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Opinion: Many Will Want Their Views To Count As Draft Local Plan Enters New Phase

Published on: 24 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 24 Jun, 2014

The debate over the council’s draft Local Plan is set to continue and promises to be the hottest topic of its kind in Guildford for years.

Local Plan Consultation logoHard on the heels of the news that the full council approved the document for public consultation at its meeting on Thursday last week (June 19), comes the borough’s About Guildford newspaper that has been dropping through letterboxes this week.

‘Your borough – your future’ screams the headline on the front page. Its lead story contains a quote by the lead councillor for planning, Monica Juneja, who says: “We want everyone to be part of an informed discussion on the future of our borough. Guildford has a range of voices – families, students and young people, business leaders, older residents and key workers – we will listen to you all in this process.”

Four further pages of this edition of About Guildford are given to the Local plan, with another page headline that reads: ‘Residents’ concerns over Green Belt will be taken into account’.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS advises its readers to take a good look at the borough’s newspaper, and then form your opinions and let the council (and us) know your views. You can find out more on the council’s website, click here.

But, as many residents know, there is division among councillors at Millmead. A press statement from the Guildford Lib Dem group says that its councillors have “condemned the draft Local Plan rushed out to consultation by Conservative lead councillors” and that “in its current state it is not fit for purpose. The Conservative majority on the council, supported by Labour councillors, pushed through the decision to put the flawed version out to consultation.”

The Lib Dems point out that the draft proposes a housing target of 652 new homes every year, a total of 13,040 to be built by 2031. More than 4,000 new homes are proposed for Guildford’s urban area, and more than 1,500 for Ash and Tongham. They add that round 7,000 new homes would be built on land currently in the green belt.

Opinion Logo 2Lib Dem councillor Julia McShane (Westborough) said: “We need enough homes to meet the requirements of our communities in both the town and the villages, but it is far from clear the draft would achieve this. There are too many let-outs for developers in the wording: we could end up sacrificing green belt land and tolerating over-development in our town without providing the affordable housing people need.”

Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Caroline Reeves (Friary and St Nicolas) said: “Lib Dem councillors have worked hard during the run-up to the preparation of the draft Local Plan to support the efforts of planning officers to prepare the evidence base and to make sure the consultation on options reached as many people as possible. We are very disappointed at the political decisions made by the Conservative administration in the last few weeks of preparation of the draft.”

Kelly-Marie Blundell, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, added: “The Conservatives dithered for years before authorising the preparation of the Local Plan, and now they are rushing ahead with consultation on the draft without paying proper attention to the views of all councillors. This should be Guildford’s Local Plan, not the Tory Local Plan.”

In a press release, the borough council reminds residents: “The draft Local Plan is a framework for how our borough will develop up to 2031. It covers affordable housing, the economy and employment, infrastructure, the green belt and more. It is based on the latest evidence, follows national planning guidance and includes possible levels and locations of future development. The document incorporates recommendations made by the joint scrutiny committee in May. The Executive backed the draft Local Plan for public consultation earlier this month.”

There are a number of pressure groups fighting to preserve the green belt. The Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) has been quick to issue a detailed press release with its latest views. It is disappointed by the decision of the full council not to amend the draft Local Plan.

Many fear the green belt around Guildford is under threat.

Many fear the green belt around Guildford is under threat.

Commenting on last Thursday’s meeting, the GGG observed: “Councillors were given the opportunity to challenge the public speakers. This was a useful dialogue, but it became unpleasant when councillors attacked a young student who lives in the borough, but is at university elsewhere. She explained that she did not want to see the countryside destroyed in order to build homes for the young because she loved it and thought it was beautiful. She also said she did not think that potential affordability would be increased by building more homes. Councillors asked deliberately technical and intimidating questions that they had not chosen to ask more experienced speakers. Then several councillors said that they wanted to ignore what she had told them because they intended to build houses for young people anyway.”

