Fringe Box



‘Pray for My Health’ Says Planning Committee Chair Following Her Deputy’s Resignation

Published on: 2 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 5 Mar, 2023

Cllr Fiona White, chair of GBC’s Planning Committee, at last night’s meeting.

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

The parlous state of the planning process at Guildford Borough Council was again highlighted at yesterday’s Planning Committee meeting when the chair Fiona White (Lib Dem, Westborough) asked members to “pray for her good health” for the remaining meetings in the council year.

See also: The Dragon Says – What’s Going On at GBC Planning?

Cllr Colin Cross

Her plea following the resignation of the committee’s deputy chair, Colin Cross (R4GV, Lovelace). No reason has been given and no member had come forward in the meeting to replace him, meaning that without Cllr White’s presence, the committee might not be able to function.

The previous meeting of the planning committee on February 2 had to defer all decisions because the chair and vice chair could not attend, and no councillors stood up to take their place, a situation that attracted considerable criticism.

Among decisions that were taken, a new council depot and multi-storey car park have been approved as the next steps in the Weyside Urban Village development.

A computer-generated image of the council depot and multi-storey car park as part of the Weyside Urban Village development.

The Planning Committee agreed with the officers’ recommendation to grant permission to the proposal.

The development of 1,500 new homes was granted outline permission in October 2021, with detailed planning applications for different parts to be decided by the borough council.

The new depot, in Slyfield Green, will house council vehicles as well as staff teams including the parks, housing repairs and waste services departments.

While the permission is a step forward for the development, councillors have previously warned about delays to the project and the increasing costs.

Councillors voted unanimously for the application, which will mean the current Woking Road site can be redeveloped as part of the project.

A council report said: “The new depot will act as an important piece of infrastructure for the delivery of basic services to the wider community.”

The meeting also refused a planning application submitted by the husband of the council’s leader, Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough) for a four-bedroom house in Oak Hill, Wood Street Village.

Three councillors, including the chair, left the room while the application was debated.

Cllr Fiona White, also a Lib Dem councillor in the same ward as Cllr McShane, told the meeting: “She is a personal friend.

“I do not believe members of the public would think that I could not have any personal interest in that particular decision.”

Cllrs Liz Hogger (Lib Dem, Effingham) and Pauline Searle (Lib Dem, Stoughton) also left the room during the item for the same reason.

The application was unanimously rejected by the remaining members, in line with officers’ recommendation, because of concerns about the loss of trees on the site for the build.

Meanwhile, a retrospective application for four Traveller pitches off the Hog’s Back was deferred again after councillors voted instead to visit the site, which is next to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

While council officers had recommended approval of the application, it was only for a limited time of five years and only for the named families currently living on the site.

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Responses to ‘Pray for My Health’ Says Planning Committee Chair Following Her Deputy’s Resignation

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 2, 2023 at 7:05 pm

    I really do think the finances of the Weyside Urban Village should be displayed. Considering the negative equity promoted on the site since 2005… already heading past potentially 30 million before a sod is turned of pile inserted

    Noting light pollution from the site is already adversely affecting any chance Riverside Nature reserves dark night skies. This new buildings will simply remove darkness in the reserve fundamentally changing bat roost and habits.

  2. Fiona White Reply

    March 2, 2023 at 9:06 pm

    Just for the record, there is no cause for concern about my health. The comment was light hearted. I also asked members to pray for the health of my car.

    Fiona White is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Westborough

  3. William Brewster Reply

    March 2, 2023 at 10:46 pm

    Guildford planning is a joke at best. One councillor has had the decency to resign. Let’s hope the other councillors do the same.

    Our councillors on planning are so bad Guildford has one of the worst planning departments in the UK. We need a public inquiry into why planning is run so badly.

  4. Mark Stamp Reply

    March 6, 2023 at 10:36 am

    It seems that planning, which shouldn’t be decided along party lines, is the latest casualty of the coalition’s very public breakup over the last few weeks.

    Neither side is helping their chances of election in May by demonstrating that they don’t have the best interests of residents as their top priority.

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