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Letter: Will Lib Dems Really Protect the Green Belt?

Published on: 3 May, 2015
Updated on: 3 May, 2015

RosettesFrom Ray Briggs

As a candidate for the Guildford Greenbelt Group in the Onslow ward and a resident of Onslow Village I was surprised by a recent flyer received from the Liberal Democrats. In this flyer the Onslow Liberal Democrat candidates have indicated they will protect our Green Belt, that they want a fair local plan delivered and that they have consistently voiced major concerns over the proposal for 3,000 houses on Blackwell Farm.

This is surprising as they voted for the Issues and Options Consultation paper, which included the Blackwell Farm site for consideration, and voted against a petition to take Blackwell Farm out of the Draft Local Plan in January 2014.

While I respect those who genuinely have a change of heart, to argue that the Liberal Democrats have consistently voiced concern over the Blackwell Farm plans seems to stretch the point a bit.

Any voter concerned about this and other major developments in the borough will want to be certain about what ‘major concerns’ meant. Does this mean that they reject the idea of using any green belt land within the proposed Blackwell Farm development area?

Or does it mean that they don’t feel an adequate bus service has been laid on? It would be good to hear more specifics as voters concerned about these issues will be justifiably angry if they feel they were misled in the weeks before an election.

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Responses to Letter: Will Lib Dems Really Protect the Green Belt?

  1. Colin Cross Reply

    May 4, 2015 at 12:27 am

    Which bit of ” Issues and Options Consultation Paper” doesn’t Mr Briggs understand?

    His party’s blatant opposition to the legal requirement to undergo the necessary process of seeking the views of the electorate shows a total disregard for due process.

    No one voted to approve the plan but only to air its principles and seek public opinion.

    Is it not now overdue to admit that GGG are barking up the wrong tree on this?

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem GBC Councillor for Lovelace

  2. Harry Eve Reply

    May 4, 2015 at 9:09 am

    It was the manner in which the consultation was presented that angered me as it was delivered with a determined pro-growth at any cost agenda and point of view.

    Those putting it forwards had clearly, it seemed to me, invited developers and land owners to suggest building wherever they liked and without regard for existing land designation. Then they appeared to redraw the green belt boundaries to accommodate the developers’ wishes and tried to make up reasons for doing so.

    The clear message was that the green belt, AONB, SPA and villages were obstacles to be overcome rather than assets to be treasured.

    The cart was put before the horse and that is why it was given a good kicking.

  3. Karen Stevens Reply

    May 4, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Ray Briggs has posed a very straightforward question: “Do the Liberal Democrats reject the idea of using any green belt land within the proposed Blackwell Farm development area?”

    Colin Cross’s response has avoided answering this and instead he has used it as an opportunity to attack the Guildford Greenbelt Group.

    Perhaps councillors should stop playing politics and answer the question being posed. It would be useful, and fair, for voters to know the Liberal Democrat position on this before casting their votes on May 7. Please could Colin answer Ray’s question – “yes” or “no”?

    Karen Stevens is a GGG candidate in Onslow Ward

  4. Ray Briggs Reply

    May 5, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Mr Cross asks a fair question and I will try to address it.

    He and I disagree on the nature of the vote for the Local Plan Issues and Options document.

    In his response here, and in his letter to the Surrey Advertiser of 1st May, he maintains that the consultation was a mandatory and statutory obligation.

    Whether or not that is the case, the vote was on whether to release a consultation paper. Had this proposition been rejected the consultation paper would have had to be revised.

    The Local Plan Issues and Options document describes the issues and then presents options to the reader for comment. As such it establishes an initial position for the consultation.

    The principle of this is fair but in my view the initial position was flawed. In particular it did not include options to protect the green belt. Indeed there are no options provided under the section entitled ‘Greenbelt and the Countryside’. The options subsequently presented under the section entitled ‘Green open spaces and habitats’ does not mention green belt at all.

    I believe the unanimous adoption of the Local Plan Issues and Options document indicated that there was unanimity on the position being presented and this led directly to the Draft Local Plan that that many of us have serious issues with.

    I wonder whether a stronger critique of the Local Plan Issues and Options document would have ultimately have led to a more acceptable local plan, thereby saving the borough time and money.

    I encourage everyone to look at the Local Plan Issues and Options document (particularly section 6) and draw their own conclusions.

    So to Mr Cross’ question, what I don’t understand is how any party who believes that the green belt needs protecting could have voted for a consultation paper that in my opinion sets a position seriously at odds with that belief.

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