildford Borough Council.” That was false and misleading.

I made a Freedom of Information request to Surrey County Council. Questions and responses are as follows:

Q 1. Was the Word document sent to SCC as an attachment to an email from GBC? Ie was it attached to Mr Furniss’s email to Mr Hodge or to the GBC planning dept’s email to Mr Furniss?

A. It was sent to Mr Furniss by GBC’s planning department. Mr Furniss then sent it to Mr Hodge.

Q 2. Which organisation created the Word document, GBC or SCC or neither?

A. Not SCC. The advanced properties in the document show it as Savills plc who it is believed acted for Wisley Property Investments Limited (WPIL) who were the developers of Wisley Airfield.

Q 3. Did SCC make any substantive changes to the Word document or was it essentially put onto SCC notepaper?

A. Essentially it was put onto SCC headed notepaper but the emails refer to Mr Hodge adding an additional line.”

When I made an FoI request to GBC asking it to disclose the emails between Cllrs Spooner and Furniss and the site promoter it replied that the emails were not available but that they were still trying to find them.

True to past form, GBC has never followed up.

It is ironic that Mr Spooner, like Cllr Juneja before him, should profess to be the victim of a witch hunt.

I suspect more of those who have been watching GBC would say the resources it deployed under Mr Spooner’s leadership against the former councillor David Reeve – for the “crime” of exposing the basic flaws in the population figures used for the Local Plan, was more akin to a witch hunt.

Mr Spooner and Mr Furniss used their powers as leader and deputy leader of GBC to create a Local Plan designed to build excessive numbers of houses in the interests of developers and against the best interests of the residents of the borough.

Their practices were wrong and they continue to conceal exactly what they did.

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