Fringe Box



Lib Dem Claims of Working with North Street Developers Shows a Divided Party, Says R4GV

Published on: 13 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 15 Jan, 2023

The article in the Lib Dem pamphlet claimed it was their councillors who had worked with the North Street developers.

By Martin Giles

Potentially embarrassing Liberal Democrat articles, claiming responsibility for the rejected North Street scheme have emerged today. A Lib Dem spokesperson has confirmed this afternoon that the articles were included on their website and in promotional political pamphlets.

See also: North Street Plan Rejected by Borough Council in Knife-edge Vote

Digital copies of the articles were sent to The Dragon NEWS by readers who felt they were incompatible with the way all five Lib Dem members of the GBC Planning Committee voted on Wednesday to refuse the application for the North Street regeneration scheme.

Some readers claim that the same or similar articles were also published in the Lib Dem facsimile newspaper “The Guildford & Villages Gazette” but this has not been confirmed.

The online article shared some of the wording in the Lib Dem pamphlet article. (Please click on image to enlarge.)

The articles were published in October 2022. In the pamphlet article, it says: “Now Lib Dems on the council have worked with developer, St Edward, to bring forward a scheme to redevelop North Street.”

John Rigg GBC’s lead councillor for Regeneration has been overseeing the council’s work in support of the project. His party, Residents for Guildford & Villages, shares power with the Lib Dems at the borough council, but this evening, having seen the articles he asked: “What do the Lib Dems want or stand for on planning?

Cllr John Rigg

“The disconnection between different parts of their party and the statements made by their Planning Committee members must have left the developers completely confused. It’s as if the Lib Dems are two separate parties, Zoe Franklin and the GBC Executive versus the Planning Committee Lib Dems with their completely different values and agendas. Sadly, what a mess!”

The Dragon asked the Lib Dem spokesperson, “What has happened since publication [of the articles] to make your members, who voted at last night’s planning meeting, change their minds?”

She responded: “The first point to make is that the article was written by and quotes Zöe Franklin, our Parliamentary candidate, who is not a member of the council group and was sharing her own opinion on the plans.

“Her comments were made prior to the detail of the affordable housing numbers being made public but still clearly states that affordable housing was an area of concern for her.

“That said, our planning committee members did not change their minds. They made up their minds on the night based on the information presented. As Liberal Democrats we do not demand that our Planning Committee members arrive at a meeting with their minds already made up, nor do we whip our councillors to vote one way.

“We wholeheartedly support the regeneration of this site in the best interests of the people of Guildford. We believe that modest amendments to the application should be able to address and resolve the remaining concerns of the Planning Committee.”

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Responses to Lib Dem Claims of Working with North Street Developers Shows a Divided Party, Says R4GV

  1. John Redpath Reply

    January 13, 2023 at 9:58 pm

    So by claiming support for something before knowing the full facts about it Ms Franklin has shown us that she really wasn’t involved at all. If she was involved, as this leaflet claims, surely she would have told the developers in no uncertain terms about the number of affordable homes she required etc.

    In truth she has proved she’s just another Lib Dem claiming the credit for someone else’s hard work as is the political trait of this failing party.

    This is shocking and certainly proves she is someone unfit to sit and represent us in Westminster.

    John Redpath is a R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity.

  2. Daniel Hill Reply

    January 14, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    Guildford’s Planning Committee seems far happier approving developments in the green fields of the surrounding villages and yet make life so difficult for the brownfield sites we do have.

    Our elected representatives aren’t listening but I’m not saying we just bow and let developers do what ever they want.

    Obviously it was disappointing the developer didn’t include any social housing and only 20 not so “affordable” houses. But this does feel like a missed opportunity to improve our town centre.

    The planning system is broken, it’s time residents had polices they want and can trust.

    The answer is very simple, we need a brownfield first policy and a building height policy in the GU1 postcode.

  3. Wayne Smith Reply

    January 14, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Historically, the Lib Dems do have something of a reputation for playing fast and loose with facts, figures and graphs in their electioneering pamphlets.

    Claiming responsibility for the North Street scheme would seem to fit their modus operandi.

    Anyone that lost thirty minutes of their life watching the last Guildford Dragon interview with Zoe Franklin will have heard her stress that she doesn’t speak for the Guildford Lib Dem group, that she’s no planning expert and that she quite liked the proposed St Edwards development.

    Did she not have any conversations with her Lib Dem colleagues as to their views?

  4. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    January 15, 2023 at 1:01 pm

    I concur with the two commentators Mr Hill and Mr Redpath.

    When the Development Management Policies were debated at GBC I argued for a height standard in our Local Plan Part 2. I got no support from the Lib Dems. I attended the inspector’s Examination of the policies and again raised the issue.

    No councillors except GGG and briefly R4GV attended the hearings over the three or four days. I attended every day.

    So many times the Lib Dems express sympathy for residents affected by a development impacting the green belt, countryside or villages but say housing need trumps the harm (character, effect on wildlife, overdevelopment, conflict with neighbourhood plans, lack of infrastructure etc) and vote for development citing the risk of losing at appeal with the associated costs that may be incurred by GBC.

    The Lib Dems on planning normally support the officer recommendations. Yet, despite barrister advice to the contrary, the chair used theclck of affordable housing as a main reason to cast the deciding vote against development. This appears a strange reversal by the Lib Dems when it is an application affecting the town centre.

  5. Howard Moss Reply

    January 16, 2023 at 4:15 pm

    I note that on 7th September 2022 the Dragon ran an article on height policy in Guildford.

    Whereby all the parties commented, the following is what was reported from Lib Dem Lead Councillor for Planning and Development Cllr Tom Hunt

    “The Liberal Democrats do not believe that a blanket height policy would be the right approach for Guildford. This approach risks the maximum allowable height of buildings becoming a de facto minimum, resulting in a homogenous townscape. More importantly, it increases the pressure to build on new greenfield sites, outside of the town centre, by potentially reducing the amount of housing that can be built on brownfield sites.”

    With this statement in mind, how did we end up with so much discussion regarding the height of the scheme at the planning meeting.

    Bearing in mind ample opportunity via numerous meetings, discussions and exhibitions has been given for Councillors of all parties to put forward a case to the developer to lower the height.

    The question really is what is an acceptable height for the Lib Dems in Guildford if they have no policy on it, and how would a developer know?

  6. John Phelps Reply

    January 17, 2023 at 5:59 am

    What a huge disconnect for such a small party. The MP candidate doesn’t even know what her party members are doing at council (or doesn’t bother to ask) because she states they are working “with” the developer. It’s clear from the many articles over the past week that the only party putting in any work on this scheme was R4GV.

    “Her comments were made prior to the detail of the affordable housing numbers being made public“ – so did the councillors not know the affordable numbers?

    Surely Cllr McShane knew and would have told her party? Surely she endorse the Lib Dems taking credit for something they had nothing to do with?

    We elect our councillors to represent us. In 2019 the Liberal Democrat’s made a pledge for affordable housing and they have broken that pledge by not lobbying the developer on day one for it. On Wednesday, when it was too late, they suddenly remembered their election pledge and prevented a multimillion-pound investment in our town.

    Surely it’s time for Cllr McShane to resign on poor leadership, poor communication and allowing her party to lie to the public?

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