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Letter: Why R4GV Needs Time to Prepare a Proper Review of Flawed Local Plan

Published on: 16 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 16 Apr, 2021

From: Tim Anderson

R4GV councillor for Clandon & Horsley and lead councillor for Resources

In response to: Letters to The Dragon from Julie Iles and Helen Jefferies

We believe Julie Iles is politically motivated. We know Helen Jefferies is sincere, but believe she has been misled.

Our party has a great deal of empathy for Ms Jeffries and all residents, like ourselves and our supporters living near the former Wisley Airfield, the other strategic sites in the borough and in those villages brutally taken out of green belt.

Their commitment to fighting the Local Plan is one of the causes that inspired us to found R4GV and we are truly sorry if our approach to reviewing and updating the Local Plan seems to have fallen short of their expectations.

The Local Plan took the Tory-led council 10 years to prepare, requiring a vast database of wide-ranging evidence which took that long to assemble.

The evidence was widely consulted on numerous occasions and scrutinised in a formal public examination before a government planning inspector, countless barristers and controversially adopted by the Tories a week before the 2019 election during pre-election purdah.

The Plan was subsequently supported by the Secretary of State and maintained after three failed High Court judicial reviews.

The belief that the A3 improvement works being delayed will allow us to revert to the pre-2019 position is not based on fact or evidence. This is a risk and we do not yet have the information to decide whether that is a risk worth taking.

New transportation evidence is impossible to gather during lockdown. In fact, the lack of traffic would probably render the strategic sites deliverable without A3 improvements. Is this really what any of us want?

At the same time, every noise coming out of Westminster supports more homes with relaxed planning restrictions.

The new housing algorithm indicates Guildford would need to provide an extra 40% of homes every year from 562 to 787.

People should not be misled by electioneering provocateurs. None of us in R4GV support the Local Plan and all of us want a review, but that must be conducted with care and precision.

To review the Plan must take time. If anyone has a quicker way we are all ears. We are preparing for the review but we will base our position and reports to our community on reality, being very open with the risks and potential benefits of such a review.

Our overriding aim is not to end up in an even worse position than we are now.

This is why our motion to review the Plan includes the requirement to obtain independent expert advice to help us prepare a well-thought-out alternative to achieve the best possible outcomes for our communities and the borough.

We are residents directly affected by the strategic sites, inspired to form R4GV precisely because of the present Local Plan, so please believe us when we say we are doing everything we can to review it as quickly as possible, but also as safely as possible.

We have held discussions with several related organisations and formal bodies over the past nine months in preparation for this complex task.

The review means creating a new-look Local Plan and the content must be comprehensive for the inspector to give it any credence. Just cherry-picking one or two topics for consideration would render the review invalid and rejection inevitable.

That is why we are ensuring we tackle this process correctly to avoid further delays or failure.

With the Right to Buy Receipts Review, R4GV has already proved our leadership brings a speed and rigour of positive action unfamiliar at Guildford Borough Council. We will take a similar approach to this process.

Obviously, R4GV has just 15 of 48 councillors, less than a third of the chamber. Other parties in council have not been persuaded by residents’ views in the past and that has not changed now.

For the Tories, the party that sets national policy, the party that were the architects of this deeply flawed Local Plan, to call for a review now is crude electioneering, another attempt to thrust their own party politics above the people of this borough.

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Responses to Letter: Why R4GV Needs Time to Prepare a Proper Review of Flawed Local Plan

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    April 16, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Thanks to Tim Anderson for laying out what GBC plans to do to start a review.

    However, those at the Local Plan Examination hearings will remember that much of the Plan was based on the assumption of A3 widening and improvements. Additionally, the Plan was put forward by the previous Conservative council on the basis that some sites were reliant on those A3 improvements being completed and no housing would be built before that infrastructure was in place. That’s why there was so much fuss at the time about the number of houses that could be built in the first five years.

    It’s now quite obvious that Blackwell Farm, Wisley and Gosden Hill are impacted by the change in plans for the A3.

    The inspector and GBC put through the Local Plan that was reliant on A3 improvements. Those improvements are not going to materialise for many years and that alone should be a basis for a Local Plan review.

    Additionally, the amount of homes expected to be built in the first five years is way below their projections.

    Meanwhile, other sites have come forward, many more houses have been built that were not part of the Plan.

    I think these three reasons are quite a good starting point to review the plan. Then we can add in new information regarding climate change, Brexit, population changes, Covid impacts on people movements and incorporate new ONS data.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    April 17, 2021 at 11:57 am

    In May 2021 the current borough council will have been in place for two years.

    What concrete action has it taken to revise the Local Plan in the past two years?

    If there was a will there would be a way. When there is no will there are always excuses.

    It looks like R4GV has been captured by the Lib Dems and by the permanent officials of the council – both of whom were architects of the disastrous Local Plan.

    The excuses are wearing very thin.

  3. Paul Jarvis Reply

    April 20, 2021 at 12:33 am

    I really struggle to see the R4GV policy here.

    They campaigned on a promise to review the Local Plan, because they thought it was poor and called for too much development. However, they now seem so concerned that any review risks increasing numbers?

    If the current plan is so bad and the evidence base so wrong then they should be supremely confident in a review delivering the goal of a reduced green belt development and lower housing numbers.

    If they are not confident in this, especially with the A3 changes not being delivered, then you have to assume they actually believe the current plan is as good as we may expect. Their positioning is certainly losing a lot of support from residents in the villages, I feel a resurgence in GGG support coming in 2023.

  4. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 23, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    The borough council has already had two years to review the disastrous Local Plan. There seems to be a lack of will to do anything meaningful to look at the inflated housing numbers, the missing infrastructure, the serious problems with shortage of school places, teachers and surgeries (you cannot just magic a few hundred more doctors and teachers from thin air), the destruction of the green belt and so on.

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