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‘Appalling Behaviour’ v. ‘I Stand By My Comment’ – Reactions to Ash Planning Meeting

Published on: 26 Sep, 2013
Updated on: 29 Sep, 2013

planning-permissionWith the dust barely settled, key players gave their reaction to Tuesday night’s stormy meeting that passed a planning application for 400 new homes in Ash.

Council Leader Stephen Mansbridge said: “The planning decision that was made last night means that we will have a piece of development which I personally, and I think a lot of people locally, believe is simply in the wrong place.

“I am not at all against development per se. But I do believe that if you build something on ground that people know is very boggy marshland, the water has to go somewhere. The outline plans that have been put in place frankly do not seem to me to be credible.

“My criticism of the council’s planning service was about the way in which the application was dealt with. There were in fact, quite simply, too many unanswered questions, and I highlighted those during the meeting. It was approved. Will those questions be answered? I am not sure. I think that they have to be answered and people have to feel that this is a secure application, now an approved application, as it goes forward. There are a number of other stages to go through, so I hope that as we look at those stages we will see improvements.

“Regarding the behaviour of Cllr Goodwin. It was absolutely appalling and I have little to say about it other than we, the Conservative Group, are considering our options. If he has any sense of decency he will apologise.”

The leader of the Lib Dem Group, Cllr David Goodwin said: “Firstly, the matter should never have been referred to a full council meeting. Planning applications are almost always better dealt with by the planning committee where, for instance, council officers are able to respond fully.

“I believe, as I said, that Cllrs Spooner and Furniss referred the matter to a full council meeting to allow them to showboat to the public instead of taking a responsible attitude to what was an important decision involving council tax payers money.

“The accusation by Stephen Mansbridge, levelled at the planning department, that their report was substandard, was completely out of order and against the council’s written protocol. It is unfair to criticise council officers publicly because they cannot answer back.

“It made me very angry to see the planning officers mistreated that way.

“When I said that the planning officers might not have been able to reach Cllr Mansbridge because he might have been in the pub I was only alluding to behaviour of his that has been reported and is a matter of record i.e. his drink-driving conviction.

“I stand by what I said, in fact two Tory councillors, came up to me afterwards to congratulate me. They too regretted that the application had been referred to a full meeting and did not agree with Cllr Mansbridge’s behaviour. They had been given no prior knowledge that he was going to criticise the council’s own planning department in the way that he did.

“All in all, I felt it was a terrible meeting, the worst council meeting I have ever attended. We have serious and difficult decisions to make about planning in this borough and it is not right that they are taken in the way they were last night.”

Cllr Paul Spooner (Con Ash South & Tongham), the ward councillor who moved the motion to refuse the application, said: “I am very disappointed by the result and hopefully my position in relation to this plan was clear yesterday when I moved refusal.

“As for Cllr Goodwin,  his behaviour was a total disgrace. Since the meeting I have had more messages from residents relating to his outrageous behaviour than the key issue of the planning application.”

Graham Eyre, the Secretary of Ash Residents’ Association wrote: “Many of the hundreds of residents attending a council meeting for the first time will have been surprised at the level of debate, ranging from the disingenuous and banal to the intelligent and fair. Unfortunately for Ash, Tongham and Ash Green, there were more councillors engaging in the former than the later.

“GBC Planning and Legal Services frightened the more timid councillors with dire predictions of what would happen if the application wasn’t approved.

“We have lost a battle, we still intend to win the war.

The Lib Dem Group also issued a press release:

“People who live in Guildford Borough have been let down by the Council’s Conservative leadership’s historic failure to produce a new Local Plan to show what land should be used for development.  This was never more clear than last night when Guildford Borough Council’s full council met for an extraordinary meeting to decide an application for outline permission for 400 homes and a detailed application for 24 hectares of farm land to be converted to Suitable Area of Natural Greenspace (SANG)   on land adjacent to Ash Lodge Drive and South Lane in Ash. Councillors narrowly voted in favour of approving the application 18 votes to 14 with 2 abstentions.

