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Opinion: The Local Plan for Guildford Must Protect Everyone’s Quality of Life

Published on: 11 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 12 Apr, 2016

By Caroline Reeves and Liz Hogger

Caroline Reeves is the Lib Dem group leader at Guildford Borough Council and borough councillor for Friary and St Nicolas. Liz Hogger, is the Lib Dem deputy group leader and borough councillor for Effingham.

Revised Local Plan Jun 2016Guildford’s next Local Plan should represent the best interests of the whole borough, both town and countryside.

As Liberal Democrat borough councillors representing a town centre ward and a green belt village, we would like to offer a Lib Dem perspective on the recently-published revised draft Local Plan.

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Guildford faces a housing crisis, with many young people priced-out of the market for either buying or renting homes. So the first question is, “Will this Local Plan help?” To which the answer is, “Maybe”.

The insistence on 40% “affordable” homes is welcome, but unfortunately the Conservative Government’s assertions that “starter homes” at 80% of market value are affordable, even in a high-price area like ours, may seriously weaken that provision.

The Local Plan should be providing the homes local people need, not the homes developers want to build.

Then there is the question, “How many homes does Guildford Borough need?” The Strategic Housing Market Assessment or “SHMA” figure of 693 new homes per year should only be the starting point. We should then apply the constraints of green belt protection and infrastructure, particularly traffic congestion, and reduce the housing target to a number that the borough can accommodate within those constraints.

Cllr Liz Hogger

Cllr Liz Hogger

We are pleased the revised plan now protects most of the borough’s “high sensitivity” green belt, although there is still scope for argument about how the Greenbelt and Countryside Study identified that land.

It’s an improvement on the discredited 2014 Local Plan. So at least partial account has been taken of green belt constraints.

We remain deeply worried about whether the infrastructure to support so many houses can be delivered. Can our roads, public transport and air quality survive the potential construction of nearly 14,000 new homes by 2033?

Opinion Logo 2Unless we can be sure the answer to that question is “yes” we would be putting the future quality of life in this borough at serious risk if the Local Plan commits the council to deliver the full SHMA housing figure.

We await the findings on the Infrastructure Study to discover where the challenges to dealing with these major issues can be realistically delivered, and where we can show they cannot.

Looking to the impact of this draft plan on our own wards, we have mixed feelings…

Liz is relieved that the proposals for Effingham are much improved on the 2014 draft. However the proposals for the, more rural, east of the borough, particularly the proposed new town at the former Wisley Airfield, are very worrying for an area with significant traffic congestion on the narrow rural roads and in village centres, a huge potential problem at the M25/A3 junction, and inadequate public transport.

Caroline is concerned that if 2,000 new homes are to be built in her town centre ward, the infrastructure to support them, including schools and health services, must be guaranteed.

We need to protect the green spaces in the town and the countryside, and the Local Plan must be even handed in protecting the quality of life for everyone in our borough, town and countryside alike.

As in 2014, there will be no party whip on Liberal Democrat councillors on Local Plan votes. Our councillors are free to use their own judgement, speak and vote in the best interests of their residents; their own communities come before any party political considerations.

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Responses to Opinion: The Local Plan for Guildford Must Protect Everyone’s Quality of Life

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 11, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Here are some arguments for not building on the green belt. Guess who wrote them?

    In 1955, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in Circular 42/55 recommended Planning Authorities “to consider establishing a green belt wherever this is desirable in order:

    (a) to check the further growth of a large built—up area;
    (b) to prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; or
    (c) to preserve the special character of a town”.

    The purpose of the Metropolitan Green Belt which encircles the built up area of London is to provide a stretch of mainly open country as near as possible to London and the associated towns, to act as a barrier against the further outward spread of development and to provide an area in which people now living in the overcrowded districts can find recreation and enjoyment.

    If urban encroachment is allowed into this area then the green belt would have failed in its primary role.

    The government continues to attach great importance to green belts, which have a broad and positive planning role in checking the unrestricted sprawl of built—up areas, safeguarding the surrounding countryside from further encroachment,

    It will be seen that throughout the years support for the maintenance of established green belts and the presumption against inappropriate development within them has been consistent notwithstanding the acknowledged pressure that currently exists for development.

    Part of the contribution which this site makes to the green belt is its visual function as an important part of the landscape.

    A Guildford Borough Council document in 1984.

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