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Letter: Where is the Apology From R4GV For Misleading the Electorate in 2019?

Published on: 16 May, 2021
Updated on: 16 May, 2021

From: Paul Spooner

Conservative borough councillor for Ash South & Tongham

In response to:Danger Lurks in Reviewing Any Local Plan

The Guildford Local Plan was designed to mitigate risk as much as possible by applying constraints in a managed way through infrastructure being tied to development while achieving government targets at the time, through the SHMA and OAN under direction of a government-appointed Inspector.

It is extraordinary that parties stood on a platform promising to review and reduce the numbers (R4GV in particular) and disagreed in the loudest possible terms with the local Conservative position that adoption would provide a five-year supply (and stop uncontrolled development across the borough instead of just in Ash and Tongham as it was at the time due to delays in the process), as well as minimising the harm to green belt and maximising urban and brownfield sites that were available and could be lawfully included in the Local Plan.

Roll on two years and we hear our arguments of April 2019 being used by the present administration.

It is extraordinary that R4GV and Lib Dems now have the nerve and audacity to warn that the numbers would go up if the Local Plan was reviewed. Any observer might ask what has changed?

The answer is simple. They are now in power and have to grapple with the same issues the Conservatives had locally in the period up to 2019. Where is the apology from R4GV for misleading the electorate in 2019 and making promises they cannot deliver?

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Responses to Letter: Where is the Apology From R4GV For Misleading the Electorate in 2019?

  1. Kevin Rye Reply

    May 16, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    Didn’t Cllr Paul Spooner push through the Local Plan on the eve of elections, against generally accepted convention?

    According to the reports at the time it was passed by his outgoing administration, after a period of waiting since 2008.

    Maybe Cllr Spooner should continue his period of silence, though I think it’s something he might struggle with.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 17, 2021 at 4:25 am

    I think an apology is more overdue from Cllr Spooner for pushing this discredited plan through in the first place, a Plan that slakes developers’ thirst for profits.

    He has the brass nerve to claim his Plan, which robbed 14 villages of their green belt status was “minimising harm to the green belt”. Come off it.

  3. Alan Robertson Reply

    May 18, 2021 at 9:04 am

    The previous cabal responsible for “planning” did a woeful job; their disastrous Local Plan is largely unfit for purpose. The area’s housing needs could be properly addressed if houses of multiple occupation were turned back into family homes, with students being accommodated on university land in purpose-built halls of residence, operated by the university itself (not an avaricious third party).

    Empty office accommodation (some unbelievably recently built) could be converted for residential purposes and the many empty commercial premises could be tastefully converted into residences.

    In addition, brownfield sites, even though unpopular with developers who seek profit above improving the environment, should fulfill most of Guildford’s realistic housing needs. Greenfield sites should be protected as they are the area’s greatest asset. With a new political regime, greedy speculators may stop seeing Guildford as a soft target for making easy money.

  4. Adam Aaronson Reply

    May 18, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    In a hierarchy of apologies, one might expect Cllr Spooner to apologise for his dreadful Local Plan first.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    May 19, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    “The Guildford Local Plan was designed to mitigate risk as much as possible by applying constraints…”
    What a joke.

    The whole point about the Local Plan is that it applied no constraints, none at all, to the housing numbers. Constraints could have been applied to reflect a) the green belt; b) the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (that rank as ecologically more important and AONB); c) shortages of school, health and road infrastructure; and d) the effect of a university on the population statistics.

    Cllr Spooner spent 10 years arguing that these constraints were not needed. Like his former boss, Mr Mansbridge, Cllr Spooner tried to “shoot out the lights” when it came to maximising housing in the borough. Rather than maximising social housing it was just developer-led housing developments, built for profit.

    As other readers have observed, The Times reported under the headline “Plans for thousands of green belt homes based on ‘inconsistent data’. They stated: “The Office for Statistics Regulation said that the ONS population forecasts used by councils to make plans with high student populations were ‘inconsistent’ with local evidence.” The Director General for Regulation “…confirmed that the estimates had been overstated in Guildford Surrey…”.

    This point was made over and over again by hundreds of people in the Local Plan consultations. The council, under Cllr Spooner’s leadership, turned a blind eye to all of that evidence and the consultation comments.

    When it became clear that the Local Plan (that Cllr Spooner and Caroline Reeves (the then leader of the Lib Dems at GBC) both supported throughout its process) depended on the A3 they chose to rely on some woolly and non-committal verbiage from Highways England. No one in their right mind should have taken Highways England’s carefully crafted PR statements as any sort of commitment to increase capacity on the A3.

    Here we are now in exactly the position that GGG warned would come to pass. All thanks to Cllr Spooner and his supporters. Mr Spooner’s commentary on the Local Plan should be taken as seriously as President Putin’s comments on the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury.

  6. Colin Cross Reply

    May 21, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Let’s not pay much heed to the attention-seeking machinations of Cllr Spooner’s volte-face in regard to his appalling Local Plan and the problems of reviewing it.

    This has all been a carefully choreographed attempt to turn the tables on those of us who are genuine in our attempts to right a colossal wrong.

    But it has failed, the Tories lost yet more seats at the SCC elections and will continue to do so in Guildford for years to come. What they did was callous and unforgivable. Guildford voters have long memories and will exact revenge over the decades to come, long after those that engineered the purdah-plundering Local Plan adoption are gone and forgotten.

    Colin Cross is the R4GV borough councillor for Lovelace and county councillor for The Horsleys.

  7. William Brewster Reply

    May 23, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    I am confused. Wasn’t Cllr Colin Cross previously a Liberal Democrat? The Lib Dem nationwide policy in its last manifesto was to keep our borders open and allow building on our green belt to house everyone. So why would a load of housing on the green belt be a problem to Cllr Cross now?

    Cllr Colin Cross resigned from the Lib Dem group at GBC in 2018 and has been a member of the Residents for Guildford and Villages (R4GV since its creation in 2019.

    • John Perkins Reply

      May 25, 2021 at 12:19 am

      Can William Brewster tell us why he thinks it impossible to believe that someone might change their mind as a result of their experience?

  8. David Roberts Reply

    May 24, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    Cllr Spooner is putting a brave face on being undermined by the government and betrayed by the Mole Valley Conservatives who recently declared his plan “flawed” and “undemocratic” in a last-minute attempt to salvage the recent elections.

    It is cold comfort that the best of them, Julie Iles, along with his personal rival Cllr Manning [Ash], failed to win county council seats, while the Guildford Tory chairman, Bob Hughes, who has publicly declared that he is proud of Cllr Spooner’s Plan, scraped in by a whisker.

    The Tories can still exploit the inertia of their shrinking base of traditional voters, but what a deep mess they are in. Cllr Spooner, with all his baggage, is not the man to lead them out of it.

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