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Publication of Comments on the Local Plan – Councillors React

Published on: 28 Feb, 2017
Updated on: 1 Mar, 2017

See also: Council Publishes Comments Received In Local Plan Consultation

Over 32,000 comments from 6,000 respondents to last year’s (2016) public consultation on the draft Local Plan will take some time to digest.

Most councillors, it seems, have only just seen the comments too. But we asked representatives from each party at Guildford Borough Council for their reaction. Here is what they told us in response to three questions we posed…

The comments made by residents in last year’s consultation appear to be overwhelmingly objecting to proposals contained in the draft Local Plan. What is your reaction?

Cllr Paul Spooner

Paul Spooner, Conservative group leader and leader of the council: “We welcome everyone’s comments about the draft Local Plan and their feedback during all public consultation.

This is part of the overall process in developing a new plan and is the right way to protect our borough and help our communities and economy thrive.

Caroline Reeves, Liberal Democrat group leader: “The draft made proposals for some significant changes to many peoples’ local area, especially around the strategic sites, so it isn’t surprising there have been large numbers of objections. The task of the borough council now is to demonstrate they have listened.”

Susan Parker, Guildford Greenbelt Group: “Personally I think the draft Local Plan was a bad mistake. We need a new plan reflecting the comments that people have made.

“The population forecasts are too high. Those led to aggressive estimates for housing ‘need’ (or demand), produced by secret calculations, justifying development over precious green spaces and valued countryside. Our infrastructure cannot support the proposed level of development.

“The geography of our area means that aggressive sprawl is necessarily limited, not just by money.  We have some of the most fragile and precious countryside in England, and it is beautiful. The desire of house builders or landowners to make a profit must not be the only consideration.

“Our countryside gives us cleaner air; protects against flooding; provides essential agricultural land and space for recreation; and captures carbon in our woodlands.  The environmental cost of unconstrained development would be appalling.”

How representative do you think the 6,000 respondents are of the borough’s population?

Paul Spooner, Conservative group leader and leader of the council: “Consultation comments are considered alongside national policy and legislation to help produce a plan that balances the needs of everyone across the borough. Last year’s public consultation to gather feedback was open to all and is not a referendum.

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Caroline Reeves, Liberal Democrat group leader: “Naturally people are more likely to comment if they are upset by proposals that affect them locally, especially proposals to build on green belt sites. One of the most difficult challenges with any consultation is engaging with the groups who are less likely to comment even though they may be just as affected as those who are quick to respond.

“The responses will be less representative of the urban areas where some residents might be more transient and less involved in their community. The views of the key communities in the urban areas are just as important and the next consultation must do more to include them.”

Susan Parker, Guildford Greenbelt Group: “I think these comments are a fair representation of what people think.  I’ve heard many comments from locals who are distressed by the aggressive development proposals in the Local Plan.

“Most local people recognise that there are constraints on development in our area and that urban brownfield sites, within big cities, are more sustainable places for mass housing. We must use empty homes and city sites before we use our precious countryside.”

Is it possible that the plan will be driven through without major changes being made to the level of green belt development proposed, despite the comments received?

Paul Spooner, Conservative group leader and leader of the council: “The new Local Plan will not be ‘driven’ through anything. There is a clear and democratic process to follow to submit the plan to the independent Planning Inspector, which needs approval by the full council. The inspector also receives all comments as part of the submission, so they can review them too.

“Local people need a great environment, homes and jobs along with the transport and other infrastructure to support them. We are producing a plan that considers and reflects those needs, wherever anyone lives in our borough, now and for the future.”

Caroline Reeves, Liberal Democrat group leader: “Liberal Democrats have consistently said we need a Local Plan that provides the extra housing we really need, where we need it, whilst protecting our environment in both town and countryside.

“We shall be holding the Conservatives to account to demonstrate that they have listened and to make sure they get that balance right.”

Cllr Susan Parker

Susan Parker, Guildford Greenbelt Group: “I am very concerned that the plan might be forced through.  I think that there’s considerable political will to promote development in the council’s Executive. This is partly to subsidise the council’s vulnerable finances, partly to support central government initiatives irrespective of any local factors.

“’Localism’ is a great rallying cry, but in practice, like so many things said by professional politicians, it means the opposite of what it says.

“Local people have taken the trouble to respond to the formal consultation process in huge numbers, and they have done this not just once but on three separate occasions.  They have made their views clear, but each time a recognisably similar plan is brought back to the table by local government.

“It is time that local politicians, all of whom were elected on a platform of protecting our green belt and countryside, honoured their commitments.

“We need a new Local Plan, and we need it soon. This new plan must reflect actual local need, not developers’ hopes.  It must use our existing brownfield, and not be driven by central government. We need a Local Plan for local people.”

The Labour group was also invited to comment.







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Responses to Publication of Comments on the Local Plan – Councillors React

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 1, 2017 at 12:56 am

    I’m not convinced by Cllr Spooner’s comment that the discredited Local Plan will not be “driven through”. Methinks he doth protest too much! Every indication is that it will be, given past performance of this Executive. Otherwise, the latest plan would have been radically changed to reflect the views expressed in the previous “consultations”.

    This plan proposes to destroy much of our green belt, despite the Tories election promise to protect it. Why then should we now believe a word he or his party colleagues tell us?

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 1, 2017 at 10:55 am

    We can all have our say on the 4th day of May – through the ballot box in the county council election.

  3. Harry Eve Reply

    March 3, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    I urge everyone to check their published responses carefully. I have discovered an error in the way mine has been recorded where a “Yes” has been changed to “No”.

  4. John Fox Reply

    March 3, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Sadly the ballot box offers three options: poor, really poor, or really, really poor.

    I agree with JC above because this local authority through their jargon, public sector language and contempt for the local communities they are meant to represent is, in conjunction with the developers, set to destroy the green belt wholesale.

  5. Helen Jefferies Reply

    March 4, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Interesting to note that the three different Conservative questionnaires by county council candidates that I’ve seen don’t even mention the green belt. Enough said.

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