Fringe Box



Opinion: Can we plan a better Guildford?… Yes we can

Published on: 18 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 18 Sep, 2012

Can we take inspiration from these dedicated sportsmen?

By Martin Giles

Have you ever tried to cycle up the High Street? It’s quite possible for most cyclists but hard work for those of us who, let’s be kind, are not at the peak of fitness. The way the Tour of Britain cyclists sprinted, yes sprinted, up the hill at the end of 90 miles of flat-out racing was remarkable. It was even, dare I say, a little ‘awesome’ and ‘inspiring’.

But another thought struck me. Guildford was really buzzing. Crowds of spectators had gathered to witness the event and Guildford had, for the second time this summer (the Olympic Flame was the first) organised a great event. The winners acknowledged it in their speeches. Hats off to the organisers, GBC, the police and all concerned, on both occasions.

These were, it is true, only sporting events but, as in most worthwhile projects, there would have been organisational problems and challenges. Leadership would have been required, compromises needed and dissenters persuaded.

As a town we have shown that we can do things, we are capable. And so we should be. We have great resources. Our historic town, despite some areas of ugliness and some poverty, is still mostly beautiful and affluent, despite the economic climate. Importantly, our communities are alive and healthy. Many Guildfordians give their time already to care for their neighbours in a wide range of  ways.

This community activity happens because of our best resource, us. Most of us, including our youth, do care about others around us. We do want to be part of a town we can be proud of and we are very willing and happy to do our bit. Some, you might know of examples, already do far, far more.

Our MP Anne Milton says that the Government wants to free communities of the shackles of restrictive bureaucracy and legislation. Let us hope it is true. We should not, for example,  need nor put up with an anonymous person from the Planning Inspectorate, on perhaps a solitary visit to the town, telling us what we can or can’t build here.

The Government must trust us to run our own municipal affairs. We are capable of doing so and now we need to be able to do so because, as a town, we face a major challenge drawing up a plan that will be effective for several decades to come.

We should all care about the plan, all feel involved. Councillors should take care to understand the feelings and views of the communities in their wards. The eventual plan must reflect these. They must resist feelings that they already have the answers, that they already know best. Running a town that way is not democracy. Perhaps significant changes are required before we can be convinced the council understand this.

But if the council can take a fresh approach, if they and other groups can really work collaboratively, if the groundwork is done properly, if a sufficient consensus is achieved, if the energy of our people can be harnessed, if we are governed respectfully and we turn our back on apathy, then we can, indeed, make our town even better.

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