GGG’s statement continued: “After a long debate of more than four and a half hours, councillors voted 27 to 14 to approve the plan going to consultation. The debate was at times bad tempered with councillors protesting that their opportunity to express their views was limited and that the Executive members were being given too much opportunity to respond. Councillors were not given the opportunity to make factual corrections to statements made by the Executive. Most councillors agreed that the housing numbers were too high and most said that they would not support the plan in its current form. But many councillors voted for it just the same, following the instructions of the Executive committee.”

The chairman of GGG, Susan Parker, makes the point: “We will of course comment on the draft Local Plan, and we will provide resources on our website for people to use to help them comment too. We won’t tell people what to say, but can help them make points that will be relevant in planning terms. We can also give information about the planning process and the rules that are applied. Everyone should comment on the draft Local Plan, even if they have commented before.”

Without doubt, whatever is finally decided, it will not please everyone. And for all the shenanagens at Millmead, it may be the central government policy of encouraging growth in the South East and elsewhere that has the major influence on what happens in Guildford borough, because all Local Plans have to be approved by the unelected Planning Inspectorate.

However, residents do have the opportunity to do two things: firstly, have your say on Guildford’s draft Local Plan during the consultation process – whether you express a view from a personal viewpoint or for your community. And secondly, use your vote when it comes to the next council and general elections.

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Responses to Opinion: Many Will Want Their Views To Count As Draft Local Plan Enters New Phase

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    June 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    What a mess.

    There’s no housing figure agreed, but according to the ‘About Guildford’ publication GBC are still running with the 652 number, the highest they could have chosen with the evidence they have.

    The numbers and evidence have been scrutinised by independents and alternative figures of between 300 and 400 have been suggested. GBC chooses to ignore this and GL Hearn still hasn’t substantiated how they arrived at the figure in the first place.

    The About Guildford publication also states:

    “By reviewing our green belt boundaries now, we aim to allocate land for approx 1,650 new homes in the next 17 years.”

    “We will help provide 1,500 new homes in the town centre.”

    “The development agenda is being led by Central Government.”

    None of these statements make any sense and I am at a loss to understand how anyone reading the About Guildford newspaper will be aware that GBC is promoting to build over 7,000 houses on the green belt and the rest, around 6,000 within the urban area of Guildford and Ash.

    Time and time again the general public and the various residents’ associations and groups have alerted GBC to the technical faults in the draft Local Plan, SHMA, countryside study and so on, but they have all been ignored.

    They are now asking that I appraise the new draft of sites without the knowledge of a firm housing target or infrastructure policy.

    I have written to my local MP, councillors and the Executive to no avail and I’m beginning to wonder if the income from CIL receipts from green belt development outweighs the desires of Guildford residents.

    If I handed in a document like this to my boss with huge gaps, un-substantiated evidence and some of the important criteria missing I would be fired.

    I urge everyone to read the next draft carefully. Comment on as much as you can. Then keep your fingers crossed.

  2. Nyree Wadman Reply

    June 26, 2014 at 12:24 am

    The most cynical and disgraceful example of collusion between GBC and developers of Wisley site is the proposed building of a secondary school, to meet demand for places caused by the Wisley ‘town’… but in West Clandon. Why there?
    Why not in the new town, where pupils could walk to school instead of having to be ferried by car or bus?
    Simple… houses bring in rates and are highly profitable, school premises don’t. Squeeze in as many houses as possible onto the site to maximise profit, and build the school three miles away, and forget about how this will affect everyone’s lives. Money obviously talks very, very loudly around Millmead.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    June 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Many residents will have their say. However, we hold out little hope that this round of consultation will not be a repeat of the sham managed by GBC for the Issues and Options consultation, for which the overwhelming response from 20,500 responses was that we do not want these inflated housing targets, and we most definitely do not want development on the greenbelt.

    However, given the Executive’s cynical and undemocratic refusal to revise the housing figure, as demanded by the scrutiny committee, I do not hold out much hope of a return to democracy.

    The only way to get the council to take notice is to demand a referendum to replace the undemocratic Executive politburo with the committee system.

    You can help with this, by joining GGG, and signing and gathering signatures for the petition, at:

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