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Opinion: Guildford Borough’s Local Plan – A Plan That Misses the Mark

Published on: 22 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 26 Jul, 2016

Revised Local Plan Jun 2016By George Dokimakis

Vice Chair Guildford Labour

A good Local Plan is vital for Guildford’s future.

Much work has gone into the current draft version and it is obvious for anyone who has read through it that Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) officers have done an excellent job with the brief that they were given.

Unfortunately, the brief does not address the borough’s needs adequately. The situation we find ourselves in is the result of the short-sighted 13 years of Conservative leadership of the the council.

The bottom line is this: we are in desperate need of housing, both social and private, for the people of Guildford Borough.

Opinion Logo 2Nurses, police officers, retail workers, bus drivers and a raft of other professionals, in average income jobs that support Guildford’s borough, struggle to find affordable accommodation within Guildford.

This results in most of them living outside Guildford and commuting into town adding to the traffic gridlock most of us experience on a daily basis trying to traverse the town.

But the policies put forward will not solve the problems. The “affordable” housing proposed by the Local Plan would simply not be affordable for most of our residents.

To be fair, it is commendable that the council has lobbied the government. It seems to be aware of the dangers presented by the government’s starter home initiative, expected to replace the idea of “affordable” housing. If it goes ahead it will cause a real housing emergency.

Social housing needs to be explicitly identified in the Local Plan. The council must support and enable innovative housing accommodation for all ages. For our young professionals this could be such as purpose-built houses of multiple occupancy.

The Local Plan identifies that such accommodation may be created but the council should go further and pro-actively encourage such accommodation to be built.

The plan also correctly recognises that we have an ageing population and the council must ensure that accommodation suitable for our senior citizens is provided and policies included that protect the existing bungalows used by our older residents.

Higher-rise, high-density buildings, within the centre of Guildford, to improve housing availability, should be included in the plan. Such developments could enhance Guildford’s image and reputation as a vibrant town.

Woking is a good example where multi-story buildings blend in to the town’s life and provide a setting for a young and lively population. A piecemeal approach to local planning that may fail must be avoided. So the town centre redevelopment and the development of River Wey frontage should be included in the Local Plan to ensure a holistic approach.

In addition, to ensure decent living standards for everyone all housing must be built to a good standard by mandating that the “Building for Life 12” principles apply to every housing development. Non compliance should only be allowed by  exception. The suggested policy of aspiring to these standards needs to be firmer.

At the same time we need to ensure that Guildford remains attractive for employers and continues to develop as a place where people can live, play and work. Not all brownfield sites should be used for housing, but space must be allocated for offices and manufacturing.

The vision of Guildford Borough must go beyond it being a mere commuter town.

However, the council should also recognise that the existing infrastructure cannot accommodate the growth envisaged and the measures proposed will simply not be enough.

It needs to develop a travelling and commuting scheme that encourages and promotes the use of public transport over car usage. More areas should be pedestrianised and more cycling lanes should be provided.

Key to this is the redevelopment of the bus station to make it a station our residents can be proud of and become a landmark in its own right.

Our borough is attractive for many reasons, including our green areas and local villages. The Local Plan needs to fully evaluate all alternatives before allowing development in the villages and on the green belt.

We strongly support the council in the protection of all Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and oppose any changes and development that may erode the character of these designated areas.

The council must respect the nature and character of our villages and impose a maximum development target of 20% housing every four years (of the total number of houses envisioned for them in the Local Plan).

However, wherever the developments are sited, no development can be sustainable without the right infrastructure supporting it. In this we support the council in ensuring that infrastructure is created alongside or before any development, be that physical, roads, sewage, etc. or services.

Innovative approaches are needed to provide the required services such as working more closely with existing the Clinical Commissioning Group for GP surgeries and Surrey County Council for schools.

There is much contention and fear around the subject of development. We believe that the best way to ensure sustainable development and with the agreement of Guildford’s residents is for the council to be transparent and the best way to do this would be to provide a full and detailed analysis of the development Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) targets it is working to.

Residents will be far more inclined to support developments where they can see that all other options have been considered and exhausted.

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Responses to Opinion: Guildford Borough’s Local Plan – A Plan That Misses the Mark

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 22, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    How is it that an outsider from the council can be so appreciative of what the residents need and want, in contrast to the Executive?

    With all the information and feedback at their disposal, let alone their manifesto promises re the green belt, how is it that the GBC Executive is so poles apart from George and the majority of public opinion?

  2. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    July 23, 2016 at 11:07 am

    The true intent will be clear when the undemocratic and unmandated Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Corporate Strategy is published to the public. This is the platform the Conservatives should have stood on at the elections. It is so poles apart from what they said.

    Very nice timing that it is being presented to councillors after the Local plan consultation has closed.

    The council seems to be saying: “That’s all very nice Mr and Mrs Public to hear what you have said, but it’s not what we intend to do from a strategic point of view, as detailed in our Corporate strategy, so I’m afraid we are going to ignore you and carry on.”

  3. Stephen Campbell Reply

    July 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I think its a case of how much longer.

    Guildford badly needs new housing and land development at the heart of the town. It just seems to be going round in circles with no clear outcome.

    If the council isn’t careful Guildford runs the risk of being left behind.

  4. David Roberts Reply

    July 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Precisely, “at the heart of the town”, not stuck away in the green belt.

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