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Open Letter to the Managing Director of Guildford Borough Council

Published on: 13 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 13 Apr, 2017

In this open letter to Sue Sturgeon, the managing director at Guildford Borough Council (GBC), Cllr Colin Cross (Lib Dem, Lovelace) is reacting to Tuesday’s (April 11, 2017) response from Ms Sturgeon, published as a reader’s letter: Local Plan Balances Needs Across the Borough.

Dear Ms Sturgeon,

Firstly, I am accused of incorrectly stating NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] constraints (not restraints) have not applied to the OAN [Objectively Assessed Need] calculation. However, I have it on record from the planning policy manager that GBC would not be applying these constraints as, essentially, they may not hold water when it comes to the inspection process.

If GBC have applied them now then let’s see the actual calculations, if not then this accusation should be withdrawn.

The “brownfield first” policy is not a recognised constraint and is therefore a red herring.  Of course GBC should apply this policy but they are doing so in a very half-hearted fashion.  They continue to plan an expansion of the town’s retail offering, i.e. North Street and the failed pop-up village when, nationally, traditional retail is on the wane.

They also fail to tackle the proliferation of surface car parks, both GBC owned and private, which occupy huge areas of Guildford.  Why do we allow Waitrose and Tesco to have massive surface areas in our town centre? Waitrose at Cobham has a 2-storey car park on a smaller footprint.  Why has nothing been done for years about adding to our multi-storey car park stock?

What about Surrey Research Park being littered with surface car parks, the hospital, Guildford College, and Farnham Road car park?  So please don’t try to tell us there are “insufficient suitable and available sites” as we are not unaware of these missed opportunities.

As for the statement that GBC “finally considered green belt land that could be used to sustainably contribute towards meeting needs”.  Firstly, the “finally” is a bit rich as the policy relating to the Wisley (FWA) site goes back to Mr Mansbridge’s stint of “management”.

Secondly, the site in question is the most unsustainable location imaginable and the council’s own Planning Committee unanimously decided last year to throw out the developer’s application.

Former Wisley Airfield (FWA)may not be everyone’s idea of a totally unspoilt idyllic pasture, but it does not have to be beautiful, or even green, to be classified as green belt.  Its primary role is to stop the growth of urban sprawl and the sheer size and location of FWA is critical in achieving this for Guildford, Surrey and London.

Its significant land mass is in the middle of a range of towns and villages, all less than 1-3 miles away, and its development would allow a merging of all these over time into that urban sprawl it is there to protect us from.

If you then add the other local A3 sites being planned at Garlicks Arch in Ripley, Gosden Hill Farm at Clandon and Slyfield, we have the reality before us that the A3 corridor from London will be a suburb all the way to Guildford and beyond to Blackwell Farm.

As to green belt sensitivities, the troubling Pegasus Report that created the hierarchy of localised green belt sensitivity status ratings was, and remains, a deeply flawed study which contains many inaccuracies.

It has already been challenged regarding its flawed analysis of the FWA site and will be challenged again with the planning inspectors enquiry.  It is blatantly obvious to any neutral observer that the FWA is a highly sensitive site, as well as being very isolated and thus wholly unsustainable.  But I am not favourably disposed towards any of the other strategic greenbelt sites being proposed in the borough.

It is a relief to hear that GBC are sticking to Cllr Spooner’s much uttered mantra that there will be no development without the required infrastructure first being in place.  No going back on this please.

I am also accused of incorrectly stating the number of homes lost from the latest plan to be 1,400 when it is actually 2,000. Well, I was merely quoting the official GBC press release which, in bullet point 1,  clearly states that the total housing reduction is 1,400, not 2,000.  If that is wrong or my understanding of the meaning of total is wrong then a further explanation is required or an apology offered.

I am not in the habit of misquoting the facts and so the unfounded accusations and your own misinformation come as a disappointment.   Perhaps your response was ghost-written by a third party at GBC?  It looks remarkably similar to Neil Taylor’s diatribe last year attacking Ben Paton for querying the SHMA’s lack of transparency.

It is indeed an odd coincidence that he was another senior director about to leave GBC, the following week, when he wrote that. Now you have put yourself in the firing line as you too are soon to leave.

Is there a warning bell here for other senior GBC officers?

Colin Cross

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test One Response to Open Letter to the Managing Director of Guildford Borough Council

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    April 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Why is Ms Sturgeon writing a letter to the Press to complain about the conduct of a borough councillor? How is that not political interference?

    We have a council stuffed full of so-called ‘Conservative’ borough councillors. They don’t need any assistance from civil servants to defend their policies. There are more than enough of them to do their own work.

    It is not the job of the managing director to defend the policies of the Conservative leader of the council. What else do they get up to in their secret deliberations?

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