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Lovelace By-election – Candidate Interview – Robin Woof Labour

Published on: 2 Sep, 2014
Updated on: 11 Sep, 2014
Rob Woof 1a

Robin Woof, the Labour party candidate in the Lovelace by-election.

The last time the Lovelace ward was contested, in 2011, Robin Woof raised some eyebrows by pushing the Lib Dems into third place, albeit behind a runaway Conservative winner, the late John Garrett.

In common with the other three candidates, Robin expresses grave doubts about the Draft Local Plan which could have a significant impact on the Lovelace ward which encompasses, Ripley, Wisley and Ockham.

In this the last of a series of interviews of all the candidates Robin Woof answers questions posed by Martin Giles…

Tell me something of your background.

I was born in Hertfordshire, but moved to Send in 1990 and have lived in the same house in Send village since then. I am married with three sons, all of whom have attended the local schools, from Send First School through to George Abbot.

I have worked for the last 30 years in the field of IT, and have worked in Guildford, and currently in Woking, for the last 12 years.

What has made you decide to stand in the Lovelace by-election?

I believe that the Local Plan is fundamentally flawed and wish to raise my objections to it via the ballot box. We need to send a clear message to the Executive that there is no support for their proposals from the people of Lovelace Ward, regardless of political party allegiance.

It’s also important to me that the many Labour voters and supporters in the Lovelace ward have a chance to cast their vote for their preferred party – that is why I have agreed to stand as the Labour candidate again, as I did at the last borough council elections.

Why are you standing as a Labour candidate? How long have you been a Labour party supporter?

I have been a Labour party member and supporter for over 30 years. I share Labour’s core values of equality, social justice and fairness for all, which is why I am proud to be asked represent the party and its supporters in the Lovelace ward. I don’t believe in dogmatic party politics however, especially at the local council level – the most important role of any councillor is to represent the views of the community they serve.

If you could make three changes in the Lovelace ward what would they be?

The overarching objective is to reject the Local Plan in its current form and ensure that true local consultation at the earliest stages from the people in Lovelace ward is enabled to develop a revised Local Plan that meets the long-term needs of our community – and is developed in alignment with the current community. Within such a plan, I believe the three key changes would be:

  • Affordable housing options must be at the top of the list to ensure that the young people in our community can continue to live in the area and are not driven away by inflated house prices which only profit speculators and developers.
  • Any development should focus on re-use of brownfield areas, across the whole area, rather than encroaching on the green belt areas.
  • Any development needs to be reviewed on a holistic level – there is no point building houses without considering and constructing the necessary infrastructure to support them – roads/transport, schools, amenities etc.

Given that any Local Plan has to be approved by a planning inspector how much control does the borough council really have?

In my view, although the borough council may not have the ultimate decision making power, its influence is very strong over the planning inspector in the way it presents the plan and the supporting evidence it wishes to show. The key task is to ensure the borough council is persuaded to amend the plan so that they put forward a plan to the Planning Inspector which reflects the view of the many in the community, not the few in power.

How many new homes/houses do you think the borough can tolerate over the next 15 years and where should they go? Should any green belt be relinquished?

The currently proposed figure for houses for the borough appears to have been created from a flawed logic that is trying it assign the maximum number of houses to an area based on a central overall figure. The plan should not start from an imposed – “How many houses can we tolerate?”

It needs to start from a strategic position of what the community needs and can offer within the constraints of the area where we live and should align to an integrated plan across the neighbouring boroughs. The green belt needs to be protected unless clear exceptional circumstances are evident – which has not been proven in the current plan.

What are the main infrastructure challenges we face and what solutions do you think should be considered?

One of the fundamental flaws in the plan is that there is clearly insufficient analysis of the supporting infrastructure that would be needed to support the potential thousands of people occupying the proposed new homes. Current traffic is already at capacity levels, and is subject to overload when occurrences like the recent roadworks/closures happen. A major review of the A3/Ripley traffic flow and operation would be needed as a minimum, but this cannot be separated from a wider review of the surrounding road network.

Significant strategic thinking would be needed to solve the traffic issues alone. Tacking an infrastructure review on at the end of the process is not acceptable – this needs to be part of the initial plan, and the latest draft does not reflect the concerns already raised by many in the local community in the earlier stages of consultation.

Amenities such as schools, health services etc are also already running at capacity locally and must be taken into account in any planning.

There are no easy answers, but these areas cannot be simply glossed over and assumed that they will solve themselves in due course. It’s not acceptable to make a proposal to hugely increase the local population and not take the load on existing transport and amenities – let alone the wider environmental impact – into account in detail in the plan.

Why should Lovelace voters vote for you?

As a member of the local community, having lived in the nearby area for many years, I would be committed to serving the people as best I can, to the best of my ability, supported by the wider Labour Party team.

A list of all the candidates standing in the Lovelace by election, which will take place on Thursday, September 25th, can be found in the article: It’s Officially a Four-horse Race For the Lovelace By-election.

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