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Letter: Wimpey’s ‘Phase 2 Discussion’ Was Merely a PR Tick-box Reality

Published on: 13 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 13 Nov, 2020

From: David Roberts

In response to: Local Doubt Over Taylor Wimpey’s Second Public Consultation on Former Wisley Airfield

I attended the last Taylor Wimpey Zoom meeting and Tony Edwards is right. Here’s what I wrote to Antonis Pazourou afterwards: “Thank you for inviting me to your ‘neighbourhood discussion group’ meeting on October 22. I thought you might like to have my feedback.

“First, I was surprised you did not circulate a meeting agenda in advance, with a list of those invited and those who agreed to attend. This is normal practice and only good manners.

“I was also disappointed to be able to see only you and Camille Soor, rather than all participants, and for there to be no oral, but only written questions possible.

“As a result, I found the meeting to be simply a one-way presentation that did not live up to its billing as a ‘discussion group’.

“Second, I found it woefully thin on substance. No-one, at this stage, expects detailed answers. But I was dismayed to get no new information at all about your plans, or even any assurance as to how you hope to overcome the glaring practical difficulties of the project.

“Either those difficulties have already overwhelmed you, or you just weren’t trying to communicate.

“Most of the questions related to the site’s absence of any existing infrastructure. Clearly, you have already thought hard about how to address this or you wouldn’t have bought the site in the first place.

“That you don’t have ready-made answers and cannot disclose details so early in the process is perfectly understandable.

“Yet all we learned at the meeting was that these issues were still being looked at and ideas might be shared with us in the ‘first or second quarters of next year’.

“I don’t accept that basic transparency depends on having a fully worked-up transport model and infrastructure delivery plan already in place as a fait accompli. Given a take-it-or-leave-it choice, the public will choose to leave it.

“On transport, your ideas about ‘sustainable transport’ and ‘behavioural change’ seemed to boil down to getting people on bikes. I wish you and your ‘behavioural consultant’ luck with that.

“When I asked about “sustainable off-carriageway [cycle] routes’ Camille appeared embarrassed and asked where I’d seen this mentioned, as if it were a new idea.

“Yet there it is in black and white in your Q&A document of July 24, and in an email exchange with Katy Bennett the day before the meeting. I can only conclude that this idea has quietly been dropped as wishful thinking.

“Since there are no minutes of this meeting on your website I have taken the step of posting my own short record on local social media.

“This has drawn sceptical comments about your commitment to public cooperation and transparency, as prominently displayed on the front page of wisleyairfield.com.

“To sum up, I was left wondering why the meeting was held except as a PR tick-box formality. Since it failed to get beyond the generalities in your first newsletter in June, your talk of going into ‘Phase 3’ of public consultation next year sounded detached from reality.

“Presumably, your standard template says there must always be three phases, real or not. From a personal point of view, I don’t mind having wasted an evening. For you, it was a missed opportunity to display a less secretive manner and head off avoidable public opposition.

“If you find it so hard to articulate, even in the broadest or most provisional of terms, how the surrounding community will benefit from this project, it is never going to achieve the minimum level of public acquiescence it needs to get off the ground.”

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test 2 Responses to Letter: Wimpey’s ‘Phase 2 Discussion’ Was Merely a PR Tick-box Reality

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    November 14, 2020 at 9:26 am

    It is clear that Taylor Wimpey has taken no notice of the many, well-articulated, objections to their scheme, and does not have a clue about the required infrastructure. They should abandon this sorry business now, and save themselves further embarrassment.

    If they really want to know what residents think, they should read the comments on Nextdoor. Totally the opposite of the propaganda they are putting out.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    November 14, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Ouch. So it was a bit like attending a National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Only ‘on-message’ questions allowed.

    Why do developers pretend that local people have a vote in how they develop a site when there’s only one candidate in the election and the winner is predetermined?

    The site is one of the most constrained in the whole of England. There’s only one option on the menu: cram 2,000 houses onto about 60 hectares.

    Why pretend that there are alternatives when none are available?

    You can get everyone to take it seriously once; you can distract a lot of people twice. But after three and more times no one is fooled.

    There are have been three public inquiries about this site since 1979, many planning applications, and plenty of “consultations”.

    Watching yet another developer dress up the white elephant and make it dance to the band lost its fascination years ago.

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