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Opinion: We Should Take No Lessons from the Tories on Planning After Their Decades of Failure

Published on: 5 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 7 Mar, 2022

By Joss Bigmore

Leader of Guildford Borough Council and R4GV borough councillor for Christchurch

Hats off to Guildford’s Conservatives for audaciousness.

Richard Mill’s (vice-chair of their town centre branch) letter GBC’s New Master Plan Should Be Subject to Full Public Consultation is a transparent attempt to ignore recent local history.

Given that the previous administration largely ignored the thousands of comments made by residents in the consultation on Part 1 of the Local Plan, no one should take any lessons from Conservative members on consultation or planning.

Any intelligent analysis shows that our past Tory-run councils failed to improve our town.  In power from 2003 to 2019 (and most of the post-war decades before), they delivered the monstrous “Great Wall of Guildford” at the station [the Solum Development], a disastrous pop-up village, and a ridiculous partnership of Guildford with the huge industrial city of Djongying in China.

However, these failures paled into insignificance when they adopted a Local Plan that avoided any attempt to regenerate our urban areas and level-up our communities, rather choosing developer-friendly sites in our villages and green belt.

Whilst many parties seem to walk away from manifesto pledges the moment they are elected we are delivering a Masterplan, just as we said we would.  The public are already involved, there have been four webinars, a dedicated website and a pop-up stall on the High Street.

Richard Mills points out that Masterplans are non-statutory, however he is talking about the failed attempts by the Guildford Conservatives who paid lip service to the topic with a number of vision documents that had zero effect but were pretty to look at.

“Shaping Guildford’s Future” (www.shapingguildford.co.uk) will produce an Area Action Plan that will become part of the borough’s Development Plan. As such it will have to go through full consultation and public examination.  The success of this project will ensure we regenerate our town and protect our countryside from further unsustainable development.

We welcome input from everyone, especially those with ideas on how to improve our town and protect our countryside. The choice for residents at present is between a deteriorating, polluted, congested town centre, full of empty and desolate brownfield sites, as presided over by the Conservatives, or the rejuvenated, vibrant, climate-conscious, attractive, economically active town being energetically developed by R4GV.

We should recall the planning inspector’s words when examining the Local Plan. After decades of Tory control, he said that areas of our town were “appalling”. What an indictment.

The Conservatives had their chance to plan our town and our borough and they blew it. They belong to a party compromised by the donations they receive from developers and simply cannot be trusted with the task.

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test 5 Responses to Opinion: We Should Take No Lessons from the Tories on Planning After Their Decades of Failure

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 5, 2022 at 11:46 am

    Guildford Conservatives managed to elect two “dynamic duos” to lead them. Stephen Mansbridge/ Monika Juneja and Paul Spooner/ Matt Furniss.

    The Guildford Local Plan, as adopted, was their brainchild.

    Cllrs Spooner and Furniss foisted it on the people of Guildford just days before they lost the local election in May 2019. Fortunately, Mr Furniss lost his GBC seat. Unfortunately, Mr Spooner did not.

    Mr Spooner’s personalised car number plate “KGB…” was not funny then and it’s certainly not funny now.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 6, 2022 at 9:13 am

    It does not matter which group or party is in charge in Guildford or any other place in our poor little country. Unless illegal immigration, a significant driver of population increase, is stopped, developments will continue at an unsustainable level.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    March 8, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    It’s in poor taste, given the desperation of Ukraine’s refugees, to blame Guildford’s planning failures on immigration. Guildford borough’s population is anyway falling, as the ONS will certainly confirm from the latest census figures this autumn. The country certainly needs more immigration to offset an ageing population and revive our economy, plagued with post-Brexit labour shortages.

    • Stuart Barnes Reply

      March 10, 2022 at 8:57 am

      Mr Roberts does not seem to make any distinction between legal and illegal immigration. The last thing that this country needs is more illegal (as opposed to controlled, legal) immigration. The majority of our people voted for Brexit, in part, to stop illegal immigration.

      Of course, the Ukrainian situation is different and we should help their people as far as we can. I would point out again however that they are legal and genuine refugees (not illegal economic migrants) and should be welcomed.

      It is a matter of fact however that the more people who come to this country then the more concreting over our green land will occur and not just in our area. This is a small country.

  4. Alan Robertson Reply

    March 10, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    Hopefully after May’s elections we will have fewer self-interested councillors, having replaced them with honest individuals who genuinely care about their local communities.

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