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Queen’s Speech Planning Proposals Further Threaten Guildford’s Green Spaces

Published on: 13 May, 2021
Updated on: 13 May, 2021

By Martin Giles

The much-trailed loosening of planning laws announced in the Queen’s speech this week will give developer’s a much freer hand, experts have warned.

Further restriction of the role of local councils will damage democracy, some are warning, and will lead to more developments on green spaces.

The new laws, part of the government’s “Project Speed” are intended to accelerate infrastructure projects and increase the number of homes being planned by more than a third.

The proposals would force councils to zone swathes of land for “growth”, “protection” or “renewal”. Land zoned for growth will benefit from automatic outline planning permission, with councils unable to turn down applications that accord with local rules.

The Institute for Economic Affairs urged the government to push ahead and not “capitulate to nimby interests”.

But critics described them as “an utter disaster” which would return the country to “a deregulated dark age of development”.

Hear what Angela Richardson had to say about planning when interviewed by Hugh Coakley at the SCC election count…

Tomorrow, Martin Giles will interview local MPs Angela Richardson and Sir Paul Beresford on the impact Guildford’s Local Plan had on last week’s SCC election results and the planning proposals announced in the Queen’s Speech.

And the new laws will not, it appears, help councils build more social housing which some Guildford councillors are on record as saying is the type of housing most required.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has said that the proposed measures conflict with the government’s environmental aims and would “take us back to a deregulated dark age of development”. It fears most of the new homes are unlikely to be low-cost or affordable.

Zoe Franklin

The Lib Dem’s former parliamentary candidate Zoe Franklin said: “The planning reforms will rip powers away from local people and communities in favour of wealthy property developers, thereby threatening our environment and treasured green spaces…”

Leader of Guildford Borough Council, Joss Bigmore (R4GV) was also critical: “We don’t yet have the full details of the planning changes announced in the Queen’s speech, but it’s clear that the government has not been listening to the strength of feeling in the south, and especially the South East, about the proposed planning free-for-all.

“Housing at any cost has been prioritised, and design (remember the promises about that?) has been forgotten.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

“It appears that consultation has not resulted in significant changes to some of the more controversial proposals in the Planning for the Future White Paper. The government has decided to take control away from local authorities to decide what’s right for their area.

“On top of recent government pronouncements on extending permitted development, which also robs the borough of the ability to prevent inappropriate development, and significantly restricting Article 4 Direction, which enables permitted development rights to be withdrawn across a defined area, these changes will be extremely detrimental to the borough and the green belt.

“Angela Richardson’s optimism about her government listening to home counties’ MPs has been severely misplaced. No wonder Julie Iles [the former Conservative councillor for The Horsleys] could not produce the written confirmation from Robert Jenrick to the Conservative claims before the recent elections that housing numbers in Guildford would be reduced.

Jan Harwood becomes deputy council leader

Lib Dem councillor Jan Harwood, GBC’s the lead member for Planning Policy, added: “Despite the rebuke from the electorate in the local elections last week across the South of England, the Conservatives have confirmed they are still intent on forcing through unwanted planning reforms via laws which will strip away the voices of local communities in the planning process.

“The Conservative government’s reforms will massively water down infrastructure requirements on new developments, maximising developer profits.

“Looking at the so-called “reforms” and who they benefit, it’s hard to draw any conclusion other than that this government is in hock to developers who are happy to write cheques to fund the Conservative party.

“At the same time they wish to silence the voices of those who live here by stripping residents of the right to object via the planning system and taking decision-making away from democratically elected local councils.

“These Conservative proposals will not be good for Guildford and Cranleigh. The Liberal Democrats are the party fighting against these disastrous changes to planning law both locally and in Westminster.”

Brian Creese

And Local Labour supporters are also unhappy. Brian Creese, Chair of Guildford Labour commented: “Guildford Labour does not support the deregulation of planning regulations and handing over more power to the developers.

“The proposals as outlined in the Queen’s speech would be disastrous for Guildford and the surrounding villages if enacted. Local communities must have the right to shape their own built environment in consultation with people who already live here.

“This can’t be achieved if developers can build what they want where they want, and for profit. Anyone who wants to see how government intervention works only has to look to the Solum development at the station, a plan rejected by every local political grouping – including the Conservatives – but foisted on the town by a Conservative government.

“Guildford Labour is committed to supporting more social and council housing in Guildford, but this needs to be done with the consent of local residents, not through a planning free-for-all where anything goes.”

The Guildford Conservative Association was also invited to comment.

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