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Opinion: It is Time to Remove National Parties from Local Politics

Published on: 29 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 1 May, 2019

Guildford Borough Council debating the Local Plan

By Joss Bigmore

leader of the Residents for Guildford & Villages

Disappointingly, but predictably, the Conservatives, supported by some from other national political parties, used their majority on Thursday to vote to adopt the Local Plan at the EGM on 25th April.  The Plan has been about eight years in the making; the decision to have this vote a week before the election and during the purdah period is breathtaking in its cynicism and arrogance.

This decision shows contempt for democracy and for the residents of Guildford.

The council also decided to ignore independent legal opinion as to the validity of their Plan-making process which may lead to a Judicial Review.  So, on 3rd May we could find ourselves with a new council facing a Judicial Review against a decision they themselves don’t support.

The handling of the Local Plan demonstrates exactly why we formed Residents for Guildford and Villages: to give residents a real voice and to replace this council that:

  • is deaf to residents’ concerns, largely ignoring the overwhelming 80,000+ responses to its flawed Plan;
  • prefers to fight against residents rather than fight for them
  • prefers to build on green belt first rather than brownfield first
  • wants to be ‘Known for our outstanding urban Planning and Design’ in its Corporate Plan, yet completely ignores the town centre in its Local Plan.
  • decides first, and seeks evidence to support the decision second, rather than the other way round;
  • acts in ways that fly in the face of logic.

Guildford needs homes, it is a tragedy that our key workers and our children can’t afford to live near their families or places of work. These homes need to be in more sustainable locations with far more real, affordable social housing than in the council’s Plan.

Thankfully, only the ‘Sites and Strategy’ piece of the Local Plan was approved at the EGM. However, there are many stages ahead, including the Design Management Policy which will form the rulebook to ensure good planning.

The question is: ‘Do you trust this group of councillors and this Executive to behave any differently taking this equally important next step?’

It is unlikely the leopard will change its spots.  It may promise to, especially near an election – as it did with its pledge that “The Greenbelt is Here to Stay” – but the very fact it claims that this Plan is a good Plan, when there is so much evidence and opinion that it is not, should be warning enough.

Residents for Guildford and Villages is needed more today than ever.

  • We will listen to you and put your interests first.
  • We will do our utmost to ensure the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy is advanced at the same time as the strategic site masterplans.
  • We will try to build the homes people can truly afford.
  • We will not help developers have easy pickings on green fields and ignore more sustainable developments in the Town.
  • In the countryside, we will do everything in our power to prioritise infrastructure before homes are built.

Do you trust this Conservative council to do the same?

It is time to remove national party politics and personal political ambitions from local issues and return to having a council run by residents for residents.  The council has shown that, unless you are in the council, it is pretty much impossible to be listened to.

The residents of Guildford and its surrounding villages need to have as many seats as possible at that table.

On 2nd May and in your postal votes, you have the chance to take those seats: please grasp this opportunity and make your votes count so your voice can be heard, and listened to, on Guildford Borough Council.

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Responses to Opinion: It is Time to Remove National Parties from Local Politics

  1. John Perkins Reply

    April 29, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    It’s important that supporters understand the need to cast all the votes to which they’re entitled even if that means voting for a party or person they don’t like.

    A perfect example can be found in Ash South & Tongham where Lib Dem supporters should cast their third vote for R4GV and R4GV supporters should cast their second and third votes for the Lib Dems. Without such tactical voting even in the event of a serious drop in Conservative support they will carry all three seats simply because there are three of them.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    April 30, 2019 at 9:52 am

    I agree that local elections should be clearly local and that means that party affiliations should be removed and more independent people should be elected.

    As it happens, I would have thought that, in the case of the current elections, the so-called Conservatives would be keen to disassociate themselves from the brand in view of the almost universal disgust that people feel for our current (not for long I hope) PM and their big brothers in Westminster.

  3. Jose Fiuza Reply

    April 30, 2019 at 11:06 am

    The most effective opposition to mass green belt development for the last 15-20 years has been the Conservative councillors from the eastern villages of Clandon and Horsley, Send and Lovelace. Including taking the Blair/Brown government to court and winning.

    Unfortunately, this team was weakened by the emergence of the ineffective GGG in 2015.

    Nevertheless, Jenny Wicks and Matt Sarti continued to fight the Local Plan within the group and voted against it last week, standing up yet again for their residents. R4GV brings nothing new to this fight. Indeed they risk weakening the effort just as GGG has done.

