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Opinion: We Should Demand to Know When the Local Plan Is To Be Reviewed

Published on: 4 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 6 Aug, 2021

Julie Iles

By Julie Iles

Former Conservative Surrey county councillor for the Horsleys

Earlier this week, The Guildford Dragon trailed the fact that I had been interviewed by the BBC  for its News at Ten programme. Their interest was piqued by an earlier article I had written for The Dragon, The Conservative Label, For Me, Was Fatal in which I highlighted the strength of anti-Tory feeling because of the Guildford Local Plan.

The BBC journalist, Alex Forsyth, and I discussed several issues including her interest in whether there was a shift in the Conservative vote because of the national government’s programme of “levelling up”.

Sadly, what I see as being the most important part of the discussion as it affects local residents didn’t make it through the edit process. I was inevitably asked whether the opposition to housing development was stoked by Nimbyism.

I explained that I don’t think anyone would object to having the right homes in the right places. People want to live near to where they work (or at least have a reasonable commute) but without affordable and key worker housing in South East England, property ownership is beyond reach; so we now have the “Haves” and the “Have-nots”.

Surely fixing that should be part of any levelling up agenda and that won’t happen without serious government investment in the infrastructure. The developers who are given planning permissions are simply not going to fork out the amounts required for sorting out traffic congestion, providing school places in good local schools, and laying on sufficient GP and NHS dental surgeries etc.

Returning to the Local Plan I have read the recent correspondence in The Dragon, including excellent letters from Sue Reeves and David Roberts. In the Plan that the then Conservative administration pushed through, I am assured that the intention was to protect against speculative development and that infrastructure needs, such as increasing capacity on the A3, were to be brought forward before housing was built.

Since then we have clear evidence that the assessed housing need is highly likely to have been inflated by the way that student numbers were fed into the calculations.

Despite this, the only commitment we have from the current administration at Guildford Borough Council is “to continue to plan to review the Local Plan”. But without a temporary hold on any planning permissions for sizable developments, it seems that villages such as Ripley and West Horsley are seen as being worth sacrificing.

The Planning Committee at GBC has recently voted through Garlick’s Arch and the Manor Farm developments. Even if the R4GV/Lib Dem coalition at GBC blames central government for the housing numbers the least they could do is stipulate sustainable development including, for example, ground source heat pumps.

It is still clear from comments about these developments that local residents hold the Tory party responsible at one level or another. Either suggesting it is because development companies have made donations to central party funds that permissions go through or because those monies might otherwise have been better used in support of sustainable development.

But isn’t it time to consign the unproductive ill-feeling about the background of the Local Plan to history? The Conservatives are no longer in charge at GBC and it’s high time we held the current administration to account.

Cllr John Rigg writes that R4GV can’t just “unbake” the Local Plan. They didn’t say that in their election pledges back in 2019. They were very clear about their intention to amend the Plan during the campaign.

It’s high time we asked those who are now in charge: “When will the Plan be reviewed and what meaningful changes will you seek?”

Sadly, it’s already too late for the Horsleys.

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Responses to Opinion: We Should Demand to Know When the Local Plan Is To Be Reviewed

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    August 4, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    I’m afraid this borough is not just made up of The Horsleys. Every village in the borough of Guildford has been subject to more new builds that most don’t want. They have not got the infrastructure including school places, doctors surgeries that’s without the demand on our only hospital.

    Only the other day a friend told me her water pressure is now lower since large new builds have been constructed on her doorstep.

    The Conservatives were part of the party who continued to steamroll “build, build, build” all over the South East, not just this borough or county. Why did Ms Iles not stand up before and say stop?

    She should stop blaming other people now. They are trying to sort out past failings. Sadly, the future doesn’t look good. But remember, this is throughout the UK. Just visit another county and you will see the same happening everywhere.

    • Julie Iles Reply

      August 6, 2021 at 10:21 am

      If Jan Messinger had checked my record they would find that I have always opposed the Local Plan. That was clear in the first interview I ever gave to The Dragon.

      Neither am I looking to blame the current administration for the Local Plan but I am looking to them to make good on their promises – after more than two years of a power share arrangement we should surely expect to see some progress.

      Julie Iles is a former Conservative county councillor for The Horsleys

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 5, 2021 at 6:41 am

    I could not agree more. It is clear that the GBC leadership, particularly the Lib Dems, have no intention to do anything but prevaricate on the Local Plan, until it is too late.

    It is time they got on with it, as they have promised, or they will not be forgiven.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    August 5, 2021 at 11:57 am

    I agree with all of this except the suggestion that we should forget all about the Conservatives’ role in getting us to where we are. Until there is a clear-out of those responsible for the Local Plan (especially Cllr Spooner at GBC and Cllr Furniss at SCC who led Guildford Borough Council up to 2019) it would be foolish to vote Tory.

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    August 11, 2021 at 8:40 am

    Julie Iles really should put the objective truth before party loyalty.

    Her statement does not stand up to scrutiny. She says: “In the Plan that the then Conservative administration pushed through, I am assured that the intention was to protect against speculative development and that infrastructure needs, such as increasing capacity on the A3, were to be brought forward before housing was built.”

    The leaders of the Conservative Group in Guildford have peddled the false line that they put their Local Plan in place to protect the green belt. The falsity of that statement is blatantly obvious. And there is no better example of “speculative development” of greenfield, green belt, Grade 2 and 3 agricultural land in the country than the unprincipled inclusion of Three Farms Meadows in Ockham as a strategic site in the Local Plan after the Secretary of State and his planning inspector refused permission on appeal in 2017.

    There was no objective or reliable evidence that infrastructure – specifically A3 enlargement – would be put in place before the three new towns in the Local Plan were to be built. The infrastructure promises made by the Guildford Conservatives were hot air.

    Julie Iles and other Conservatives should be campaigning for a change in the ‘institutionally corrupt’ leadership within the Guildford Conservatives.

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