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Opinion: For Sound Local Government Vote GGG

Published on: 15 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 17 Apr, 2019

This is the first of a final set of opinion pieces from the five political groups which currently form Guildford Borough Council (GBC) during the period running up to the borough council elections. All previous articles in the series can be found here.

We are grateful to all the participants for taking part. Our aim is to allow our readers to hear from local politicians directly and become better informed of the political choice they have on May 2. Articles from the other political groups will be published, one each day, this week.

Susan Parker in her garden near Gomshall

By Susan Parker

The Guildford Greenbelt Group has led the opposition to Guildford Borough Council since being elected four years ago. Our three councillors (Susan Parker, David Reeve and Mike Hurdle) are too few to change council policy, but we’ve held the current Conservative Executive, which runs the council, to account.

Until the Independent group formed, we were the only people challenging anything the Executive did.

The Local Plan is a key aspect of GBC’s activities. GGG has consistently questioned the plan. Under it, Guildford’s housing will increase by 25%; our infrastructure cannot cope. We should say “No!” to traffic hell.

GBC wants to put 70% of the new homes on green fields. But homes have not been properly planned for derelict urban land. We believe the plan submitted to the inspector, was unsound – there raised this with the inspector at the Examination but were ignored. The Tories claim they’re protecting the green belt. They’re not. They want a ridiculously high housing number, 80% higher than that required by the Office of National Statistics; inflated again by 37%.

The plan could allow the building of more than 14,000 homes, but we need less than 6,000. This is GBC’s choice, not something imposed by central government or the inspector.

The Executive is seeking to get adopt the plan on 25 April, one week before the local elections. This may be subject to legal challenge. It’s not yet a done deal and we think it’s pretty grubby, seeking this in an election period. It may be stopped.

If the plan is passed, is there any point in voting for GGG? Yes! Guildford council officers stated in public, before the inspector, that as soon as the Local Plan is approved they will start on another green belt review. This could take more land out of the green belt to build even more luxury homes. So more bulldozers are coming, unless you vote to stop them.

If we become a significant force in the council, we will change policy. GGG wants to protect our cultural heritage, and have good governance. We’ve questioned policies in relation to Guildford’s museum and castle and we care about our theatres and cultural centres.

We’re in favour of social housing; urban regeneration; sustainable communities and sound financial management. We don’t want the centre of Guildford to be dominated by retail superstores; we would rather see low-rise, high-quality housing.

As a party, we initiated and led the Air Quality initiative, (despite resistance from the Executive). Despite obstacles, we managed to secure Air Quality Management areas and to challenge the Council’s previous policy.

We were also instrumental in starting a Climate Change Working Group at GBC which will develop policies in the next council period to minimise climate change. We care about our wider environment in a local context. You can trust us to make this a priority.

A vote for us is a vote for sound local government. We will protect our countryside, our heritage, and our environment.

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