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Letter: Why Does Cllr Bigmore Know More About the AONB Boundary Consultation Than Me?

Published on: 2 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 2 Dec, 2021

From: Susan Parker

GGG borough councillor for send and GBC representative on the AONB board

In response to: GBC’s Planning Officers Work Professionally in a Hostile Environment and ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Chance to Extend Surrey’s AONB Leaves GBC Councillor Feeling Excluded

Cllr Bigmore has questioned the statement made by Ramsey Nagaty and stated that I was briefed on due process in June. This isn’t quite accurate.

I am the elected representative for Guildford Borough Council on the Surrey Hill’s AONB Board and in this context, Cllr Bigmore does not have any formal role, nor should GBC’s planning department. Ramsey is the elected member of the Surrey Hills AONB Partnership Board elected by GBC (this was previously a supervisory board to check on the AONB board; in the last two or three years this supervisory board has been largely marginalised by the management team – it has been described by the managing director as “atrophied”).

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meetings were indeed included (in a small paragraph in an appendix in a late amendment to papers for June’s board meeting, issued the day before the meeting). The process described by Joss Bigmore was not formally approved, just buried in the small print. I asked specifically for greater public involvement in the process; but the detailed workings of approving the area of search have been kept under wraps.

Cllr Bigmore’s comments demonstrate that there is indeed something going on that hasn’t been approved at AONB board level (despite my repeated requests to do so), and that GBC’s planners have been working closely with the AONB Managing Director and Chair (not the AONB board) on this.

Why?

Why does Joss Bigmore know all about the dates of meetings of the TAG, and what they are discussing? How does he know about the original and amended Area of Search? I don’t.

This has not been covered at AONB board meetings which are held in public, nor in any kind of briefing written or otherwise. I have repeatedly asked for updates, formally, in public, at board meetings and been told that the plans and process are still awaiting formulation and will be presented in due course.

As an AONB board member, representing Guildford Borough Council, I can confirm that the board were not presented with the detailed information (included in Cllr Bigmore’s letter) about:

  • the dates of TAG meetings;
  • actual membership of TAG meetings;
  • possible amendments to the areas of search;
  • a planned TAG meeting on 6 December.

We were not even informed about any of these facts at the AONB board meeting yesterday (December 1). We weren’t told either verbally or via board papers, even after the event. The information listed by Cllr Bigmore is news to me. The AONB board has not been asked to vote on this procedure. The form of consultation was presented to the board, as a fait accompli, on the day it was launched.

We were also told, at the Surrey Hills AONB Board meeting yesterday that any area near the AONB could be considered. This isn’t quite the process that is being described by Cllr Bigmore and when you look at the website (https://www.surrey-hills-aonb-boundary-review.org/discover) this isn’t quite accurate either.

I have raised this as a query with the Managing Director of the Surrey Hills AONB, and the Chair.

Why do Cllr Bigmore and GBC planners know more about the consultation and due process to extend the AONB boundary than the elected AONB board members?

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test 2 Responses to Letter: Why Does Cllr Bigmore Know More About the AONB Boundary Consultation Than Me?

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 2, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    So much for the often promised era of “Openness and Transparency” then?

  2. Keith Kerr Reply

    December 4, 2021 at 7:32 am

    Our countryside is the most valuable thing that we all can share. We have to make sure that none of it is given planning permission without the approval of all the agencies deemed to protect it.

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