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Now Tories Demand Review of Their Own 2019 Local Plan

Published on: 19 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 20 Mar, 2021

Cllr Julie Iles

By Martin Giles

A letter from a Conservative county councillor is questioning claims that a review of Guildford’s Local Plan would risk a higher housing number being set for the borough.

In the letter, from Cllr Julie Iles, (The Horsleys) and signed by eight other Conservative candidates in the May 6 SCC election, she claims the previous housing algorithm no longer applies.

She writes: “The speculation about housing algorithms affecting the assessed need is inaccurate. My understanding is that things have moved on. In December 2020, housing targets were put back to what they were and the plan process was simplified so that it could be started from scratch.

“Further, because of pressure from Surrey’s Conservative MPs, they have confirmation that if locally calculated estimates of housing need cannot be achieved without building on the green belt that a lower target will be accepted. ”

Criticising the R4GV and Lib Dem parties for not delivering on election promises to review the Local Plan, Cllr Iles says GBC Conservatives will propose a motion in April to trigger a Local Plan review.

Guildford’s Local Plan. Now its Conservative authors want it reviewed.

She writes: “This seeks an immediate review of the Local Plan and subsequently the housing numbers as key strategic infrastructure, including the A3 capacity upgrade, cannot be delivered in the Plan period.

“This R4GV/Liberal Democrat administration at the borough council should be held to account for the promises they made to residents and each cannot blame the other for their failure to review the Local Plan.”

The timing of the letter, coming in the lead-up to the SCC election, is likely triggered by fears that voters are still unhappy with the Local Plan and blame the Conservatives for its creation and for pushing it through so controversially only days before the borough council election in 2019.

Cllr Iles’ own division, The Horsleys, is undergoing significant numbers of unpopular developments allowed since “insetting” of Guildford villages removed green belt protection.

Opponents of the Local Plan continue to question why it allows for development of up to 14,000 homes when population forecasts by the Office of National Statistics indicate the borough’s population is set to rise only 10,000 by 2034, requiring fewer than 4,200 houses at present rates of occupancy.

Mark Brett-Warburton

Notably absent as a signatory to the letter is Cllr Mark Brett-Warburton the Conservative incumbent and candidate for Guildford South East.

He said: “It is a personal philosophy to focus on my commitment to the community and a good record of positive achievements rather than pointing to other people’s failures.

“Different people in the group have different approaches to campaigning, each way is legitimate, but my ideology is to promote what I can do for the community.”

Reactions to Cllr Iles’ letter are being sought. Please check back.

The letter in full:

From: Julie Iles

Conservative councillor for the Horsleys

Surrey County Council Councillors for R4GV were elected on a promise to amend the Guildford Local Plan. They have compelling grounds which enable them to do so now. Why are they not amending it?

The amount of planning applications being brought forward and the sheer scale of housebuilding is probably the biggest concern for residents across Guildford, including those from the Horsleys which I represent.

Yes, the former Conservative administration at Guildford Borough Council drew up the Guildford Local Plan. But they made sure infrastructure was a key requirement and therefore a key constraint. If key infrastructure needs could not be delivered then housing should not be built.

R4GV stood for election on challenging the Local Plan and they pledged to get it amended. There is now a coalition administration.

But both the Liberal Democrat and R4GV administrations have failed to secure the key infrastructure needed and, clearly, the most significant piece of infrastructure affecting the town centre, namely the A3 capacity upgrade, can no longer be delivered in this Local Plan period.

Highways England have confirmed the upgrade is not included in this phase of the Road Investment Strategy.

If Surrey Highways and Transport for South East manage to get this in the next phase of investment, design would be in 2025 and building would not start until after 2030, at the earliest, through to 2035, after the period of the Local Plan.

This lack of capacity on the A3 is a key constraint, so the Local Plan cannot be delivered as originally set out. I raised this at the February meeting of the Guildford Joint Committee and asked for the transport evidence base and for the Plan itself to be reviewed.

Now, I wonder why neither Surrey Highways nor Highways England have been asked by Guildford Borough Council to review the transport and infrastructure evidence base?

I do not believe any change is being sought. The R4GV pledge was, “Amend the Local Plan – the council’s Plan will put some 4,000 more houses on our countryside than required, even by its own inflated estimates, and far beyond local need”.

The R4GV committee chairman, Cllr John Rigg, told me to “be careful what we ask for, as we may get more housing”.

His comments reflect a recent response to an epetition where Cllr Jan Harwood talks about the “National Planning Policy Framework 2019 introducing a new standard method to calculate housing need and work being underway to prepare a Town Centre Masterplan without which work on a new plan cannot begin because if the phasing of the sites doesn’t deliver early enough it will be necessary to allocate additional ones, which are more likely to be Green Belt as they deliver quickly”.

The speculation about housing algorithms affecting the assessed need is inaccurate. My understanding is that things have moved on. In December 2020, housing targets were put back to what they were and the Plan process was simplified so it could be started from scratch.

Further, because of pressure from Surreys’ Conservative MPs, they have confirmation that if locally calculated estimates of housing need cannot be achieved without building on the green belt, a lower target will be accepted.

The government acknowledged that many respondents to the consultation were concerned that the “targets” provided by the standard method were not appropriate for individual local authority areas.

A motion will be put by the Guildford Borough Council Conservative Group to the next full meeting of council in April. This seeks an immediate review of the Local Plan and subsequently the housing numbers, because key strategic infrastructure, including the A3 capacity upgrade, cannot be delivered in the Plan period.

This R4GV/Liberal Democrat administration at the borough council should be held to account for the promises they made to residents and each cannot blame the other for their failure to review the Local Plan.

