Fringe Box



Council Leader Responds to the Raising of Guildford’s Local Plan at PMQs

Cllr Paul Spooner

Paul Spooner, leader of Guildford Borough Council responded this afternoon (December 21, 2017) to a question from the Guildford Dragon NEWS following the raising of Guildford’s Local Plan by Sir Paul Beresford, MP for Mole Valley, at prime minister’s question time in parliament yesterday.

The prime minister told the MP, who said he had been shocked that under the recently submitted Local Plan for Guildford, 57% of the new housing developments would be on green belt land, he was right to raise the concerns of his constituents and concluded: “I can assure my hon friend that he is absolutely right that we want to ensure that green belt is protected.”

Yesterday afternoon The Guildford Dragon NEWS asked: “Doesn’t the PM’s response indicate that the Guildford Local Plan might be out of step with the current thinking at the top of the Conservative party?” Cllr Spooner said: “The Guildford Local Plan has been developed by councillor and officer teams in partnership with statutory bodies including Surrey County Council, Highways England and the Environment Agency.

“It has evolved over a number of years, with valuable input from thousands of residents, community representatives, organisations and businesses to meet housing and other vital needs in our area.

“We will and have, as promised, focused on previously developed land to maximise the use of brownfield sites and continue to deliver our brownfield first policy. We will also continue to ensure the protection of the green belt that makes up 89% of our borough.

“This is why we have only allocated 1.5% of green belt land for development for clearly defined exceptional circumstances after considering all other options. As well as providing homes, including affordable ones, this small percentage will also include schools and other supporting infrastructure.

“All proposed sites must have a reasonable prospect of being delivered within the plan period and must remain in character and suitable for the area.  Residential brownfield development is also limited by the need to provide for new employment and retail needs, as well as protecting existing employment, community, retail and leisure uses.

“We have allocated brownfield sites at a density to help meet the urgent unmet need for all types of home, to make the most efficient use of sustainable opportunities and at the same time safeguard the character of existing residential areas and historic environments. We have fully examined all reasonable options and consideration of green belt release is justified and we do not consider that the proposed green belt boundary amendments harm the overall purposes of the green belt.

“Local people need a range of homes, a successful economy with great work prospects, good education choices, transport and other infrastructure, along with protected urban and rural heritage and countryside. As national planning guidance requires, the plan we submitted aims to balance these essential requirements for communities across our borough.

“A good plan is not simply about delivering housing numbers at any cost in the town centre, it’s about creating sustainable communities and well-designed places for everyone. The next independent examination stage is now in the hands of the planning inspectorate and they will consider the soundness of the plan and our proposals.”

Jonathan Bore has been announced as the planning inspector who will examine the submitted Local Plan for Guildford. Examining inspectors scrutinise submitted plans and make recommendations to the planning authority of changes that will facilitate its acceptance. Some of the examination will be carried out in a public hearing. Mr Bore is also conducting the examination of Waverley Borough Council’s plan.

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11 Responses to Council Leader Responds to the Raising of Guildford’s Local Plan at PMQs

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 21, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Cllr Spooner’s response just does not hold up to scrutiny and is not supported by policy. Who is he trying to kid and why?

  2. Diane Poole Reply

    December 22, 2017 at 7:32 am

    It’s not just what they allocate now from green belt; they are taking whole villages, like Effingham, out of it.

  3. Tony Edwards Reply

    December 22, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Cllr Spooner presents a feeble defence and fails to explain why a Brownfield Register was not presented to councillors before they voted on the Local Plan. The reality is that no such list existed until after the vote.

  4. Peter Shaw Reply

    December 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    “We will also continue to ensure the protection of the green belt that makes up 89% of our borough.”

    Then, next sentence:

    “This is why we have only allocated 1.5% of green belt land for development…”

    Did anyone else notice this massive contradiction?

    You can’t protect 89% if you then say your going to remove 1.5%. No wonder no one has any confidence in the council’s use of statistics used in the Local Plan and why we desperately want transparency and public scrutiny in the numbers.

    • John Perkins Reply

      December 22, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      It’s worse than that. The statement is qualified by “allocated for development”, so carefully avoids the fact that a far larger percentage will be taken out of the green belt by “insetting” 9ie removal of some villages from the green belt).

      • A Atkinson Reply

        December 28, 2017 at 10:52 pm

        Doesn’t the figure equate to nearly 7% removal when insetting of villages (taking them out of the green belt), infilling of others and wide-ranging boundary changes of green belt boundaries which will now be inset are taken into account? All of which are not specifically “allocated for development” in the plan but are removed from the green belt.

  5. Peter Bennett-Davies Reply

    December 24, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    John Perkins is absolutely right.

    The total area that is to be from the green belt by GBC, ie for development and village insetting, must be publicly declared.

    Most villages proposed for insetting have no proposed housing development whatsoever in the submitted Local Plan. What is the reasoned justification for insetting in those cases?

  6. David Roberts Reply

    December 28, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    57% of new development on green belt land. How does Cllr Spooner explain that?

  7. Valerie Thompson Reply

    December 30, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Cllr Spooner’s response is a typical example of Orwellian “newspeak” – a controlled language devised to ensure universal orthodoxy of ideology and politics among the populace.

    For example:

    “insetting” instead of “green belt grabbing”

    “Sustainable communities” instead of “enlarging existing, viable villages with an out-of-proportion number of new houses”

    “I can assure my hon friend that he is absolutely right that we want to ensure that green belt is protected,” instead of, “we are not actually going to do that”

    “All proposed sites….must remain in character and suitable for the area” – instead of, “We are proposing densities up to ten times higher than exist at present and we don’t care if the houses have no relevance to others in the immediate vicinity

    “..protected urban and rural heritage and countryside” – instead of “we have included very dense developments in close proximity to listed buildings”

    “Local people need…good education choices, transport, and other infrastructure” – even if we are proposing large developments, eg Wisley, which will not have a school or surgery until 500 houses are built and which has no sensible route for cyclists, buses or schoolchildren along the narrow country roads, which we cannot improve

  8. Bernard Parke Reply

    December 31, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Valerie Thompson makes a point.

    She refers to transport and infrastructure that are problems that should be addressed before any new building is ever considered. A point that I have raised many times in the past.

    I was told that we would have this problem solved by modal shift. (Is this another example of Orwellian newspeak?).

    I was told this meant that people in the future would be riding bikes and walking everywhere.

    How could this possibly be a solution to the heavy congestion problem caused by traffic passing through Guildford?

    • Jim Allen Reply

      January 1, 2018 at 9:42 am

      May I correct one word of Bernard Parke’s comment. The problem would be mitigated by modal shift But not “solved”. If it was going to be solved then the sewers would have to become self cleaning (increasing capacity by the removal of the existing blockages), rain fall would need to magically increase (without causing flooding) to allow for additional needs for water supply, and the numbers of people travelling would decrease at a rate greater then population increase.

      The whole concept is based on illogical and unproven political dogma, not reality.

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