    It would be better to have a strong Conservative team of councillors in the group to fight during the decision-making process, not snipe from the sidelines.

    • Fiona Curtis Reply

      April 30, 2019 at 5:12 pm

      More land in Guildford (and possibly nationally) has been taken out of green belt than at any other time in living memory. It has been done under a Conservative government and by a Conservative-led local authority.

      Policies are written to encourage Planning Authorities to build not conserve, in fact, these Authorities are financially incentivized to build as much as possible.

      I agree that of the current batch of Conservative Councillors, Cllrs. Wicks and Sarti have fought for local residents but it is totally incorrect to say that GGG or R4GV has not. GGG fought to protect all green belt land and did so before the last elections. I would urge Jose Fiuza to look at the list of the 28 Councillors who voted for this flawed Plan. No less than 25 were Conservative.

  4. A Atkinson Reply

    April 30, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Get in the real world, they have been deselected, party politics at its very best. Sarti was deselected plus others in Guildford.

  5. David Roberts Reply

    April 30, 2019 at 11:56 am

    The success of the judicial review against the Labour South-East Regional Plan shows how the Tory “Juneja” Plan is likewise sure to be overturned legally.

    Jenny Wicks [Con, Clandon & Horsley] (responsible for the original 2011 proposal to take Guildford villages out of the green belt) and [ward colleague] Matthew Sarti (practically invisible and now reportedly deselected) have cut sad and lonely figures on the council, grossly outnumbered by their Tory colleagues and unable to speak out even once outside formal council meetings. Alex would find himself in the same position.

    There would be no GGG but for the Tories’ suicidal backing for the “Juneja” Plan. Many GGG supporters used to be lifelong Tory voters. This council has conjured its own defeat out of nowhere. Hats off to the three GGG councillors who have provided the only opposition voice on the council for the last four years. The council won’t start listening until our local one-party state is put out of its misery on Thursday.

    • Jose Fiuza Reply

      May 1, 2019 at 5:57 am

      Cllr Wicks actually led the judicial appeal against the Labour Regional Plan leading to a win and the government paying Guildford’s expenses.

      David Roberts is right in saying the Clandon and Horsley councillors have cut a lonely figure because their colleagues in the villages were replaced by GGG and a Lib Dem but he is totally wrong they have not been speaking out. In that respect, he has clearly not been paying attention.

      And that was my point: the only way to have actually stopped these plans was to have a strong voice in the Conservative group. What has ended up happening is a small voice in the group (as well as in the Lib Dem group, hence Cllr Cross having to resign from it) and a small voice sniping from the sidelines with no power (GGG). Which has, in fact, proved to be far less effective than when there was a large Conservative group in the relevant villages

      And you don’t know Alex – it is impossible to shut him up.

  6. David Roberts Reply

    May 1, 2019 at 11:02 am

    I wish Alex luck tomorrow, although I doubt he stands a chance.

    Perhaps Jose could provide evidence of anything, anything at all, apart from token interventions at formal council meetings, that Cllrs Wicks or Sarti have said or done to articulate and support the mounting anger of their ward residents to the Local Plan.

    I have been paying close attention, but all I saw was a vacuum of opposition filled by GGG and, now, R4GV – parties conjured out of nothing by Tory councillors who continue to vote like sheep with their leadership. I recommend Cllr Dennis Paul’s contributions in recent days to the debate on Nextdoor as typical the calibre of their understanding.

    Time for a complete clear-out and change of management on GBC.

  7. RWL Davies Reply

    May 1, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    “The Plan has been about eight years in the making; the decision to have this vote a week before the election and during the purdah period is breath-taking in its cynicism and arrogance.”

    Typical GBC behaviour.

    Councils everywhere need more “independent” members.

  8. Sue Reeve Reply

    May 3, 2019 at 6:57 am

    I must have got the wrong end of the stick. When I spoke to Alex Fiuza a couple of weeks ago when he was on the campaign trail he was extremely supportive of all the developments proposed in the Horsleys and Wisley, we didn’t explore wider afield. I was staggered that anyone round here was propounding such views when the effect on the infrastructure is going to be so profound.

  9. Alan Robertson Reply

    May 3, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    It is beyond belief that the Council leader has been re-elected. It will be wrongly interpreted as a validation of his past actions!

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