Fringe Box



Opinion: Balancing the Needs of All, Not Just a Minority

Published on: 28 May, 2016
Updated on: 30 May, 2016
Cllr Paul Spooner

Cllr Paul Spooner

By Paul Spooner

leader of Guildford Borough Council

The Borough of Guildford is a wonderful place for residents, businesses and visitors. We’re lucky to be in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

Our local economy is the strongest and most vibrant outside London. And our culture, heritage and attractions mark this out as a special place.

However, we must not ignore the challenges faced by some, and we must not be complacent and assume everything will be fine forever, without need for change.

Guildford Borough faces a housing crisis if the demand for more suitable homes is not tackled soon. The supply of smaller and more affordable properties is well below the level needed.

Opinion Logo 2This means that many people who work in the borough, including essential workers such as teachers, nurses, police officers and carers, cannot afford to live here. They must commute from a distance adding to congestion on our local roads. It also makes them susceptible to taking jobs nearer to home, creating recruitment and retention issues for employers across the borough.

As a result, our buoyant economy could be put in jeopardy without delivery of a Local Plan that takes much needed measures to stop growing companies from moving elsewhere. We don’t want to look back in a decade or so and say: “Why didn’t we do something when we could?”

That’s why we’re working on a Local Plan that balances the needs of everyone who lives, works or visits with protection of the borough’s most important countryside, landscapes and heritage, in planned, realistic and sustainable ways. The plan addresses the needs of all, not just a minority.

We listened to residents during a public consultation in 2014. Over 20,000 comments and questions were received and considered and a revised draft Local Plan has been produced.

On 6 June, we will start at further six week public consultation period that includes three drop-in events:

  • Saturday, June 11 at Guildford Borough Council’s Millmead offices between 10am and 5pm
  • Thursday, June 16  at Tongham Community Centre between 12noon and 8pm
  • Tuesday, June 21 at East Horsley Village Hall between 12noon and 8pm

All comments submitted in writing during the consultation will be shared with the independent planning inspector.

Technically, this new public consultation is termed a regulation 19 consultation. Without it, central government has the power to decide on housing policy in this region. We feel it’s better handled with input from local people.

To make the process accessible for everyone, feedback can be provided from midday on June 6 in a number of ways using a representation form. We encourage people to submit their comments online at: or you can email it to: or send it through the post to the council.

Paper copies of the form are available from the council’s Millmead office reception, local libraries, at the drop-in events or by phoning 01483 444471. All feedback must be received by the council by 11.59pm on Monday, July 18 2016.

The draft Local Plan and supporting documents will be available to view at the council’s Millmead office during weekday office hours and at Guildford Library, Ash Library, Shere Diamond Jubilee Library and Horsley Library.

Further details, including the addresses and opening times of where the documents can be viewed, are on

We need to meet the future needs of Guildford Borough. However, we must also protect everything that makes this area a great place. I strongly urge everyone who has an interest in this borough to look at the plan in full and take part in the public consultation.

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Responses to Opinion: Balancing the Needs of All, Not Just a Minority

  1. Tony Edwards Reply

    May 28, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Guildford is, indeed, a wonderful place to live. But if Cllr Spooner’s plans to invade the borough’s precious green belt are ever enshrined in the new Local Plan, it will become a place many of us would probably rather leave.

    “Conservatives Vow to Protect Our Greenbelt,” was one of the headlines in a Tory local election newletter. But they showed their true colours at last Tuesday’s council meeting when they voted to concrete-over some of Guildford’s countryside.

    Cllr Spooner claims he is listening to the people of Guildford. Well, their views were presented, loud and clear when they opposed the previous draft plan. But here we are with local plan, mark 2, which still sets out to build on the green belt.

    “Three Farms Meadows”, the former Wisley airfield, typifies this total lack of regard for the voice of the people. Over 2,000 people presented written objections to the plan to build a “new town” on this highly productive agricultural land at Ockham. Just seven approved.

    Then, in April, the Guildford planning committee took the advice of their planning officers and voted unanimously to reject this proposal. But, a month later, the same scheme appears in the draft local plan. How’s that for listening to the people?

    When Guildford residents stormed out of last week’s planning meeting at Millmead in protest they shouted, “shame on you” to many of Guildford’s councillors. The shouting seems likely to grow ever louder if this council continues to ignore the views and opinions of the people of Guildford.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    May 28, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Contrary to Mr Spooner’s claims the Local Plan does, in fact, serve the needs of a minority: Mr Spooner and the residents of his ward in Ash.

    The first draft of the Local Plan had an explicit policy to create new green belt in Ash & Tongham. In the current draft the policy has disappeared. But the intention remains and is set out in para 4.2.17:”The green belt boundary has also been extended between Ash Green village and the Ash and Tongham urban area in order to prevent coalescence.”

    In other words, new green belt is to be created in Ash & Tongham. Coalescence seems to matter in Ash & Tongham but not elsewhere.

    The current draft of the Local Plan also contains a policy which is designed almost exclusively to protect Ash & Tongham: Policy 3.

    It states:
    “development will only be permitted provided it:
    • requires a countryside location or where a rural location can be justified, and
    • is proportionate to the nature and scale of the site, its setting and countryside
    location, and
    • does not lead to greater physical or visual coalescence between the Ash and
    Tongham urban area and Aldershot

    It goes on to state:
    “…we will seek to limit any development in the countryside unless it can be demonstrated that it is necessary in that location and contributes positively towards the rural economy.”

    The same conditions do not apply to the development in the green belt in Ockham. Why not? Because it is represented by a minority party – the Lib Dems? Because the coalescence in Ockham is with Cobham which stands beyond the borough boundary?

    There seem to be two sets of rules, one for those in the wards served by members of the Executive and another set of rules for wards in the green belt. Is this ‘democracy’ or ‘hypocrisy’?

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