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Opinion: Green Belt Develoment Is A Cleft Stick For Tory Councillors

Published on: 27 Apr, 2014
Updated on: 27 Apr, 2014
Green belt land south of Guildford

Green belt land south of Guildford

by Martin Giles

The debate on building on green belt land seems to have excited local politics more than any other in recent history and rightly so.

Our forefathers appreciated the true value of countryside to urban dwellers. They earmarked the rural land for protection because they could see the problem of inexorable suburban expansion around London.

As has been said, such land can only be given up to developers once. When did you ever hear of a housing estate being turned into arable fields, even while we need to import more and more food to feed ourselves?

…what do we do about the ever increasing national population and its disproportionate impact on the South East?

But what do we do about the ever increasing national population and its disproportionate impact on the South East? Even if we have become the most densely populated country in Europe we cannot stop people moving here and people need homes. We would like our children to at least have the affordable option of buying a home in their own town or county.

For Guildford borough this is a particular problem; 90% of the borough is green belt; options are limited.

The government, still saddled with enormous debt, is desperate for economic growth. It seems to be its overriding concern. It, no doubt, believes in the election campaigning mantra, “It’s the economy stupid!” and desperate, as ministers always are, to cling to power, they find it impossible to put forward a policy of real austerity. For all the chancellor’s claims the government is still borrowing at a frightening rate.

So ministers conclude that they must continue to stoke the fire of growth in the South East which now, in the post industrial era, is the main income generating area for the country. But at what price?

For many of us the easy access to the countryside is one of our borough’s main attractions. It is a major reason why we still live here. For many residents, perhaps most, for native Guildfordians can seem thin on the ground, it is one of the main reasons they moved here.

It is tempting to be attracted to arguments that giving up a little bit of green belt won’t matter but is that really true? There is no sign of our population stabilising. What will we do in 2030 if we have built thousands of houses and there is still more demand? Some legacy!

Even if that were not a problem what about the pressure on our infrastructure. Our roads are choked, the days of getting a same day appointment at the doctor’s are a distant memory and schools are struggling to find space for children.

And what effect can this be having on the local environment let alone the global one?

…the Conservative group at Millmead are caught in a cleft stick

Perhaps that is too bleak a picture? I fear it isn’t but only time will tell. What seems certain though, here and now, is that the Conservative group at Millmead are caught in a cleft stick.

Do they obediently cave in to government pressure and plan to meet imposed housing targets or do they listen to groups like the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), made up largely of those who normally vote Conservative, and resist, if, that is, effective resistance is even possible?

One thing is for sure, politicians both local and national do reconsider policies they realise could lead to electoral defeat. There is still power in the ballot box.

So think hard, let your local councillors and our MP Anne Milton know what you think, whatever your point of view. They will be soon be making or influencing planning decisions that will shape this borough for generations to come.

We might have become highly sceptical of our political process, with much cause, but if we care we must speak out and, when the time comes, vote – otherwise our politicians can continue to act with the same detachment and disregard for popular opinion that has brought them to such a low level of esteem.

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Responses to Opinion: Green Belt Develoment Is A Cleft Stick For Tory Councillors

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    April 28, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Hear, hear!

    And let’s remember that the European MP elections are this month too. I’m looking closely at the candidates ……

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 28, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Why not “Green Belt Candidate”?

  3. Susan Parker Reply

    April 28, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    We will be ready for next year’s elections. If councillors don’t listen to all the people who responded to consultations on the draft Local Plan, there will be prospective Save the Green Belt or GGG candidates for our local council standing next year.

  4. Peter Elliott Reply

    April 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Excellent article – but where exactly is the pressure coming from to build all these thousands of houses? Nick Boles, planning minister, has repeatedly said “this government does not impose top-down housing targets on local authorities”.

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