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Letter: What is Stopping GBC from Delivering Desired Changes to the Local Plan?

Published on: 2 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 2 Aug, 2021

From: David Roberts

See: We Are Taking Action to Review the Local Plan

In the interests of democracy and transparency, could the public please see the proposed terms of reference for the promised council review of the Guildford Local Plan?

Strategic planning is a full council competence but, more than two months since the review was announced, even non-Executive councillors are being kept in the dark. The absence of debate is shocking.

R4GV promised us a new type of transparent, collaborative politics but its leader, Cllr Joss Bigmore, seems almost pained at the prospect of having to change anything in the Tory Plan.

Is he really in the driving seat, or under the wheels of a planning juggernaut propelled by over-mighty lawyers, consultants and council officers?

His long-winded quibbler and coalition partner, Lib Dem Cllr Jan Harwood, appears willing to perform any contortion to stop the review producing meaningful change. His new local party leader is silent on all issues, while four Lib Dem members on the Planning Committee last month voted to plaster West Horsley with new housing.

Why did an R4GV councillor, Chris Blow, join them in approving 139 new houses that he would have opposed in his own ward of Shalford? Is the absence of explanation down to embarrassment or arrogance?

It’s really not that hard to set a clear direction for the Plan review. All that’s needed is a firm political statement of the desired outcome – a cut in the housing target to 9,000 dwellings, for instance, and a moratorium on planning permissions for developments greater than 20 or 30 homes until population and housing need figures are corrected.

This is in line with the electoral mandate that kicked out the previous Tory council and is the kind of clear commitment that, in central government, ministers would have no hesitation in instructing civil servants to deliver.

We know that political commitments are not always easy to meet. They are often sabotaged by the technocrats or run into legal snags. But nothing, apart from a pre-emptive cringe to vested interests, is stopping the leader of the council from trying.

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Responses to Letter: What is Stopping GBC from Delivering Desired Changes to the Local Plan?

  1. David Appleby Reply

    August 2, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    I would like to thank David Roberts for his determined pursuit of some clarity and urgency regarding the review of the flawed Local Plan, and also his analysis of the seemingly undemocratic way GBC’s Planning Committee voted to “plaster” West Horsley with 139 urban style houses, in spite of 181 well-reasoned objections by local residents.

    If this is supposed to be democracy at work, it leaves a lot to be desired.

  2. John Ferns Reply

    August 2, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    I am not a Lib Dem supporter, but I did note that one of the five Lib Dem representatives on the GBC Planning Committee, Cllr Hogger, who has always been consistent in applying GBC policies, relative to the risk of losing planning appeals, voted against the Horsley development.

    As an Ash/Tongham resident, who has witnessed the cogency of her arguments over the last 5-6 years (very rarely been in our residents’ favour), I just cannot help thinking that the Planning Committee was not on the ball on this occasion.

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