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Local Plan Progresses Towards Another Public Consultation

Published on: 24 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2017

The new draft Local Plan for Guildford took a further step towards another public consultation this week.

The Economy and Infrastructure Executive Advisory Board of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) at their April 20 (2017) meeting, recommended that the revised draft should go forward to a special meeting of the GBC Executive to be held during the afternoon of May 16 (2017).

If, as expected, it is approved by the Executive, a final decision on whether the amended plan should be put out for a limited “Regulation 19” public consultation on the changes made since the previous draft, will be taken at a full council meeting that evening.

In a briefing by council officers it was explained that Guildford had had a much higher response rate in its Local Plan consultations than nearby boroughs. 32,000 comments were received at the last consultation in Guildford compared with 4,000 at Elmbridge, 750 at Runnymede and 4,000 comments in neighbouring Waverley.

It was stressed that in the next consultation only comments on the changes that had been made to the draft plan were being sought and that comments already made would still be included.

Steven Brown

Of the six public speakers four were developers or owners wanting development. Steven Brown of Wolf Bond Planning, speaking on behalf of Taylor Wimpey Ltd, urged the council to reconsider the removal of the Normandy strategic site from the draft plan.

He said: “The many benefits of the allocation include the unique opportunity to provide for a sustainable mixed use development by an existing train station which would give opportunities for residents to travel to and from Guildford.”

Lisa Wright

But Lisa Wright of the Save Hogs Back campaign said: “I’d like to remind everyone that this council has a brownfield first policy and most councillors in this chamber pledged to save the green belt in their last manifestos.

“Guildford Borough Council and the University of Surrey intend to purposely destroy the 78 hectares of gorgeous rolling countryside at Blackwell Farm for a new 1,800 home housing estate.

Cllr Matt Sarti

During the debate Cllr Matt Sarti (Con, Clandon & Horsleys), who last year voted against the last version of the draft plan proceeding to public consultation, said: “As some of you know I’m not overly content with some aspects of that plan but now is not the time for me to repeat those, to add to them or to request other changes. We’ve been to the planning inspector, asked for his advice and we’ve been told we need to go to a Regulation 19, focussed consultation, only on those changes.

“In my view the changes are considered and well evidenced… and in view of the inspector’s advice… I don’t think we have any option but to do that and I think it is the right thing to do because we need this plan to go to an inspector… for agreement [so] that we deliver a Local Plan for Guildford.”

Cllr Susan Parker

Cllr Susan Parker (GGG, Send), leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group which opposes development of the green belt said: “In the ward of Send which I represent, there has been no improvement – all changes in the draft proposal have a severely negative impact. The Garlick’s Arch site and the Burnt Common site, taken together with the other proposals for further industrial and residential development, mean that there will be much more commercialisation and industrialisation.

“A rural village is being swallowed up by the conurbation, linking Guildford to Woking.  Gosden Hill Farm is just opposite the end of the Burnt Common Triangle. From Guildford to junction 10 of the M25 there will now be continuous development – echoed on the other side of the town by the conurbation stretching to Aldershot.

“We won’t get people to accept this by throwing the same document back at them repeatedly – we need a revised plan, which balances development in the town and country providing the housing we need not excessive development based on unreliable research. We need to plan for “brownfield first” not just use it for meaningless window dressing to try and please the [planning] inspector. We need to go back to the drawing board – now or in six months.”

Cllr Paul Spooner

Cllr Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), council leader and lead member for planning, in answer to a comment from Cllr Parker that the deferral of 300 houses from the housing target for Blackwell Farm was dishonest said: “I certainly don’t accept that anything dishonest is happening here. I think we have made it perfectly clear in fact in relation to the 300 that have been removed from this planning period that they have not been removed from the totality of the site allocations primarily because we still insist on the infrastructure gain.

“And, in fact, by removing numbers from the total capacity of sites it reduces, of course, the infrastructure requirement. And that would be unfortunate for the next planning period.

In relation to criticism that too much weight was being given to the arguments from developers he said: “I don’t accept the comment that we are taking too much notice of commercial developers. We have certainly got one sat here who definitely wouldn’t agree. We have to balance, of course, the requirements of and dialogue with developers and residents, and I believe we have done that as well as we possibly can.”

Cllr Colin Cross

Then turning to criticism from Cllr Cross (Lib Dem, Lovelace) he added: “In relation to the comments made by Cllr Cross – unfortunate. This game that seems to be being played by Cllr Cross across the media at the moment, that you seem to be trying to turn the town and urban areas against the rural areas, and vice-versa, I think is very unfortunate and we have to remember that we are working as a borough here and therefore we have to apply the same principles across the urban and semi urban area whilst respecting, of course, the rural areas.”

As for expressed belief that the council should await anticipated changes to planning rules Cllr Spooner said: “The new methodology for the revised NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] and NPPG [National Planning Policy Guidance] – frankly I am amazed by those who are looking for the numbers to go down to be bringing this up. The number will only go up; it won’t go down.

“We believe that the number for Guildford will only go up by about 20% which, to be fair, is less than some other areas, but I can assure you that the new methodology will not bring it down. So the sooner we get this Local Plan to an inspector to avoid that unfortunate circumstance the better.”

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Responses to Local Plan Progresses Towards Another Public Consultation

  1. K White Reply

    April 26, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Could someone please explain to me what “sustainable” (see Steven Brown’s comment above) means in the concept of building homes, factories or offices?

    I believe sustainable to mean something that, on balance, doesn’t deplete finite resources, or damage the environment and is naturally renewable, e.g. trees. How does this apply to bricks and mortar and extracting building materials from the earth?

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