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Opinion: Working for a Stronger, Greener Guildford

Published on: 9 Nov, 2018
Updated on: 21 Nov, 2018

This is the fifth in a series of opinion pieces from all the political parties and the Independent councillors who currently form Guildford Borough Council (GBC) in the period between now and next May (2019) when the borough elections will take place.

We are grateful to all the participants for agreeing to take part. Our aim is to allow our readers to hear from local politicians directly and become better informed of the political choice they have before they cast their votes…

By Bob Hughes

chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association

Guildford people take pride in our town and villages as well a close interest in what their council does, not least planning and development in our area, so I welcome the opportunity to outline our approach to running Guildford Borough Council.

We all value our town and surrounding villages and green spaces, and our local plan needs to be sustainable and have a realistic vision of Guildford as a primary shopping destination, with improved roads and public transport, and sufficient homes whilst protecting and enhancing our green spaces.

It is widely accepted that the plan the council sent to the Secretary of State a year ago strikes that balance. Our plan has been examined by an independent inspector who decided to include five additional housing sites which are in our green belt. So quite rightly your council has objected to them as being unnecessary.

Our case was helped by new projections of housing need which show that they weren’t needed, as your council had argued. Your Conservative councillors are demanding that the inspector take the five green belt sites out of the plan. Woking’s problem of meeting their own housing need should be sent back to Woking where it belongs.

Cllr Paul Spooner

Council Leader Paul Spooner said: “We have demanded that the additional and highly sensitive green belt sites proposed by the inspector be removed as they are not necessary to meet local housing need. A return to the plan your Conservative council proposed would ensure that it is robust and can be delivered.”

In response to the ambitious direction the council has taken to regenerate and preserve our town and villages, Guildford Conservatives have had many talented people come forward who would like to serve the community as Conservative councillors.

I am confident of the significant abilities of the candidates we have chosen and they have a clear commitment to our town and surrounding area. Across Guildford we have serious and determined candidates in every ward who can contribute a lot to the future of our borough.

We put forward candidates who are elected as Conservatives, and we then trust them to use their knowledge as councillors of the realities of governing Guildford to run the council for the benefit of the whole borough as Conservatives.

We take running Guildford Borough Council seriously and we will be asking voters to give us their vote because of our vision, the way we run the council with excellent services and because our Conservative councillors and candidates are hard-working and truly in touch with their communities.

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test 7 Responses to Opinion: Working for a Stronger, Greener Guildford

  1. David Willis Reply

    November 9, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    What does Bob Hughes mean by “our local plan needs to be sustainable”?

    Green belt is just that: countryside, not a building site.

    Focus on brown sites particularly for lower cost housing.

  2. G Moore Reply

    November 9, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    It seems that the Chairman of Guildford Conservative Association is out of touch. There is growing concern among many previous Conservative voters, not only about the Guildford Local Plan, but also the secretive and bullying way in which council meetings are now being conducted, and the exclusion of other councillors who also have a duty to represent their wards.

    The Local Plan’s housing target is based on assumptions, which the council has refused to reveal. Moreover, although our councillors were elected on the promise that the green belt would be protected, the plan includes a grab on the green belt with more land for executive homes, and the development of even more retail, rather than giving priority to affordable homes and accommodation for the elderly using empty retail and other brownfield sites in the town.

    Development seems to have no overarching plan to enhance the Borough’s amenities and road system but is subject to the acceptance of horrendous projects such as the Station monstrosity and one-off projects like the replacement footbridge by the Odeon.

    It appears that our Conservative councillors ignore their residents in favour of blind allegiance to the domineering leadership.

    I can see no reason to vote Conservative in May.

  3. James Taylor Reply

    November 10, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    What pompous and patronising marketing for the current Conservative regime – truly “ostentatious tosh” as a Conservative councillor recently called statements from those criticising a lack of council transparency.

    Bob Hughes is more than local. Conservative chairman. Wikipedia says he was elected as MP for Harrow West in 1987 and successfully defended his seat at 1992 election. The entry can be read here.