“The Lib Dems were appalled by Council Leader Stephen Mansbridge’s speech during the debate which contained a series of inappropriate accusations regarding the conduct and professional abilities of planning officers. Such behaviour goes against long established member-officer protocols regarding the relationship between councillors and officers. The Lib Dem group strongly support the work of our whole planning team which we feel is extremely ably led and managed. Our planning team, both policy and development officers, do not deserve to be treated in this way and we are currently taking advice on making a formal complaint.

“Full Council made the right decision in approving the application last night. However it is clear that residents of Ash were let down by Conservative administration’s failure to ensure that the council was in a legal position to protect parcels of land such as this. Current National Government guidelines favour development and developers and supersede our Local Plan which was published in 2003. Add to this the fact that the borough only has a one year land supply and it would be highly unlikely that they could stand up to legal challenge if a planning application was refused and the developer appealed the decision in court.

“Council officers and Lib Dem councillors have been urging the Conservative administration to prioritise the production of the new Local Plan up for a number of years without success. The Council now finds itself in a situation that because of this failure to show real leadership many other areas of our borough may be at risk from inappropriate development.

“Residents need to be able to trust that their representatives are being consistent in their decision making and not playing politics with the future of our borough. They also expect a high standard of behaviour both in and out of the chamber and sadly the behaviour of the Council Leader and some of his colleagues last night has been found wanting.”

Council Leader Mansbridge responded saying: “We by no means have a Local Plan that is as old as some others councils’ Local Plans. Some of them date back into the 1990s.

“What has made the significant change is not the age of the Local Plan it is actually the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] which has come in and completely changed the ball game.

“We have responded to that and under my leadership, in my administration the lead councillor for this, Monika Juneja, has moved as quickly as she can to get these documents fit for purpose and to get them out. They have now all, prettify much, gone out, ready for the consultation which starts in October.

“This is a long process and it has to be a long process to do it properly and engage with people properly. I don’t accept the Lib Dem Group’s comments. I think they are sniping from the sidelines. It was interesting to note that they largely voted on political lines last night which is against the spirit of a planning item.”

Why not have your say? Please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below…

See also:

As Insults Fly, Council Approves Plan For 400 New Houses in Ash

Ash Planning Decision – How the Councillors Voted – Includes Absentees

The Dragon Says: A Day of Shame For Guildford

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Responses to ‘Appalling Behaviour’ v. ‘I Stand By My Comment’ – Reactions to Ash Planning Meeting

  1. Christopher Jackson Reply

    September 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I am appalled to hear Mr Mansbridge had verbally attacked planning officers. The way this has happened is appalling. It is not acceptable.

    I would urge Mr Mansbridge to do the right thing and to stand down.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    September 28, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Similar occurrences, along party lines occurred at the Aldi planning application meeting last April although not such strong words. But voting on a political divide occurred and it was also a situation where planning officers produced written arguments which simply did not stand up to the scrutiny of common sense.

    For example, ‘half a million extra vehicles a year on a road junction will not have an effect because it is already 110% over capacity’. What?

    The writer of this statement was invited to attend a public meeting if after six months after his recommendations were put into practice. He refused. He was not prepared to stand by his statement.

    We have yet to see what marvels will appear when Aldi make another submission or appeal.

  3. Trevor Harris Reply

    September 28, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Cllr Mansbridge attacked the report the planning officers had produced. In my opinion he was correct. The report broke numerous rules in the current Guildford plan. They had also failed to contact the local doctors surgery. Flooding was also a serious problem in the area. The road improvements were totally inadequate. It also transpired that the developers used an out of date map for their presentation.

    Cllr David Goodwin the leader of the Liberal Democrats basically accused Cllr Mansbridge of being a drunk. This was the most appalling behaviour from someone who is in such a responsible position. The public were certainly outraged by such behaviour. I am amazed that the Lib Dems have not disowned him as he is certainly a liability to their party.

  4. R Casadei Reply

    October 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    If they want to know how to determine if the now already congested roads could cope extra cars from another 400 homes they should just send someone to look at the traffic in the middle of the day, instead of grid-locked rush hour.

    Says it all really.

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