Fringe Box



Opinion: What Is The Point of a Local Plan That Does Not Stick Up for Local People?

Published on: 15 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 19 Jan, 2017

By Ben Paton

Widely held beliefs among supporters of Guildford’s Local Plan suggest it will do great things for residents.

For example, some believe that it will reduce house prices in the borough. Some, that it will make it easier to get a council house. Some, that the character of their local environment and their public services will be protected by concentrating new housing in new towns and suburbs. And some believe that it will provide new road, school and medical infrastructure.

Local politicians seem happy to let such beliefs foster support for the Local Plan. But what is the reality?

Ben Paton is an Ockham resident opposed to plans to develop the former Wisley airfield.

Will the Local Plan increase the number of houses available for students? Since the council is not responsible for building student accommodation and has no power to force the university to use its existing planning permissions, the Local Plan, in itself, will do nothing to increase the stock of student accommodation. The university is responsible for building student accommodation – and its plans are largely independent of the Local Plan.

Will the Local Plan protect your neighbourhood by directing development into new towns and suburbs? Unless your street is part of a conservation area the presumption in favour of development applies. That means that the property next door can be still acquired and developed by a property company – regardless of what happens anywhere else in the borough and regardless of the Local Plan. The fact that new towns may be built on the fringes of the town will not protect your street.

And the new towns will affect demand for public services like roads and schools.

Will the Local Plan improve the traffic situation in the borough? The Local Plan does not build new roads because Guildford Borough Council (GBC) holds no funds for building roads. All responsibility for the A3 belongs to Highways England (HE) – a national agency. It takes account of national traffic flows but its model of local traffic flow projections and their effects on the A3 are not disclosed to the public.

Highways England made no objection to building a new town in Dunsfold on the A281 on the basis that this does not affect the A3. All responsibility for local roads belongs to Surrey County Council. It works closely with developers to facilitate new development. If that means closing your local road to facilitate a new town, too bad. They say, raison d’etat!

Will the Local Plan result in better quality development? In exchange for granting planning permissions GBC routinely sets conditions to be fulfilled by the developer. But government almost never comes back after the event to audit the results and make sure that the conditions have been met. Subsequent monitoring of Ecological Impact Assessment has not been required and seldom if ever takes place.

In short the promises made in order to get planning permission are not effectively policed and local authorities do not have the resources to do so.

Will the Local Plan make it easier to get your child into a local school or for you to see a local doctor? Increasing the housing stock is going to increase demand for these already over-stretched local services. So the situation will likely continue to deteriorate.

Will the new Local Plan make any impact on the waiting list for social houses? It is extremely unlikely that the housing waiting list will get any shorter. The government’s affordable housing scheme only applies if you want to buy a house. And £250,000 is considered “affordable” in this borough. It seems likely that the council will still sell off council houses faster than it builds them and it appears that the council has invested more capital in offices in central Guildford than in houses for rent.

Will the Local Plan make any difference to local house prices? Large promise is the soul of any advertisement and this is the biggest promise of all made for the Local Plan. King Canute was no match for the tide and Guildford Borough Council is no match for the economic forces that determine house prices.

The Guildford Local Plan is substantially the same as that created by former councillors Mansbridge and Juneja when they ran the council. The agenda was to build houses to access central government money in the form of the “new homes bonus”. The ends justified the means. House building was justified on the basis of a consultant’s report that no one, not even the council has scrutinised. That report is still being kept secret.

What is the point of the Local Plan if it does not stick up for the local environment and for local people?

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Responses to Opinion: What Is The Point of a Local Plan That Does Not Stick Up for Local People?

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 16, 2017 at 9:51 am

    I whole heartedly support Ben in his opinion, although he has missed some minor points.

    For example, where is the water for these homes coming from? It is ‘easy enough’ for engineers to insert new pipes into the ground, but filling them is a different matter.

    The South East is already a short of water. Will we be piping it from Poland, or perhaps Russia where they have plenty?

    All the infrastructure companies are foreign owned and have no interest in upgrading the infrastructure at their expense for little return in profits.

    So even if the plan was ‘for the future’ and ‘for the community’ we are stuck with inadequate forward-thinking infrastructure which at best solves current problems but does nothing for the future problems caused by the current Local Plan.

    We need a Bazalgette or Brunell to write our Local Plan not a Gates or Jobs devotee.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 17, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Many seem to believe that infrastructure means just more roads: it doesn’t. Infrastructure includes power/gas/water/sewage utilities and their capacities. It includes schools, hospitals, doctor’s surgeries, emergency services, social services etc.

    The draft Local Plan does nothing, and the council can do nothing to increase such infrastructure. As mentioned above, all of these essential services are at breaking point already. They will be permanently broken, should Guildford Borough Council proceed with its disastrous plan.

    GBC need to wake up and smell the coffee. Their plan is a busted flush. The councillors should throw it out and start again with what the public wants, not just the what developers want.

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