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Letter: Which Councillors Will Admit the Local Plan Was a Waste of Time and Money?

Published on: 13 Dec, 2023
Updated on: 13 Dec, 2023

From: Lisa Wright

In response to: Without Urban Renewal the Town Will Fail

I agree with John Rigg.

Having had a brush with politics a few years ago when the Local Plan was being discussed, I saw and heard a lot of noise from the major parties but it was all just nonsense, people wanting some sort of ego trip to a title and chair on a committee.

Since then, I’ve watched from afar to see if the millions of pounds, hours of stress and campaigning, that we all spent while the Local Plan was being formulated, actually bore fruit.

In short, no, it has done nothing to enhance our town, provide the much-needed housing we were promised for our kids (both mine live elsewhere now) or protect open countryside from incursion (think of Wanborough fields or the many “pop up” mobile homes that never get moved on).

I haven’t got the inclination or time to go through the whole housing allocation that was decided back in 2019 to see what was built and when but what I do know is that the majority of those allocations have never been built, not a single brick in the ground on many sites, especially the strategic sites which, thankfully, are still growing our food.

However, I also know that houses were shoved in all sorts of nooks and crannies and open fields that were not allocated as part of the Local Plan, such as The Horsleys which are now housing estates.

Can we all agree that the Local Plan, spanning six years of work, at horrendous cost, has been somewhat of a white elephant? Which councillors are brave enough to realise that and admit it was a complete waste of time and money.

I do hope the Local Plan review in 2024 is quick, functional and realistic and that includes getting some life back in the neglected town area which doesn’t really match up to the facilities in neighbouring towns such as Winchester, Woking, Dorking or Kingston.

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Responses to Letter: Which Councillors Will Admit the Local Plan Was a Waste of Time and Money?

  1. Helena Townsend Reply

    December 14, 2023 at 8:09 am

    I don’t agree that the Local Plan was a white elephant – it allocated new homes in areas where they are needed. There were various sites which were never meant to be delivered at the start of the plan and I expect these to come forward over the next few years including land at Gosden Hill and the University of Surrey.

    What we surely can all agree on is that it’s the minority, the same name, that have popped up over the last six years that constantly criticise, want no development in their back yard and which often seek to misinform the electorate with inaccurate statements.

    Sadly there are still not enough homes.

    • John Perkins Reply

      December 15, 2023 at 3:45 am

      I don’t agree that opponents of the Local Plan represent a minority or that they want no development.

      Is there any evidence that they have sought to misinform the electorate with misleading statements? It seems to me to be a serious accusation and ought to be backed up by facts.

    • Julian Cranwell Reply

      December 15, 2023 at 7:51 am

      None of the developments around the Horlseys have delivered any social housing, which is what is needed for the young and key workers. They have only delivered executive homes for refugees from London. No thought has gone into improving the already failing infrastructure. Vital services, such as medical, schools etc are massively oversubscribed, with no solution in sight.
      This has nothing to do with providing homes the borough needs. It is only about the obscene profits demanded by the developers.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      December 15, 2023 at 10:03 pm

      Ms Townsend’s comment shows an idealogical indifference to the facts and the evidence:

      1. The “Strategic Housing Market Assessment” or SHMA was premised on Office for National Statistics projections of population growth for Guildford that the ONS has since accepted were both objectively false and greatly over-estimated.

      2. The Settlement Hierarchy commissioned as part of the evidence base showed that Ockham was the second least sustainable location for new housing in the entire borough. The parish does not have a pub or a shop and its Parish Rooms have since been sold off. The allocation of the “third largest settlement in the borough” after Guildford itself and Ash & Tongham, was not put in a place where new homes are “needed”. It is demonstrably one of if not the most unsustainable places for a new town in the borough. People want to live near jobs and mass public transport. They don’t want to spend hours commuting miles to work or stuck in traffic or paying to mitigate the harm their settlement will inflect on the adjacent Site of Special Scientific Interest/ Special Protection Area.

      3. The many thousands of objections and reasoned and evidenced criticisms of the Local Plan were not the “minority” of the comments. They were the overwhelming majority – well over 90 per cent of the comments. The objectors have not “popped up over the last six years”. They have been there from the moment that Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja devised their Local Plan.

      4. At least half of the sites allocated in the Local Plan are green field agricultural sites. But for the plan they would still be in the green belt. Gosden Hill Farm, Blackwell Farm and Three Farms Meadow are all farms. They are classified as agricultural land – with superior land grades. Their most sustainable and appropriate use is for growing food.

      Promoters of the disastrous Local Plan, like Ms Townsend, owe it to the electorate to engage with the evidence rather than repeat cheap slogans about “housing need”. The real housing need is for council houses – which are not being built.

    • Lisa Wright Reply

      December 16, 2023 at 8:37 am

      If Helena Townsend goes back and looks at the allocations, for Gosden Hill, Wisley, and Blackwell farm, GBC expectted houses to have been built on them by now. That’s what they told the planning inspector

      Furthermore, a large piece of land in Wood Street Village that was allocated as Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace or SANG (the tenant farmers cows were slaughtered) which has still not been formalised and lays empty.

      I’m sure there and many more examples across the borough.

  2. Pete Knight Reply

    December 15, 2023 at 8:04 pm

    I’ve seen affordable rent and shared ownership on Taylor Wimpey’s Ada Gardens, Manorwood and the small site near Bell and Colville so there are some social homes. Perhaps the factually incorrect comment from Jules Cranwell is what Ms Townsend is referring to?

    Also refugees from London? What a horrible choice of phrase. Are people outside of Horsley not allowed to buy in the village?

    • John Perkins Reply

      December 17, 2023 at 4:29 pm

      The self-build plots in Ada Gardens are £375,000; the cheapest 1-bed Maisonette in Manorwood is £330,000. Are they really “affordable”?

      • Ben Paton Reply

        December 18, 2023 at 9:19 am

        A 1-bed maisonette for £330,000?! Astonishing. And this is happening while Guildford Borough Council is investigating how £16million has been spent in its Housing Revenue Account.

        How many council houses could GBC build with £16million? If they each cost £330,000 it could build 48!. It is realistic to assume that the Council could build a Council House for half £330,000 (especially on its own land) – in which case it could build 96. That’s probably more Council Houses that it has built in the past 3 years – and almost as many as it has built in the past 30 years.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      December 18, 2023 at 9:12 am

      Ms Townsend could not have been referring to Mr Cranwell’s comment for the simple reason is that her letter chronologically pre-dated the comment!

      The promoters of the disastrous and misguided Tory Local Plan are oft in error but never in doubt.

      If the propagandists still promoting the disastrous Tory Local Plan – which the Lib Dems have since refused to amend for its obvious errors – they should get their facts right.

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    December 16, 2023 at 2:37 pm

    One development of over 100 houses in West Horsley has ceased construction as people cannot afford, or just don’t want expensive houses crammed together. As Mr Cranwell says, too few social houses are planned. It is up to the council to refuse applications for masses of pricey properties and demand more appropriate houses to be built if they don’t want to be criticised.

  4. David Smith Reply

    December 18, 2023 at 12:09 pm

    Which development of over 100 homes has ceased?

  5. Valerie Thompson Reply

    December 18, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    Manorwood in West Horsley has been paused. If they sell more I expect they will start again.

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