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Opinion: ‘Us and Them’ Won’t Help Deliver a Local Plan Most Of Us Can Support

Published on: 16 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 24 Jul, 2014

Draft Local Plan image 1There are nasty “us and them” attitudes developing in the debate on the Draft Local Plan.

Some, in the beautiful and affluent villages in our borough, seem to suggest that any new development should be in the urban area of Guildford, even, if it means high-rise development.

Some, who live in Guildford, resent this attitude especially from those who seem well heeled and well connected. They say no, those in the villages should take their share of the pain.

But there is no advantage to this finger pointing. We should all want to improve the beauty of our historic town, which serves the villages too, and preserve the beauty of our villages, an amenity for all of us. In fact, there is no them; there’s only us.

Us & them

The real problem here is the pressure to build that emanates from Westminster in its quest for economic growth at all costs. Economic growth largely based, it would seem, on house building.

That is what we should all be pointing our fingers at.

But this is not to say that there should not be any building of homes. Of course not.

Opinion Logo 2No one I have heard is arguing against more, truly affordable, homes. But, with our proximity to London, house prices are likely to remain out of the reach of too many local younger people who, entirely reasonably, want to buy a home in their own area.

Our politicians need to think much, much harder about this very real problem. Just building more in a place like Guildford is not the answer, especially as our borough is 90% green belt.

And the villages too should not resist all development. There will be suitable sites within them where good quality homes can be built; built to a congruous design that will enhance their surroundings and be suitable for younger families, very important for the vitality of any community.

Building more homes as social housing, with a right to buy at an affordable price, might be one way of helping our local younger people on to the housing ladder.

But it is the responsibility of our local politicians to come up with a Local Plan that most of us can truly support. They must ensure that it represents the aspirations of the majority of us who live in the borough not the will of those in the Westminster bubble.

If that means they fall out with the government so be it. Will the Conservative party, with an election around the corner, really want to lose all its support in one of its heartland areas? I doubt it. And we are not the only South East borough facing this problem.

Rather than allowing them to divide and rule we need more unity so we can say with a stronger voice: “We have had enough of your excessive housing targets. We have had enough of your failure to invest in infrastructure. And we have had enough of your hypocrisy on localism!”

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Responses to Opinion: ‘Us and Them’ Won’t Help Deliver a Local Plan Most Of Us Can Support

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    This must be avoided at all costs.

    Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book.

  2. Michael Bruton Reply

    July 16, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Most reasonable people (i.e. other than most, but not all, Guildford Tory councillors) want a legally sound Local Plan, one which involves reasonable levels of new houses spread across the borough and one that is in line with the numbers of most other Surrey boroughs. That means 300/350 new homes per annum and not the 650+ demanded by the Councillors Mansbridge and Juneja.

    These excessive numbers are followed meekly by all but a handful of Tory councillors. The Lib Dems have at last peeled off from that group and all credit to them.

    And people do not want ‘high-rise’ in Guildford. There are two ugly blocks there already stretching back to the 1960s, a testament to urban vandalism perhaps. Having walked along Walnut Tree Close this week I was taken aback by how shabby most of it is. Much of the housing looks neglected and there are acres of derelict brownfield land available.

    Much of this brownfield area could become attractive riverside low rise housing. Having visited Norwich recently I was impressed how that Council is developing the derelict area by the River Wensum with attractive low rise town houses – and all built so that they are above flood level.

    It is worth remembering that for the past 60 years Guildford has been almost entirely a Tory fiefdom. How much attractive building has been taken place anywhere near Guildford centre in that period? Not a lot.

    Most action groups I have come across within the borough are not trying to ‘beggar their neighbours’ over where housing should go. Unlike some councillors who seem to think it should mostly go to Ash, or by the Hogs Back, or at Ockham/Wisley, or in Walnut Tree Close, or to Effingham etcetra.

    In 2011 Guildford Tories were elected on the basis that they would protect the green belt. The current regime has reneged on that promise blaming, of course, central government. This is an easy ploy.

    The 2010 the Tory Guildford Borough Council (GBC) stood up to Labour over housing numbers and won, in court. If necessary (although I doubt much of GBC’s convenient misinterpretation of government policy), GBC should stand up to Cameron and Co. ‘Betrayal’ is a strong word, but that is what Guildford Tories have done over their 2011 promises regarding the green belt. Who then will believe anything they promise during the 2015 borough council elections?

    We are now engaged on a second consultation over the Draft Local Plan. Many think it is just another sham. Given the way the Tory group ignored the 19,000+ ‘Issues and Options’ responses who can blame people for any well founded cynicism?

    Having observed how the Tory leadership bowls soft ball questions to the pro-development lobby in council meetings and savages, even tries to humiliate, those who oppose their plans, many feel that we deserve, and may well get, a very different council in May 2015, before the Draft Local Plan can be approved.

    The ending of a Tory majority on GBC in 2015 would give everyone who cares about our borough the chance to reformulate an effective plan, involving reasonable growth, whilst protecting Guildford town and the green belt from excessive development. A great disappointment of course for most Tory councillors, for developers, hedge funds and for their profits. My heart would bleed!

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