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Vision Group’s Challenge to GBC Exec – New response from GBC

Published on: 12 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 13 Sep, 2012

Update: GBC responded to the questions posed last Friday (7 Sep) yesterday (11 Sep). Please see their response below.

In the wake of last night’s (6 Aug) surprise decision by the GBC Executive to withdraw, from their meeting agenda, two critical planning documents they were due to adopt, The Guildford Dragon NEWS (TGDN) posed three questions to the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) and three top Guildford Borough Council. Here are the questions and their responses.

Questions posed to the Guildford Vision Group:

1. Won’t the delay your challenge has caused simply delay the much needed redevelopment of parts of Guildford?

As any adopted planning documents will shape the entire Town Centre for a generation there needs to be a robust and visionary masterplan rather than piecemeal development as proposed in the Interim Framework. Just imagine the much more significant damage which would have been done if these documents had been adopted last night and the Council and Hermes then incurred significant costs obtaining planning permission for the redevelopment of North Street Regeneration Area only to see a disadvantaged national retailer in the High Street then mount a similar legal challenge to quash that planning permission? It’s important to bear in mind GVG’s challenge does not relate to some minor technical or procedural defect but to fundamental breaches of UK and EU legislation as David Elvin QC’s Opinion on GVG’s website confirms.

2. How is GVG funded and how much did obtaining the legal opinions cost?

GVG is privately funded. The estimated cost of the opinions was significant but neither of the QCs’ have yet to render a fee note. It was a cost those members contributing would rather have avoided but it just demonstrates the strength of our supporter base and their commitment. Whilst there remains the prospect of legal proceedings this information is commercially sensitive so it would be foolhardy to go disclosing our legal spend now.

3. Do you think it will be possible to work collaboratively with GBC following your challenge?

We very much hope so. It happens everywhere else in the country so why not Guildford? We absolutely prefer engagement to confrontation and would value the opportunity to work with GBC as well as Surrey County Council in the weeks and months ahead.

Questions posed to Guildford Borough Council:

1. Why was the legality of the proposed adoption of the ITCF and the NSDDB not thoroughly checked before Guildford Vision Group made their challenge?

2. How much will obtaining any necessary legal advice on this matter cost GBC?

3. Do you think it will be possible to work collaboratively with GVG following their challenge?

The questions were submitted to the GBC’s Public Relations office, who deal with media enquiries, at 1117hrs with a requested deadline of 1700. Receipt was confirmed but there was no further response.

A conservative party councillor, Matt Furniss, later commented, in response to question 3: “…all Conservative members of Guildford Borough Council are happy to work with all interested members of the public and organisations in getting the best document ready for the benefit of Guildford’s residents.”

Other enquiries by TDGN indicate that the charge for a written legal opinion, such as those obtained by GVG, can often be several thousand pounds each.

In a response received yesterday (11 Sep) a GBC spokesperson said: “Throughout this process the Council has confirmed it is following appropriate procedures.

“However, in the light of the legal challenge that the Council received last Thursday, we are seeking further advice on the matters raised. The reports to the Executive were deferred pending this advice and once it is received the report will be presented to the Executive in the near future.

“We will continue to work with all interest groups as the project moves forward.  Hundreds of local people, community groups and organisations have already given their views on the past consultations on the town centre.”

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Responses to Vision Group’s Challenge to GBC Exec – New response from GBC

  1. Jim Allen

    September 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I wonder why the Guildford Vision Group have not gone down the Neighbourhood Forum route? See Jim Allen”s full comment in ‘Letters’…