Fringe Box



Stephen Mansbridge, Council Leader Explains What He Means By ‘Growth’ for Guildford

Published on: 25 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 12 Feb, 2023
Cllr Stephen Mansbridge the newly elected Leader of the Conservative Group at GBC

Cllr Stephen Mansbridge

Following on from last week’s opinion piece on whether there was a real need for Guildford to grow Cllr Stephen Mansbridge agreed to talk to The Guildford Dragon NEWS and explain how he envisages growth in Guildford and why we need it.

You said at the full council meeting that some felt growth was not ‘the Guildford way’. What did you mean? Who do you think holds that view?

I think that there has been an opinion held by many Guildford residents for some years that growth is a word associated with negative concepts. In my interpretation of growth I want to help our residents understand the good concepts associated with the word.

What in your view are the main drivers of growth? Why do we need it?

Growth is fuelled by prosperity and a prosperous town in our case is a town and borough which is creating jobs because its businesses, small, medium and large, have the confidence to expand. This, in turn, brings people into the borough whether to live, or as commuters, or as visitors and this fuels our retail and tourist environments. Growth is not about housing more people just for the sake of it. Growth development is intrinsically linked to economic prosperity.

Do you think the town should grow physically in terms of population and size i.e. expand the area of the town into surrounding fields and undeveloped land? If so, by how much?

The Local Plan is a key piece of work that we are finalising ahead of a full period of engagement which incorporates three separate consultations. We are being directed by National Government to build more houses and we are in the process delivering with our residents as part of the first consultation what this number should be. Again as part of the consultation, against that number we should be asking residents to choose how they would see developments occurring across the borough against a hierarchy of land take-up and an overarching economic strategy.

Hasn’t the Green Belt served us well, so far, to prevent limitless suburban sprawl, especially in the South East near London? What would you say to those who feel our Green Belt is sacrosanct?

Yes, it has served us extremely well and I hope it will go on in fulfilling a role in limiting excessive development. Change is always a difficult concept which is generally unpopular and we will have to consider the possibility of building on areas within the Green Belt. But this will either be as a last resort, where we have no other way of reaching the required number of houses we are being directed to build, or because the land itself whilst designated as Green Belt is, in fact, generally not considered to be visually important.

Isn’t there a lot of necessary re-development possible that does not require expanding the town e.g. the North Street project?

Yes, and we will exhaust those options first whilst mindful of not overdeveloping.

How do you envisage engaging with the town’s population to ensure that proposals have the support of most of the residents that care about these things?

Again this is embodied in the local plan engagement process and we want to reach out, beyond the lobby groups, to as many of the 135,000 residents as we can. What we want residents to do is to give the documents and the choices, that we have carefully prepared, deep thought, so that they can reflect back to us their honest views of what they think we should do in enabling their county town and borough to be fit for the 21st century.

Given the current planning process how can you ensure that decisions on Guildford plans are taken locally and not overridden in the appeals process, as has happened on numerous occasions before?

Guildford council is the local planning authority and its planning committee will decide in the first instance whether a planning application should be approved or refused. Unfortunately, this is the end of our involvement with the decision making process. On appeal, an application is determined by the Planning Inspectorate and ultimately the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Read also, ‘Opinion: Grow or Die – Is That The Real Choice for Guildford?’

What do you think? Have your say on how Guildford should grow. Please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

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