Fringe Box



Local Plan Hearings – Opponents Remain Pessimistic

Published on: 14 Feb, 2019
Updated on: 18 Feb, 2019

While many at the borough council were happy with the conclusion of the Local Plan’s examination, those who have been energetically opposing the plan remain angry and intend to fight on.

Susan Parker leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group reflected the views of some other parties when she said that the Local Plan will remain an election issue at May’s borough council elections, even if the plan has been formally adopted by then.

And the barrister representing Wisley Action Group and Ockham Parish Council at the hearings gave a clear warning that a legal challenge regarding the amount of green belt development planned, despite the reduction of the housing number, could be expected.

Here are some other reactions:

Helen Jefferies

Helen Jefferies a Wisley campaigner, speaking as a private Guildford Borough resident said: “I was particularly surprised about two things at the hearings. Firstly, the council, having previously said that the main modification sites were not needed, actually meant, not needed except for 155 houses at Garlick’s Arch.  This seems to me another “sleight of hand” from the council which some might find shocking, if no longer surprising.

It is abundantly clear that this council has no regard for… the preservation of the green belt

“Secondly, Laura Howard [planning officer at GBC] said that green belt boundaries would need to be reviewed again at the end of the plan period [2034]. We have been led to believe that green belt boundaries are meant to be permanent.  Permanent, it would appear, means until some other proposal comes forward promising pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It is abundantly clear that this council has no regard for either the preservation of the green belt or indeed fails to see the need to regenerate the town centre.”

Cllr Tony Rooth

Tony Rooth leader of the Independent Alliance at GBC said: “The inspector would only consider housing numbers required to meet Guildford’s needs for more homes.  As reported, he is likely to reduce the number to around 562 per year. The four extra green belt sites originally added by the council will probably now be removed.

“However, he allowed no debate on where new housing would be located. He refused my request to speak for more housing in the town centre (and less on our green belt) rather the original ‘retail led’ development in North Street.

“Hopefully, some good news for residents near the extra green belt sites. However, no comfort for many residents affected by Wisley, Blackwell Farm, Gosden Hill, Slyfield and other sites already included in the submitted Local Plan.

Perhaps this will be a factor for how Guildford residents vote in May’s borough council elections?

“The council can review its Local Plan in future when actual and projected delivery of new housing changes. Perhaps this will be a factor for how Guildford residents vote in May’s borough council elections?”

Julian Lyon

The Guildford Society lead for the Local Plan, Julian Lyon, said he is: “…disappointed that, after almost ten years in which the society has engaged positively and professionally with the council and the Local Plan, it seems we are to be saddled with a plan no-one likes.

“This plan remains bad for the town and bad for the countryside. It solves few if any of the underlying problems and challenges in the borough.

“It vastly over provides for homes across the plan period – necessitating removal of substantial sites from the green belt, and the Examination in Public was told that we would have to review the green belt again within the next fifteen years.

The planning system appears to have fundamentally failed the Guildford area

“We are left with an ineffectual wishy-washy wish list for the town centre – still predicated on 40,000 sqm of retail development, even though no-one expects it to be built – and we have the prospect that out of town sites will be removed from the green belt and yet may not be capable of development because they rely on major works to the A3 that are not even planned yet.

The resumed Local Plan hearings taking place in GBC’s council chamber

“The thousands of hours our team has spent reviewing documents counted for absolutely nothing in the end because the council and, it seems, the inspector were not prepared to listen.  The society thanks all those who, in good faith, responded to the consultations and who will feel equally numb and despondent over this latest development.

Alistair Smith, chairman of the Guildford Society said: “After millions have been spent by our council, we are in imminent danger of having a local plan that wrecks the green belt and doesn’t address critical issues in the town centre and infrastructure for the borough as a whole. The planning system appears to have fundamentally failed the Guildford area.”

John Rigg, GVG

John Rigg chair of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG), who intends to stand as an Independent in the forthcoming borough council elections, said: “The Local Plan process is supposed to be good for town and community. This plan and it’s council authors are proving the enemy of both.

“The plan fails on evidence, it fails to protect or enhance the good whilst delivering the bad. It defies logic and will be driven through by the Planning Inspectorate motivated one suspects by government paranoia that Towns like Guildford are full of NIMBYs and must be taught a lesson.

“Cllr Spooner’s glee at defeating good planning and the community is truly incredible. As with the Solum disaster centre. Our own councillors are undermining our very own town and countryside to meet Conservative Head Office and developers wishes but leaving available brownfield out of the equation in an unplanned and deteriorating town centre which could easily cope with the requirement.

“This plan could not be worse for our community. Furthermore, it undermines your confidence in the system and in common sense. It must though still be voted through by ward councillors and everyone should contact theirs to say a vote yes to the plan is a vote ‘out’ in the May elections weeks away.

…to vote for this plan is to vote not just for green belt release now but green belt release again and again

“GBC made a vacuous commitment to the town centre through the insertion of a redundant “S3” policy. It will go nowhere near doing what is required for the town. Moreover, the sustainability appraisal shows no additional commitment to the town centre.

“Worse still is that GBC’s inability to plan the town centre properly is likely to lead to even more green belt release in future. GBC admitted at the hearing sessions that a green belt review will be needed in future years.

“If development doesn’t come forward quick enough on sites (which it won’t due to their inaction) and if A3 continues to be a constraint (which it will – because they haven’t sorted it yet) and they don’t resolve town centre properly through a proper master plan (GVG have an oven-ready one which they are willing to let GBC use) then further green belt release is inevitable.

“Effectively, to vote for this plan is to vote not just for green belt release now but green belt release again and again.”

See also: Fewer Houses For Guildford Expected As Local Plan Examination Ends But Criticism Remains

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Responses to Local Plan Hearings – Opponents Remain Pessimistic

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    February 15, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Basically, GBC will be responsible for following the Juneja/Mansbridge “trajectory” for despoiling its own backyard. Green belt development should never have been considered, let alone promoted, ahead of rational development in Guildford town centre.

    GBC and the examiner of the submitted Local Plan, Jonathan Bore, have, in my view, persisted in ignoring the rules set down in the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] regarding the “special circumstances” required before proposing the inclusion of green belt land in the documents.

    I still cannot believe that GBC is still claiming that Wisley is a viable development area, in spite of its refusal by the Secretary of State.

    Who do the GBC councillors think they are?

    • Paul Spooner Reply

      February 15, 2019 at 7:03 pm

      It is probably worth pointing out to readers that the Planning Inspector was appointed and represented the Secretary of State to examine the Guildford Local Plan.

  2. Colin Cross Reply

    February 15, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Everything said above rings true and we are now approaching a sort of GBC plan-led Armageddon from which the borough can never hope to recover its former glory.

    Somehow this plan offers us the worst of both worlds, rural and urban alike, quite an outstanding feat considering it’s meant to be of benefit to both communities!

    This May’s elections represent the final crossroads at which the electorate must decide the borough’s future, to be played out over the 15-year life of the Local Plan. Even if we are confronted with an adopted plan it’s still not all a fait accompli and its worst excesses can be avoided, given a new council.

    Now it’s all about getting that message across to the decision makers, the electorate.

    Colin Cross is the Independent borough councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham).

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