Fringe Box



Opinion: We Do Consider Planning Decisions Carefully

Published on: 26 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 28 Nov, 2016
Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves, leader of the opposition at Guildford Borough Council

By Caroline Reeves

Lib Dem borough councillor for Friary & St Nicolas

The responsibility for making planning decisions is one that I, and councillors generally, take very seriously. We appreciate that such decisions shape the town’s physical future and can affect progress on addressing our housing shortage.

So when it came to the decision to give planning permission for the development of the open car park at Guildford Park  Road it was not made lightly. Any decision in planning has to be made on planning grounds, sometimes in the face of very strong and understandable objections from neighbours.

Opinion Logo 2I was very concerned about the impact on residents in my own ward who live on the site boundary in Rupert Road, who would be facing onto the access road and the multi-storey car park. We had serious concerns over the impact of the flats along the railway lines in terms of the wider views from around the town, and this was echoed by our own conservation officers and Historic England.

Work was done during the development of the scheme to address these concerns and changes have been made to reduce the impact. As was emphasised at the planning meeting, the conditions covering the landscaping treatment will allow further development of these ideas, and the aim is to replace the current green screen of trees and shrubs as fully as possible.

Councillors will continue to be included in the decisions around this and the materials to be used for the housing and the car park. What we need is a scheme that works for the people living in it as well as those travelling through it. The landscaped scheme can only be an improvement on the current situation.

Weighed against all of these concerns, which are very real and important for the existing residents, must be the need to provide more housing for those on our very long waiting list.

The current car park is an eyesore that suffers from antisocial behaviour issues at various times and is not good use of a brownfield site in the town centre. Student housing was considered but while the university has permission for student accommodation which it is yet to build out, we must provide for those families who are on our housing list and have been waiting for homes for a long time, in some cases five or more years.

Reference was made to discouraging car drivers coming into the town. We know that this is the way to reduce congestion, but, unfortunately, until other forms of transport are improved  car users are difficult to persuade.

The car park site as it looks now.

The car park site as it looks now

We know we need more Park & Ride sites, but the difficulty is finding the sites. Car clubs must be one way forward to reduce individual car ownership in the town centre, which is why I asked for this to be included in the development.

In all of this we have to consider the long term future; there is currently no other brownfield site in the town centre which can provide as much housing, and no private developer would provide such a high number of affordable homes.

An artist's impression of an aerial view of the new development

An artist’s impression of an aerial view of the new development

Every effort will continue to be made to create the best environment for all, and I repeat, this decision was not made lightly but will in the long term provide much needed homes in a safe and attractive environment. In my view, any planning inspector looking at this site would give unequivocal approval.

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Responses to Opinion: We Do Consider Planning Decisions Carefully

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 26, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    To quote Thames Water from their submission to the Local Plan consultation of 22nd September 2014: “We have concerns about water supply capability in relation to this site. Specifically, current water supply network in this area is unlikely to be able to support the demand anticipated from this development…..” It goes on to make similar statement on sewage. This is not just for this particular site, but all sites in the Guildford Local Plan area.

    The local ‘long’ term planners have been told but have failed to acknowledge, we need a whole new water supply for the borough. To keep giving permission to a few hundred here and a few dozen there does not solve the problem, without infrastructure upgrade it is making it worse.

    And of course there is a lead time for major infrastructure work, Thames Water says it needs three years before there is any chance of providing the pipes, let alone the content of those pipes, water, which in its self is in short supply.

    Just when will someone take notice?

    Of course I have not even mentioned gas and electricity! We cannot just keep placing extra demand on finite resources.

    • Dave Middleton Reply

      November 26, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      Then Thames Water, which has a regional monopoly and makes massive profits, needs to get it’s finger out and start sorting it’s infrastructure out as well as renewing the existing supply network that’s falling apart.

      • Jim Allen Reply

        November 27, 2016 at 9:48 am

        I guess this problem along with those in the supply of gas, railways, roads and electricity is a direct result of de-nationalisation – but that’s a motorway I don’t even want to go down.

      • John Perkins Reply

        November 28, 2016 at 9:45 am

        Thames Water is a foreign-owned company with a regional monopoly. It’s not easy to see why they would consider getting their collective finger out and thus reduce their profits. Only competition, removal of the monopoly, could persuade them to take a different view.

  2. Paul Bishop Reply

    November 28, 2016 at 7:04 am

    You can’t stop development just because the infrastructure isn’t there already, if we took that approach we’d all still be living in caves.

    As Dave Middleton says, the supply needs to be improved to meet demands. The large utilities companies always say the same because they want to do whatever they can to save having to spend money.

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