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Opinion: R4GV Sees Chance To Challenge Local Plan In White Paper

Published on: 20 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 20 Aug, 2020
Questions remain about Guildford’s controversial Local Plan; should it be reviewed, how will the proposal for unitary authority governance affect it and what difference will the handover of council leadership to Joss Bigmore of the Residents for Guildford and Villages (expected in September/October) make?

Here Fiona Davidson, chair of R4GV, sets out the party view…

During the 2019 borough council elections, Residents for Guildford and Villages (R4GV) acknowledged that to undo the Local Plan would be difficult if it was adopted before we were elected.

Subsequently, at the behest of R4GV, this was confirmed by an independent QC employed by Guildford Borough Council, and by the disappointing failure of three judicial reviews.

The grounds for a judicial review rest on whether due process was followed in delivering the Plan. The High Court determined the Plan process had been correct, not that it was a good Plan. The recent High Court decision to remit Leeds City Council’s Site Allocation Plan to the Planning Inspectorate was based on an “error of law”, a process failure.

Given the government’s determination to “Build, build, build” its way out of the Coronavirus recession, reduction of the housing numbers in Leeds seems unlikely.

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And the recent experience of South Oxfordshire District Council means we face the prospect of even more house-building on our green fields unless we can ensure we meet the housing supply set out and already adopted by the previous administration in the Local Plan.

Post-election, R4GV found itself in a council minority of those who opposed the Plan, composed of ourselves, the Green Party, and Guildford Greenbelt Group.

We decided the best way forward was to try to mitigate the worst aspects of the Local Plan, by working to ensure that GBC:

• Delivered the housing required, so we would not be further penalised (as Guildford was in the 2019 Local Plan) for past failure to deliver, threatening even more green belt removal;

• Exploited brownfield sites wherever possible to lessen the pressure on the green belt and improve the town’s deteriorating centre; and

• Produced robust, detailed Development Management Policies (DMP) required to complete the Local Plan. They also provide our last remaining opportunity to ensure implementation meets the needs and wishes of residents, while protecting and developing the borough’s physical environment for the benefit of all.

We are actively engaged in all these areas.

Indeed, using our own resources, we commissioned a detailed response to the recent DMP consultation because we thought the proposals were too vague, and too open to differing interpretations. We were concerned there was little or no mention of policy to resist the development of gardens, adopt neighbourhood plans and implement the Town Centre Master Plan or the Sustainable Movement Corridor.

We also judged that proposed policies offered inadequate protection on height, green belt infilling, or the ability to exploit the Common Infrastructure Levy.

The R4GV response to the DMP consultation can be found on our website here.

In another initiative, Cllr Colin Cross (Lovelace) is leading our efforts to consider the implications of a Local Plan Review. As counsel advised last year, there is a clear risk that a review would increase Guildford’s housing numbers. So, this is a complex investigation which will take some months.

But as Alan Young questioned in his letter to The Guildford Dragon NEWS, the White Paper, Planning for the Future, may represent an opportunity to redesign the Local Plan or to create a new one more in keeping with residents’ needs and wishes? Given the potential prize, we think this is an opportunity worth pursuing.

This may require additional planning policy resources at GBC. The existing team is already fully engaged on the DMP consultation and thereby completing the existing Local Plan.

But R4GV believes the White Paper is an opportunity we must not pass up.

Guildford deserves a Local Plan that better represents this community and we are determined to work with all those who share our ambition, including our local MPs.

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test 3 Responses to Opinion: R4GV Sees Chance To Challenge Local Plan In White Paper

  1. Mike Murphy Reply

    August 21, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    Perhaps our councillors will look into the unintended consequences of the dreadful GBC Local Plan as well.

    Our village of Send was taken out of the Green Belt so hundreds of houses could be built in the Green Belt in our village. Now that the village is not in the Green Belt, every green space and large garden could become fair game for planning applications for hundreds of extra houses in our village.

  2. Peter Elliott Reply

    September 6, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    Something that surprises me in all this is that so little has been made of the fact that the ONS has calculated that we actually need to build around 6,000 houses over the course of the plan, to meet our local requirements, which is very different from the 14,000 proposed in the Tory local plan.

    I know whose figures I’d rather trust.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      September 6, 2020 at 10:11 pm

      That would mean saved green belt. No need to move the sewage treatment works. No need for sliproads on the A247/A3. Less water shortgage, less increase in traffic, and less pollution. Oh, the joys of honest statistics.

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