Fringe Box



Opinion: We Need a Better Guildford Not a Bigger Guildford

Published on: 11 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 14 Jul, 2014

Draft Local Plan image 1By Martin Giles –

“You can have any colour, so long as it’s black,” said Henry Ford.

Today in Guildford it seems we can have any Local Plan, so long as it includes a housing target approved by a national planning inspector.

So much for localism. So much for these fine words spoken by our Prime Minister before he came to power: “I am a confirmed localist, committed to turning Britain’s pyramid of power on its head…. most people feel totally insignificant in the political process. Frankly, that’s because – in the current over-centralised system – they are insignificant.” (The Guardian, February 7, 2009).

Have I missed something? Has anything really changed? I don’t think so.

Opinion Logo 2If anyone remains in any doubt that the real decisions on local issues are still taken in London, the game was given away by Cllr Gordon Jackson (Con, Pirbright) when he said during the debate this week on a petition asking the council to give up its pro-development policy: “The government message has been very clear. If you, the local councillors, don’t provide for more jobs and more houses we will not fund your infrastructure.”

To say one is not in favour of growth has become “non PC” at Millmead. It would be like swearing in church. Councillors and campaigners carefully prefix any criticism of the Local Plan by saying that they are “not against growth”.

And, of course, it is true. None of us are against certain types of growth. No one has suggested the town should be preserved in its current imperfect state complete with run-down areas and food banks.

I too would like to see certain types of growth: growth in the income of the poorer 25% of Guildford residents; growth in the use of public transport, cycling and walking; growth of beautiful architecture in our town that will last and be cherished for centuries, in the same way we, today, cherish our Guildhall.

But to me growth is not about the town simply becoming bigger. That is precisely what we don’t need. This part of England is already overcrowded thanks to failed regional and national policies from various central governments formed by all the main parties.

According to the Office for National Statistics the UK’s population: “has increased by around 5 million since 2001, and by more than 10 million since 1964.” Guildford is already in the most densely populated corner of England, itself the most densely populated country in Europe.

If the existing pressure on resources roads, schools, and the NHS is not bad enough, consider the environmental impact of a bigger town. As well as needing homes, the extra 15,000* people being planned for will use electricity, gas and water, produce copious waste, and drive cars, all in an area already congested.

We all want our children to have the option of living in their home town or borough but let’s not kid ourselves, it is not the local birth rate that will be the main cause of the population increase and extra demand on housing and resources.

The government still cannot face up to the fact that something needs to be done about the problem and, in any case, it has allowed control to slip from its grasp.

All the time free movement of people is allowed within the EU, Chancellor Merkel has more influence over our immigration policy than our own parliament. And all the time the government wants to rely on the South East to produce most of the country’s wealth the other regions will remain, in comparison, depressed.

It might seem attractive to just take a little bit of green belt to solve the problem but what will our children do in 2030, take a little bit more? Hardly a forward thinking policy.

As another councillor, Richard Billington (Con, Tillingbourne) correctly pointed out in an earlier debate, last year: “Land is a precious resource – they’ve stopped making it.”

Don’t forget to have your say on the Draft Local Plan, currently out for consultation. visit:

See also: Council Rejects e-Petition Seeking An End To Their ‘Pro-development Strategy’

*pdf icon 1. GBC’s Draft Local Plan strategy and sites – Strategic Policies



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Responses to Opinion: We Need a Better Guildford Not a Bigger Guildford

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    I understand that there is a new Green Belt party in the making.

    If that is so no doubt the will of Guildfordians will really be heard next year, an election year.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    July 11, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Taken from a 1984 (ironic, eh?) planning proposal:

    “1/ The proposal conflicts with the policy for the preservation of the Metropolitan Green Belt

    2/ The proposal would form an undesirable residential intrusion in development into a rural area

    3/ The proposal is contrary to policy 19 of the approved structure plan which seeks to restrain employment growth in the county

    4/ The proposal would result in a loss of good quality agricultural land and, if permitted, could lead to further similar applications for development.”

    If you are wondering which proposal is being referred to above it was a proposal to build on Gosden Hill, Burpham.

    In June, 2010 GBC went to the High Court to get the site the proposal to build their (2000+ houses)excluded from the South East Plan but the proposal has been resurrected in the Draft Local Plan. No one is up in arms about it – yet.

    What a difference a few decade makes.

    PS Well said Martin Giles.

  3. Brian Miller Reply

    July 11, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Well said Martin Giles. You can’t quantify quality, or is that too ‘b…..’ obvious?

  4. Pete Knight Reply

    July 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Localism is a great idea, or at least I thought it was. But since it was introduced it’s quite clear it can never work in Guildford. The over privileged in this town who have the loudest voices use it as a vehicle to halt much needed economic growth and development and desperately needed housing.

    Have I forgiven the likes of the Guildford Vision Group yet for costing the GBC taxpayer money in legal bills and delaying a scheme that let’s face it Guildford wanted? Probably not.

    Do I agree with the constant planning objection letters for 99% of all schemes in the town from the likes of the Guildford Society? No.

    And do I have sympathy for all those in the borough complaining of infill development (I mean look at Burpham at the moment)? No. It’s so clear that we need to release green belt. Until we do this will keep happening.

    My generation don’t want shared ownership housing (how does that help when the other share keeps growing and becomes out of reach) and we don’t want to live in flats while those that try and decide our town’s fate are empty-nesters in big five bedroom houses.

    Guildford needs more two and three-bedroom houses with gardens and new schools and amenities. Guildford is only densely populated because we are not expanding the town into the green belt and just keep subdividing plots creating a higher overall density. This can be solved quite quickly.

    I genuinely hope we start to giving serious consideration to the Gosden Hill site, in Burpham, and the university land to provide homes for the future. The biggest fear for my generation at the moment is affordability of homes not the issues cited in the article which I’m sure are well meaning but fail to understand the problems facing the youth of today.

  5. Claire Dee Reply

    July 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks Martin – an excellent read. Good points well made.

  6. Ben Paton Reply

    July 17, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    The Government inspector?

    Is he the one also known ‘The Big Bad Bogeyman’ who will steal your children and burn your houses if you do not do as you are told?

    The council’s use of the threat of a government planning inspector is a distraction technique so no one notices that its policy is:

  7. is politically motivated
  8. contrary to election promises
  9. not justified by the facts
  10. based on phony housing need projections
  11. ignores Local feedback
  12. If they want to build houses they might have the guts to ‘fess up and tell it to us straight. It is the Executive of Guildford Borough Council that wants to build over the countryside, not Westminster, not local residents and not anyone else.

    It’s time the Executive was honest and accountable enough to take responsibility for this policy rather than blame ‘the government inspector’.

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