Voters are entitled to expect their councillors to take this opportunity to do what they said they would do. I am supported in this by Conservative candidates standing for election in the following Guildford divisions at Surrey County Council:

Co signatories: Matt Furniss, Shalford; Philip Brooker, Guildford East; Nigel Manning, Ash; Keith Witham, Worplesdon; Bob Hughes, Shere; Chris O’Keefe, Guildford North; Sallie Barker, Guildford South West; and Dorothy Chalklin, Guildford West.

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test 9 Responses to Now Tories Demand Review of Their Own 2019 Local Plan

  1. George Potter Reply

    March 19, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    I’ll also point out that the Conservatives have repeatedly acknowledged in private that the lack of an upgrade to the A3 is a) more of a matter for the county council to lobby about rather than the borough, and b) something which is entirely a decision by the Conservative government, in breach of their former assurances to the council.

    If our local Conservative MPs can’t even get the government to stick to its funding promises then how on earth can they propose to guarantee that rewriting the Local Plan wouldn’t result in an increase in housing numbers?

    George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

    • Paul Spooner Reply

      March 21, 2021 at 10:04 am

      “Repeatedly acknowledged…” says Cllr Potter. This is untrue, plain and simple. It comes from a councillor who will attribute anything to no-one in his desperate attempt to misinform and misinterpret.

      It is sad to observe this elected councillor resorting to this brazen behaviour and then, when challenged, state that he inserted “allegedly” or used “hearsay” to protect himself from his style of defamatory politics. His campaign-style seems to be to just make anything up that he feels will damage the opposition.

      I challenge Cllr Potter to provide evidence and specifically name the Conservatives who have “repeatedly acknowledged” in private that the A3 is a matter for the county council to resolve?

      The Local Plan is a GBC Borough Plan. It would therefore be a dereliction of duty to just walk away from infrastructure issues. The exact opposite of what Cllr Potter is implying.

      I look forward to a day when Cllr Potter attributes his comments in a factual and truthful way.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    March 19, 2021 at 8:13 pm

    Wow! Simply Wow!

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 20, 2021 at 6:25 am

    We already have a much higher target figure, since we were told that the Local Plan housing numbers are “a guide, not a cap”. This has resulted in a 25% uplift for the Garlics Arch development in Send.

    Berkeley Homes will no doubt get the 40% uplift they are demanding in Effingham. We will therefore see over 20,000 new homes built, not 14,000. What have we to lose from a review? Let’s get on with it, before we are completely overrun.

  4. John Redpath Reply

    March 20, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Local Tory politics is like watching a dying animal eat itself.

    John Redpath is a R4GV councillor for Holy Trinity

  5. Colin Cross Reply

    March 20, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    Let’s put some perspective in place. The previous Tory cabal took the best part of a decade to produce their infamous Local Plan, riddled with failings and misconceptions but found to be “technically” sound, sadly.

    The current collaborative administration at GBC has been in place under six months and has been impacted throughout that time by a national pandemic. Nevertheless, a Local Plan review has always been on the agenda, in accordance with the current requirement to complete a review no later than five years after the previous Local Plan adoption.

    The above is not a formal response to Ms Iles, just a personal observation and a reflection that she must be exceedingly aware of the precarious nature of her Horsleys tenure.

    Colin Cross is the R4GV borough councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham) and a R4GV candidate for The Horsleys in the forthcoming SCC election.

  6. Lisa Wright Reply

    March 20, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    Can those SCC candidates call the review now?

    Should we elect councillors on what they have already done rather than what they pledge to do? As we know, most pledges rarely materialise into anything significant.

    Some of those same Conservative councillors have pushed hard for more development of our borough. Even if they do review the plan, would it really make a difference to the outcome? They’re only pledging to review the paperwork to win votes, they haven’t promised to actually change anything for the benefit of Guildford.

    Let’s hear exactly what sites they will take out of the plan and how that will sit with central government before we continue this pointless electioneering.

  7. Richard Hodgson Reply

    March 20, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    I sometimes wonder whether politicians are capable of making decisions.

  8. Paul Kennedy Reply

    March 24, 2021 at 8:45 am

    I have read with astonishment the letter from Julie Iles and the other Conservative candidates demanding a fresh review of their own Conservative Local Plan, when it is Conservative Ministers who are blocking that review.

    Government housing targets for Guildford and most of Surrey are based on out-of-date household projections, which grossly overstate demand for housing in our area. This is outrageous and unfair. Liberal Democrats in Mole Valley and Elmbridge, which are busy rewriting the draft Local Plans we inherited from the Tories to protect our green belt, have been calling for the projections to be updated in the strongest terms:

    https://www.molevalley.gov.uk/sites/default/files/home/building-planning/local-plans/28-july-2020-letter-robert-jenrick-mp-redacted0.pdf

    But local Tories and Conservative MPs have failed to support us, and the government is still demanding that out-of-date projections be used. Indeed the government’s planning consultation feedback statement in December 2020 makes clear that its primary aim is to prevent “substantial change” to existing Local Plans such as Guildford’s: “We will continue to use the 2014-based household projections. The government has carefully considered whether to use the 2018-based household projections and has concluded that, due to the substantial change in the distribution of housing need that would arise as a result, in the interests of stability for local planning and for local communities, it will continue to expect only the use of the 2014-based projections.”

    So here is my challenge to Julie Iles, who is a senior and indeed recently honoured member of the Conservative Party, and probably has more clout with Mr Jenrick than many local MPs. If you are really serious about protecting the green belt, get the government to reverse its December 2020 decision and update its housing targets as the Liberal Democrats and others have been demanding.

    Otherwise, I would invite voters to send the Conservatives the same clear message in May as they did two years ago.

    Paul Kennedy is a Lib Dem Spokesperson for Mole Valley

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