Fringe Box



Objections and Tweets Cause GBC to Rethink Decisions on Some Planned Projects

Published on: 22 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 23 Jun, 2020

by Martin Giles

In a surprise move, Guildford Borough Council has deferred contentious decisions on the future of planned projects just 24 hours before they were to be debated.

One in particular, proposed cancellation of the Blackwater Relief Road Hotspots project, had caused hackles to rise in Ash, and local Conservatives have been reported to have been making political mileage from the Lib/Dem R4GV Executive decision.

Highways projects are normally funded by Surrey County Council but GBC had agreed to share the cost to get the job done. Both council budgets are under great pressure because of the pandemic emergency.

Unusually, SCC lead for Highways Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Shalford) had requested to speak at the Executive meeting as a member of the public. His appearance had raised expectations of lively exchanges.

Cllrs Joss Bigmore and Caroline Reeves

GBC leader Caroline Reeves Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) and her deputy, Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), issued a joint statement this evening (June 22): “Residents in Ash have raised several key questions around a number of infrastructure projects, particularly with regard to the involvement of Surrey County Council.

“We have therefore decided it would be premature to make a final decision on the projects until these issues have been investigated fully and until it is possible to give the public answers to these questions.

“Therefore the decision on the future of the projects in Item 6 [of the GBC Executive meeting agenda] will not be made until there is clarity on these key questions. For simplicity, we have withdrawn the whole item.”

Cllr Matt Furniss

The Dragon NEWS has been told some members felt there was an inconsistency in the message from SCC via official channels and those Twitter messages emanating from Cllr Furniss on Twitter.

One councillor said: “While this may be our misunderstanding a short delay will give us time to clear up these communication issues.”

Earlier, Lib Dems at Millmead had issued a press release explaining the decision. The statement reads: “Residents have raised several key questions around the future of this project, particularly with regard to the involvement of Surrey County Council, what role could be played by Section 106 funding and the importance of the climate emergency.

“We are also particularly encouraged to see that statements made on social media by the relevant Cabinet Member at Surrey County Council indicate that SCC might be willing to show more flexibility on this project than they have previously indicated to Guildford Borough Council and we look forward to discussing with them any possible ways to move the project forward.

“As Liberal Democrats we believe strongly that government, at all levels, should listen to the public and respond to their concerns. When our administration was formed in May 2019 we promised a new approach based on openness, accountability and listening to the public, and we hope that we are practising what we preach in deciding to take the time to get the decision right on the Blackwater Valley hotspots project.”

See also: Letter: Have the Leading Parties At GBC Forgotten Their Pledges to Represent the Whole Borough? and Financial Pressures Force Council to Cut Back on Some Projects Amid Pandemic


Share This Post

Responses to Objections and Tweets Cause GBC to Rethink Decisions on Some Planned Projects

  1. John Ferns Reply

    June 22, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    In response to the GBC “coalition” leadership statement, this project had been the rationale for the assurance of the local residents within South Ash & Tongham and their reluctant and forced acceptance of a massive house building spree before the Local Plan had been approved.

    As a result, there are already 1,000 homes in the process of being built and/or have already been occupied in South Ash & Tongham without the necessary planned & agreed infrastructure in place. There are another 750 homes queuing up to be rubber-stamped for approval around Ash Green. And there are another 4,000 homes a mile away from the BVR in Aldershot that are well into the buildout programme and which will depend on the BVR too.

    It is well documented that the BVR/Hog’s Back junction is an accident nightmare spot. In the 60 months to December 2017, the official record lists 24 serious ‘Personal injury collisions’ resulting in police and ambulance attendance. Thirty months later, this can only be worse. And the dangerous level of Nitrous Dioxide emissions recorded in the neighbourhood of this junction has resulted in GBC being served notice under the Environment Act 1995, twice in the last three years.

    The production by the GBC lead councillor responsible and the officers of this now withdrawn proposal was extraordinarily insensitive, when set alongside three dubious town centre ‘beauty/cultural’ aspirations, especially when the coalition, perhaps a little reluctantly, was pushing ahead, “making the best of a bad job” with the controversial Walnut Bridge project.

    The irony of it all is that the BVR/Hog’s Back scheme is now running almost a year behind schedule and will miss the LEP long approved offer of half funding as it will not meet the March 31 2021 deadline for completion. Tendering has not yet started and not a shovel has been placed in the ground.

    This is a debacle which should have been foreseen. Someone has been deeply asleep at the wheel in Millmead.

  2. Caroline Reeves Reply

    June 25, 2020 at 11:38 am

    Since agenda item 6 was published for the Executive Committee meeting we learned from Twitter that our partners at County Hall may have found renewed spirit for working together to deliver our shared goals.

    Whilst social media is an unusual medium for political discussion we welcome the opportunity for further discussion to try to save some of the projects most threatened by our financial position.

    We will bring the item back once we have a clearer picture of further funding that might be coming forward and more detail of the implications of our own financial situation.

    Caroline Reeves is the leader of Guildford Borough Council.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *