Fringe Box



Opinion: What Will It Take For Tory Supporters To Rebel?

Published on: 24 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 26 Apr, 2016
Artist's impression of the latest plan for a redeveloped railway station from Solum.

Artist’s impression of the latest plan for a redeveloped railway station from Solum.

By Martin Giles

As I read the press release the same feelings of anger came back to me.

The appalling Solum proposal for our railway station was floating again to the surface of the council’s agenda like a nasty bit of effluent.

But now, as I write, the anger has been replaced by a sadness. It is almost resignation.

To me the future of our historic town, here before the Norman invasion, is bleak. We face another kind of invasion, an inexorable drive for “growth” that will manifest itself as suburban sprawl, fewer green fields and ever more choked roads.

Opinion Logo 2It is not that I don’t want change. There are many things that need to be changed in Guildford. One could be the existing railway station. There is nothing special about it. It was only built in the mid eighties but one dubious advantage of our throw away society is that we can throw out buildings too, and we do. They are no longer expected to last centuries.

If we are to replace it we should do it with something aesthetically inspiring, of the correct scale, that unashamedly reflects our town’s historic character, while in function is cutting edge. Something that visitors will go out of their way to see and experience. Something special.

The station is, after all, a major gateway to our town, a gateway we want to encourage more to use if the pressure on road space is to be relieved.

But the proposal from the Solum consortium is anything but special. It is a third rate, pathetic, half baked attempt to impose blah architecture and maximise profit.

At the recent meeting, organised by our MP Anne Milton, a regular rail traveller, she said: “It’s a big site and any redevelopment must be of the right design. The current plans do not address this.” Ain’t that the truth?

Public buildings like the station are an asset for the whole community. Such buildings should reflect our civic values and our civic pride. If we allow this detestable proposal to materialise what will it say about us?

But will meetings and protests do any good? The council leader feels obligated to grow Guildford and, even if that was not the case, the council has limited control over planning.

Hopefully it can do something about the station but even if it succeeds it is only one part of a general plan.

In reality, for all the claims of “Localism”, the most a planning authority can do these days is a damage limitation exercise: “What is the least we can get away with and still get a tick in the box?” A tick from a Bristol based planning inspector following central government instructions to impose growth wherever they want it.

But why are some of our own councillors so keen to follow like sheep? What is motivating them?

Of course it is true that many local people need homes but private developments on green belt, or elsewhere, will not solve that problem: the houses will remain unaffordable.

Most of our councillors were voted into office promising that: “Conservatives Say Green Belt To Stay”. A dozen or so even paraded on a green field on The Mount, presumably to show they meant it. So they can claim no democratic mandate for allowing it to be built on.

If there is sufficient opposition in the next consultation, to be held this summer, will that be enough to stop it? Or will we be told, once again, that the wrong people made their views known?

Just how much contempt for its own supporters can the local Tories show before more rebel?

See also: Guildford’s MP Supports Vision Group’s Call for Reassessment of Station Scheme

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Responses to Opinion: What Will It Take For Tory Supporters To Rebel?

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 24, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Sometimes the rest of us have to leave it to the wordsmiths to tell it like it is. They express our deepest inner thoughts with words which only they can put into sensible rational thinking and arguments.

  2. Jan Messinger Reply

    April 24, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Have just read this article and totally agree. Our beautiful town Guildford and surrounding villages will be ruined if we are not careful.

    I just hope enough people are aware of what is going on. I also hope Guildford will not be spoilt for ever by those making the decisions.

  3. James Cook Reply

    April 24, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    I am completely in agreement with Martin Giles on this issue. Sadly I have no confidence in some of our more influential councillors’ sense of taste.

    For instance, only a month ago they approved a new school building in Send which lacked any design sense whatsoever and so Send will be consigned to the monstrosity for years to come.

    This design of this new station building is of course 100 times more important to get right than a small school in Send and I do hope that the council get expert help in getting its design right and don’t leave it up to their own tastes.

  4. Stuart Barnes Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Of course the recent decisions and proposals are enough to make anyone rebel – but is there anyone or any party who or which will listen to alternatives?

  5. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Not only that we will not forget the election statement: “Conservatives Say Green Belt to Stay” but also the statement, made at the same time, “Conservatives Say No to Farm Development,” referring to the proposal to build on Blackwell Farm.

  6. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    It’s about time that Tory councillors who do not agree with their own planning department’s plans to desecrate what is left of beautiful Guildford stand up to the Executive, the failed Scrutiny Committee and their leader.

    After a site visit they all managed to refuse the latest application to build at Wisley. Well done. Let us encourage all the councillors to have the bravery, to continue opposing unnecessary and unwanted development, such as the Solum scheme for the railway station.

    They were voted in, partly because of their “green belt here to stay” promise. But they are reneging with their appalling decision to remove many villages from the green belt in order to cover the countryside with concrete – mainly because the Executive has made a disastrous decision to employ consultants, (who refuse to disclose their workings to the council, let alone the public) to provide the SHMA numbers.

    The Tory councillors should demand these results and the process by which the housing needs were obtained, and refuse to progress the Local Plan before they have had the opportunity to see and discuss the inflated numbers proposed.

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