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Lib Dem Councillor Labels the Local Plan ‘The Longest Suicide Note in History’

Published on: 8 May, 2016
Updated on: 8 May, 2016
Cllr Colin Cross speaking at the Executive Advisory Board on April 13.

Cllr Colin Cross speaking at the Executive Advisory Board on April 13.

A Lib Dem councillor has described the revised Local Plan as the “longest suicide note in history” in a response to a comment sent to The Guildford Dragon NEWS by Guildford Borough Council’s leader, Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham).

Colin Cross (Lib Dem, Lovelace) was responding to an accusation from the council leader that he had questioned the integrity of professional council officers, a claim Cllr Cross rejects.

Cllr Paul Spooner

Council Leader Paul Spooner

The exchange was sparked by a letter from Dragon reader Roland McKinney, Congestion Is A Major Constraint To The Local Economy. Cllr Spooner responded in a comment: “I will not be supporting a local plan that meets [the] OAN [Objective Assessment of Need] without significant improvements included to the transport network.

“It is a constraint and without infrastructure gain we do not support the planned housing number in the new draft.  I hope this is absolutely clear.”

Some readers reacted positively, if with reservations, writing that they were pleased to see the need for “infrastructure first” was recognised.

But Cllr Cross was less impressed, writing: “We are still on the upward trajectory with this rehashed plan and hopefully any planning inspector worth his salt will have many months of enjoyment taking it all apart, all 900+ pages of it.

“The only hope of avoiding this happening is if the GBC planning policy group are allowed to listen to the critics and act accordingly. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.”

Inferring an implied slight to the integrity of the council officers involved, council leader Spooner responded: “I am disappointed that Cllr Cross gives the impression that the planning policy team are not allowed to listen to critics and act accordingly.

“This is a gross injustice on the integrity of GBC officers and on the Local Plan panel where his [Lib Dem] group leader, Cllr Reeves, and senior colleague, Cllr Hogger, are members.

“I trust that he will retract his unsubstantiated (because it is not true) statement questioning the integrity of professional officers of the council.”

But today (May 8) Cllr Cross is unrepentant and has written: “I will retract nothing of what I have said previously, or now, about where we are today with our Local Plan, or as it has been entitled “the longest suicide note in history.”

He also referred to cross party criticism of the revised Local Plan expressed at the Executive Advisory Board Meeting of April 13.

Hilda Brazil speaking on behalf of the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Hilda Brazil speaking on behalf of the Gypsy and Traveller community.

During that meeting comments in support of the plan, or certain aspects of it, came from five public speakers: Hilda Brazil, on behalf of the Gypsy and Traveller community, Malcolm Parry, University of Surrey, Carol Squires Surrey Chambers of Commerce, Alf Turner, Royal Surrey County Hospital, Charles Collins, Savills, (representing Wisley Property Investments Ltd), while Amanda Mullarky of the Guildford Residents’ Association expressed reservations.

Most of the councillors who spoke acknowledged the progress and improvements that had been made.

The public supporters of the plan were joined by some councillors. Cllr Dennis Paul (Con, Holy Trinity) said he was “broadly supportive” of the Local Plan proposals and felt that some of the changes that had been made showed that the council had been listening. Adrian Chandler (Con, Onslow) was pleased to note that the area of the Blackwell Farm proposal that had laid within his ward had been removed from the scheme.

But some councillors, less enthusiastic, spoke more freely than seen before.

Cllr Matthew Sarti, "

Cllr Matthew Sarti, “I do not believe that this local plan does protect the green belt.”

Cllr Sarti, (Con, Clandon & Horsley) said: “ I, as did every other councillor present here, when I went for election, included in my election address a pledge to protect the green belt.

“I do not believe that this local plan does protect the green belt, in fact it removes substantial areas from the green belt for housing and I commend that we actually do include the green belt as a constraint within the Local Plan.

Cllr Andrew Gomm and Cllr Nigel Kearse (both Con, Ash South & Tongham) were concerned about obtaining the necessary infrastructure improvements in their ward for any additional housing.

Cllr Kearse, passing on concerns from his neighbouring ward councillor David Bilbe (Con, Normandy), said: “His worry is very similar [to Cllr Kearse’s] regarding traffic, water disposal, and infrastructure framework. Is it going to be adequate? And … when everything is added together, when you add all of the cars etc. we are slightly worried that it is going to grind to a standstill.

“He (Cllr Bilbe) has also stressed that there is a worry among residents about this proposed figure [the housing target of 693 houses to be built each year] and how it has been derived. I think the general feeling is that it is a developer led proposal.”

Cllr Jenny Wicks (Con, Clandon & Horsley) said of the revised Local Plan: “It is not ideal. It is far from perfect for some of our residents.

“Firstly, looking at the amount of development proposed, I would have hoped that constraints like lack of infrastructure and the green belt would have been used to reduce the housing target below the OAN (Objectively Assessed Need) number.

“If we can’t provide the OAN number without building in totally inappropriate places and spoiling the character of the borough we should say so.”

The whole comment exchange can be seen under the letter: Congestion Is A Major Constraint To The Local Economy and the whole Executive Advisory Board meeting can be watched here.

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Responses to Lib Dem Councillor Labels the Local Plan ‘The Longest Suicide Note in History’

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    May 8, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    One thing I support in the plan is clearly identified improvement of infrastructure needed: sewage, roads, schools, water supply and electricity

    One thing I do not support is the lack of openness in respect of the SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment]. If it is correct then show us the workings.

  2. Neville Bryan Reply

    May 8, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Finally are our elected councillors listening?

    I personally welcome councillors getting concerned and nervous with this catastrophic local plan, which, despite leadership promises to the contrary, still promotes an excessive growth agenda.

    Some made promises during the 2015 election, and may be starting to notice that giving up to six per cent of the green belt, as I believe it to be, and putting 8,000 odd houses on it, makes them look less than honest.

    This Local Plan provides an inflated and unconstrained housing number which, if not delivered (and given the controversial nature of the green belt strategic sites that is likely), will open Guildford up to an avalanche of planning applications, and plan or not, risk a loss of control on planning to developer applications to the detriment of Guildford and the Surrey Hills.

    I know some like Cllr Cross have been concerned for a while, but pleased to see some others are now really thinking through what an unjustified and unexplained requirement to build 693 houses per year really means.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    May 9, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    The previous leader of the council considered that his policies were above criticism. Where the draft local plan was concerned anyone who dared point out a factual inaccuracy, a departure from due process, a failure to uphold a policy, or an abandonment of an election promise was either ignored or pilloried. Rather than address the arguments he preferred to attack the individual. A change of leader has not brought a change of tactics.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    “It is not ideal. It is far from perfect for some of our residents”, says Cllr Wicks.

    She must know, from regular interaction with her constituents, that they regard this as an absolute disaster, which will destroy the character of the villages forever.

    Perhaps a more impassioned articulation of this would be in order, to reassure her residents of her vehement opposition to this plan?

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