Fringe Box



Opinion: An Update of the Local Plan Requires Vision, Leadership and a New Spatial Strategy

Published on: 17 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 20 Mar, 2024

The Guildford Dragon invited the public speakers at February’s borough council meeting, held to decide on the update of Guildford’s Local Plan, to write articles explaining their views…

Julia Osborn

By Julia Osborn

chair of Send Parish Council

The Guildford Local Plan adopted in 2019 was undoubtedly controversial.

But there was one thing everyone agreed, the required infrastructure had to be delivered to support the planned developments. The council leader at the time, even promised that there would be no development without the necessary infrastructure.

When examining the Local Plan the planning inspector pointed out that it contained an integrated set of proposals that work together. The strategic sites were integral to delivering infrastructure to support the spatial approach of the Local Plan.

Then, Sir Duncan Ouseley, emphasised the point by concluding in his judicial review of the Local Plan, that infrastructure goes to the heart of the soundness of the spatial approach of the Local Plan.

At February’s extraordinary GBC meeting to confirm that the plan should be updated, the officers’ report acknowledged the trajectory for delivery of the strategic sites has changed and the associated infrastructure has been delayed, or cancelled.

However, astonishingly, the report went on to conclude that key infrastructure and site allocations are being delivered “on track”, the spatial approach of the plan is not “at risk”, and as such the spatial strategy remains robust in terms of directing development to the “most sustainable locations”. These findings are contrary to the evidence.

Guildford’s Local Plan was characterized by a heavy concentration of housing and industrial development in the north-east corner of the borough, particularly in the ward of Send & Lovelace.

Further, the last-minute change, at the Local Plan hearings, to double the industrial floorspace at Burnt Common Warehouses in Send from 7,500 to 14,500 sq meters, meant that Send “village” would also accommodate 40 per cent of all the industrial floorspace of the Local Plan.

Garlicks Arch development under construction in Send

According to the Sustainability Appraisal (2017) of the Local Plan, villages sit at tier 10 of the sequential hierarchy, meaning they are the least sustainable location for development, and should only account for 5 per cent of the total supply across the Local Plan period.

Since the adoption of the Local Plan, 843 dwellings have been approved in Send alone, which is nearly 8 per cent of the total supply of the Local Plan – in just one village. Along with the approval of two allocated sites, Send has experienced a huge spike in windfall applications since the village was removed from the green belt.

Furthermore, the strategic sites have not delivered in the time frames expected and the key road infrastructure that was to be provided by those sites has not materialized. For example, the recent appeal proposals for the Wisley Airfield will not deliver on requirement four of the site allocation, two new slip roads at Burnt Common.

These slips were essential to serve not only the airfield development but also the new housing sites in Send and the industrial developments.

The spatial strategy of the Local Plan is now not fit for purpose, and it never was. The continued reliance on windfall applications within villages, such as Send, without the key road infrastructure being provided, to compensate for the slow delivery of the strategic sites, is a completely unsustainable approach.

An update of the Local Plan requires a new spatial approach to be developed. There is a need for a new Green Belt and Countryside Study that applies constraints and an update of the Settlement Profiles document. Sites that have not been approved in villages that have exceeded their supply should be removed.

The Executive and the whole borough council need to challenge the conclusions of the officers’ report and develop a new vision for the updated Local Plan, rather than allow a technocratic, update to take place.

Without a change in the Local Plan’s spatial approach, this update will likely lead to an even worse predicament for villages if as predicted the standard method leads to a 37 per cent increase in the existing housing requirement figure.

There is also an urgent need to accelerate the pace of developing a timetable for the update. Many residents have expressed this as a concern since the full meeting of the borough council.

The longer this update takes to progress, further windfall applications in villages will be approved and will result in more pressure being placed on existing infrastructure.

I very much hope the points made by all the speakers at the full council meeting will be heeded by the Executive.

Share This Post

Responses to Opinion: An Update of the Local Plan Requires Vision, Leadership and a New Spatial Strategy

  1. David Roberts Reply

    March 17, 2024 at 6:47 pm

    Policy should be based on evidence. The spatial strategy, however, is a good example of the policy-based evidence-making that characterised the whole Local Plan process under the Tories up to 2019.

    While Tory councillors cry crocodile tears over the totally predicted lack of infrastructure, R4GV wring their hands and the Lib Dem administration prays that the whole thing would just go away, Guildford’s villages are being destroyed. Not only 800+ housing units so far in Send & Lovelace (with the threat of 2,000 more) but more than 400 in the Horsleys next door.

    When, oh when, will councillors show the guts to challenge the “blob” of technocrat council officers who just want to implement the disastrous Local Plan as it stands? If there’s one thing that the Local Plan proves, it is that over-developing the villages promotes the stagnation and decay of Guildford town.

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 20, 2024 at 10:12 am

      I’m not sure it’s correct to blame council officers.

      The villages around Guildford tend to be quite attractive and as such command premium prices.

      Those who can afford to pay more for an appealing location might be thought to hold political views tending towards the individualistic.

      Such people are probably more likely to vote for the party which imposed the Local Plan.

      • David Roberts Reply

        March 20, 2024 at 8:19 pm

        John Perkins is victim-blaming. In 2015, all borough and county councillors for the north-east part of the borough were Tories, apart from one Lib Dem in Effingham. Starting that year, they have lost all their seats (seven, I think) to GGG and R4GV.

        Local residents haven’t forgotten that the Conservatives expelled two-thirds of Guildford’s villages from the green belt, triggering the current orgy of over-development.

        • John Perkins Reply

          March 22, 2024 at 8:15 am

          It wasn’t my intention to blame the victims and I stand by my assertion that council officers were not necessarily at fault. Blame lies firmly with politicians.

          My point is that there is a similarity between building houses which are more likely to be occupied by supporters of one party and the ‘Building Stable Communities’ policy once tried in London.

        • John Perkins Reply

          March 23, 2024 at 8:52 am

          David Roberts misunderstands.

          Existing residents, wherever they live, have little to gain from over-development of the villages.

          New residents do, though, as it provides them more opportunity to live in pleasant areas.

          Some politicians might be tempted to think that those new residents will be more likely to feel comfortable with the party which provided that opportunity.

  2. Louise Thompson Reply

    March 18, 2024 at 11:10 am

    Thank you to Julia Osborn (chair of Send Parish Council) for writing this important article and raising the awareness of the current situation with regards to development in Send & Lovelace and the associated update of the Local Plan. The fact that 843 dwellings have been approved in Send alone, which is nearly 8 per cent of the total supply of the Local Plan – in just one village, is extremely disappointing.

    The villages should only account for 5 per cent of the total supply across the entire Local Plan. Based on this fact alone, there should be no more development in this area – full stop!

    The Guildford Local Plan needs updating and it needs updating urgently. Sites that have not been approved in villages that have exceeded their supply should be removed. This must be done before more applications are approved, putting increasing and unsustainable pressure on the local infrastructure and irreversibly changing a rural village and it’s community.

  3. Janet Manktelow Reply

    March 20, 2024 at 10:51 am

    Well said Julia Osborn.

    Life in Send village and the surroundings has changed dramatically over the last two years as a result of all the “windfall” developments which are a direct result of the insetting of our village from the green belt. We still have several approved developments yet to be built. More still are in the planning stages.

    Please Guildford Borough Council review the Local Plan and get it right this time.

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 *