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Opinion: With Everything Up In The Air, We Need An Interim Plan

Published on: 18 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 19 Jul, 2016

Revised Local Plan Jun 2016By Martin Giles

So the housing numbers to be included in the Local Plan are to be reviewed in light of the EU referendum result. And so they should be.

What many felt to be an unsustainable level of population increase, caused primarily by uncontrolled immigration, needs to be reduced if the EU referendum is to mean anything. Such a reduction would affect the population projections on which the Objectively Assessed Need and, in turn, the Strategic Housing Market Assessment and the housing figures in the draft Local Plan, rely.

But the fact is, any forecast, now, will simply be a finger in the air. Even before the Brexit vote many questioned the figures. Now, no one knows what the future holds for this country and we won’t for some time, at least until the Brexit negotiations are complete.

Opinion Logo 2Surely it must be sensible to put the Local Plan on hold, or at least the strategic housing growth element of it, that has proved so controversial.

If a new Local Plan is needed to keep avaricious development of green belt sites at bay then the council should draw up an interim plan, say, for the next five years that would allow such proposals to be resisted. A plan for any longer a period might as well be written by Mystic Meg.

If the regulations that govern Local Plans don’t allow an interim plan they they need to be changed – pronto. Guildford borough is not alone in facing this predicament.

Not that an interim plan should be without challenging targets. There are changes that would attract majority support in the borough.

For instance:

  • More imaginative schemes for brownfield sites – to include a good percentage of social housing, the only kind that can be allocated to local people on the housing list.
  • Some small scale, characterful and congruous developments in our villages.
  • The redevelopment of the North Street site – we need an attractive development, of the right character, that would include high quality housing units and some small retail units for more independent traders.
  • A suitable railway station redevelopment scheme that primarily provides an improved station and housing units of an appropriate scale, all in a style that reflects the historic character of our town.

By concentrating on such less ambitious objectives (ambitious enough, of course) perhaps some generally popular progress could be achieved. Why wouldn’t our council want that?

To stand by the current draft plan, regardless of all opposition and events, brings the question of the council’s motivation into sharper focus.

The push for such a major increase in house building and population did not come from within the borough, it would not be natural growth. It appears that our Conservative council seem determined to do the government’s bidding, a government that was so desperate for economic growth, of any kind, that high levels of immigration and all its consequences were deemed prices worth paying.

That the level of required green belt development was unpopular was evident from the responses to the 2014 consultation. But instead of honestly campaigning on its expansionist policy, at last year’s election, the Local Plan was kicked into the long grass and disingenuous election promises of protecting the green belt given. Consequently, the Tories have no mandate for the current proposals.

Let us recall the words of Conservative ward councillor Matthew Sarti, who represents Clandon & Horsley. He said, in a council meeting in May: “I, as did every other councillor present here, when I went for election, included in my election address a pledge to protect the green belt. I do not believe that this Local Plan does protect the green belt…”

If some rumours are correct, the council will be sticking to its high housing number target regardless; sticking to its guns despite the uncertainty that Brexit brings and despite the widespread lack of confidence in the SHMA calculations. Just why would they want to do that? Just whose side are they on? The government’s or the people of this borough?

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Responses to Opinion: With Everything Up In The Air, We Need An Interim Plan

  1. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    July 18, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Martin Giles talks of the long grass. I recall this from Cllr Furniss on this very online newspaper.

    He said: “The news that this Guildford Borough Council Conservatives will not be supporting green belt development is to be welcomed by all. The Conservatives have always pledged to protect the green belt and we will continue to do so”

    That is as clear a statement as there can be as to the promise the Conservatives were giving at the time of the elections.

    He went on to say: “This change in direction by the DCLG allows us to reassess the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and Draft Local Plan against more constraints.”

    Yet they have strategically decided to not apply any constraints and are proposing to opt for the full objectively assessed need as the target for the borough. When and who made that decision? It was not debated or discussed in council or really made public.

    Is it any wonder there is no faith in the way that this plan has been put together?

  2. Graham Moore Reply

    July 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    I thoroughly support Martin Giles’s suggestions and recommendations for the way forward to rethinking the basis of the Local Plan. I hope Guildford Borough Council will take note and respond in a positive and constructive manner.

    Up until now, it would appear that our councillors have been more anxious to please the developers, as well as central government, rather than fulfil their election promises to Guildford residents.

  3. Dave Middleton Reply

    July 18, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Mystic Meg – now there’s a blast from the past!

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    July 19, 2016 at 9:07 am

    What are we going to do with the editor of this “electronic rag”?

    Every time the council displays dictatorial process he kicks the traces.

    Every time the council attempt to ignore the community – he shouts louder.

    Every time the council has a common sense failure he uses common sense to identify the lack.

    When the council try smoke and mirrors he cleans the mirrors and blows the smoke away.

    Now he picks up 240 documents of the Local Plan along with all the meaningless speeches of the council leaders and shreds them in a single column.

    No wonder The Dragon gets mentioned in Private Eye! Long may this it continue to break apart this dictatorial regime and display it for what it is!

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