    The Tories have a big majority on Guildford Borough Council. Cllrs Spooner and Furniss deserve that their party loses its majority, not to Labour or other political parties but local Independent residents.

    Tandridge Tories lost eight council seats and nearly their majority in council elections over their Local Plan. We have a flawed Local Plan and a very unpopular and wasteful Tory leadership

    If Tandridge residents can vote for more councillors who are outside party politics, why not Guildford?

  4. Jeff Hills Reply

    November 11, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Until the GBC Executive can prove that they are willing to listen to the electorate I believe that people should refrain from re-electing them automatically and give some oe else on the ballot paper a chance.

    Why oh why do the candidates that ignore the electorate always get elected? Certainly not for the job that they do.

  5. Lisa Wright Reply

    November 13, 2018 at 5:18 am

    So the only thing Mr Hughes can comment on is the Local Plan?

    Yes, we’ve heard it all before – put that bit of land in and then take it out again so we can issue a friendly press release.

    The reality is, this Conservative government has no wish to look after anything remotely associated with our environment. They may recycle the odd bottle but in return concrete over the countryside destroying all the wildlife. I find the whole thing hypocritical and hope we have a huge amount of GGG or Independent councillors to vote for next spring.

  6. Fiona Curtis Reply

    November 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    ….and they all lived happily ever after!

    I agree with Mr Moore that this piece is completely out of touch with public opinion. The picture painted by Mr Hughes is some distance away from what we see, with issues with transparency, failed vanity projects at a time of austerity, governance that has been likened to a dictatorship and failure to deliver on key pledges, like protection of green belt to name but a few.

    Firstly, it is not widely accepted that the Local Plan strikes the right balance. If Mr Hughes has statistics that support this claim then I would very much like to see them as I requested such information (about the numbers that supported the plan versus the number that objected at consultation) and was told this information was not available.

    My understanding was that the examining inspector needed to see a higher portion of the housing number delivered during the first five years rather than a plan that was weighted heavily towards the end period and that GBC put forward the additional green belt sites.

    At a Parish Council meeting in 2016 Councillors and attendees were told by Cllrs Spooner and Furniss that they had it on good authority that weighting the Local Plan towards the back end would be permissible given Guildford’s infrastructure difficulties, but this appears to have backfired?

    Had the plan been weighted towards brownfield sites, in truly sustainable locations where infrastructure is largely in place, as well as scrutinising the housing assessment and taking on board other findings, professional and otherwise, that justified a lower housing target, then additional sites would not have been needed. It is a bit rich therefore to try to garner brownie points for attempts to remove sites that were only added because GBC failed to adhere to NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) delivery guidelines.

    GBC could have applied constraints to the numbers but chose to fulfil an unrealistic target. Woking presumably did not. The only political group who repeatedly stood up for the “values” that the Conservatives now claim to have (but show little evidence of), was the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG). A few individual councillors from other parties also did their best to represent the views of their wards, most of these are now part of a growing group of Independents.

    For Guildford’s sake, I very much hope that new candidates represent their wards rather than themselves and their party agendas. To do this they need to understand what is truly important to the electorate and I would suggest asking your Parish Council and any Resident’s Associations how many meetings your borough councillors have attended and then look online and see how this compares to meetings attended at Millmead. It is quite clear that many Conservative councillors are out of touch with residents and having done this exercise, it is quite clear why.

    The explanation I was given a few years ago, when GGG was formed, was that the Conservative Party had no doubts that they would retain their lead in Guildford because when their supporters are annoyed the worst they will do is not vote rather than switch allegiance. So, unless disgruntled residents take a step out of their comfort zone, I fear Guildford will see more of the same after the next elections.

  7. Colin Cross Reply

    November 14, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    A very accurate and comprehensive analysis and a damning judgement on the pathetic outpourings from a Tory bigwig who lost touch with reality some time ago.

    Guildford voters will need to wake up pretty quickly if they are to avoid things getting inevitably worse. I sincerely hope we can build a truly Independent opposition to this Tory cabal.

    Colin Cross is the Independent borough councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham).

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