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Letter: Green Belt Protection And Town Regeneration Are Both Necessary

From David Roberts

I write to answer to Peter Knight’s question: “Why should we put up with that little type of development in isolation whilst those in [Lovelace Ward (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham)] have none? in his comment on Cllr Cross’s letter: The Council Paid No Heed to the Public Over the Local Plan.

Without new development in town of a sensible height and density (not skyscrapers, but higher and denser than now), the centre of Guildford will continue to rot and countryside will be ruined forever, since greenfield sites are cheaper to build on.

Towns are where people (especially the young) want to live and work, and where there is existing infrastructure. We’ve nothing to fear from well-planned urban buildings. We’ve a lot to fear from plastering the borough with a gulag of monster housing estates (alias “garden villages” etc) as Guildford Borough Council proposes.

How many times does it need spelling out that protecting the green belt and regenerating our towns are not alternative options but mutually supportive policies? Are we so blind that we can’t see how shabby Guildford has become, and that more retail instead of housing will only make this worse?

Are we too stupid to calculate the value of the economic, environmental, social, recreational and health services that our countryside provides to everyone, town and country dwellers alike?

Developing some brownfield sites in the green belt is quite acceptable. The council’s belated and woefully incomplete brownfield register identifies one or two near where I live. But putting 70% of new housing on green fields and 58% in the green belt, while removing two-thirds of the borough’s villages from it, is insanely disproportionate – as I trust the planning inspector will recognise as he examines the council’s submitted Local Plan.

There is another approach, called fair burden-sharing. Settlements should accommodate new development in proportion to their current population, on the basis of openly calculated housing need (not secret formulas and developers’ wishes as now).

Thus, for instance, Guildford town would accept 20 times more new housing than East Horsley. Parish councils could be challenged to suggest where their quota should go, in consultation with residents, with suitable budgetary and other incentives.

This wouldn’t solve everything: if anything, there would be more public argument, not less. But at least it would be an inclusive, democratic, bottom-up approach, engaging people at the grass-roots rather than talking down to them like Cllr Spooner’s very defensive response to criticism of his beloved Local Plan in Parliament.

In this, he asserts, without evidence, that “exceptional circumstances” have already been met for building on green fields. His sheds crocodile tears about sacrificing X per cent of green belt to development, like Jonathan Swift in his ‘Modest Proposal’ but less funny.

The percentage scarcely matters: the green belt is a solemn, public, national, inter-generational covenant to protect in perpetuity, enshrined in primary legislation. It is not a plaything for local bumbledom and developers.

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5 Responses to Letter: Green Belt Protection And Town Regeneration Are Both Necessary

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 10, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    While I whole heartedly support the promise of fair burden share throughout the borough, there has to come a time when an area can say enough is enough and this area is ‘at capacity’.

    In Burpham, the community has doubled in size since the intersection of the A3 bypass in 1980.

    Its infrastructure is running at capacity and for the past 10 years has had more garden grabbing than any other ward.

    Yes, balanced distribution, but with the caveat when capacity is reached put them somewhere else!

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 10, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    This is an excellent analysis. If only we had such perceptive on the council’s Executive, they would see this issue with equal clarity.

  3. David Smith Reply

    January 10, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Developments of sensible height and density will only deliver apartments in Guildford’s limited brownfield sites.

    The Surrey Advertiser last week listed 53 brownfield sites promoted by Guildford Borough Council. In Guildford town centre these included just seven sites that could be used for actual houses and not flats.

    Some of these sites are questionable. For example, Windy Ridge on Pewley Hill, identified as a site but with planning for two six-bedroom detached houses. Is this really satisfying Guildford’s housing need?

    So let’s not be fooled that Guildford’s housing need can be solved with the limited number of sites we have in the town.

    We need houses, families with children need houses and in the majority of cases these can only be delivered on the green belt.

    I have to say that I agree with Pete Knight, Guildford town centre can accommodate more, but we are not a dumping ground and I am very pleased to see that those making the decisions have realised this.

    The Local Plan has been submitted for consideration, let’s see what the planning inspectorate says.

  4. Colin Cross Reply

    January 11, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Let’s take a look at the information in the submitted Guildford Borough Council Local Plan, for the 15 years between 2019 and 2033. The plan is to build approx 12,600 homes across the borough.

    The breakdown of where these are going is as follows:

    Green belt Locations: Blackwell Farm 1,800, Wisley/Ockham 2,000, Gosden Hill 2,000, miscellaneous villages 2,186. Sub-total 65%.

    Slyfield project and Jacobs Well 1,000, Ash and Tongham areas 1,320, Guildford town centre and small urban sites 2,100, miscellaneous sites including traveller accommodation 200. Sub-total 35%.

    Note: only a maximum of 17% of homes built will be in Guildford town centre probably, less.

    The unavoidable conclusion is that GBC is making a clear decision to not apply the recommended constraints in the NPPF to reduce the target but to target existing borough areas in the north-east of the borough with over 50% of these homes.

    The fact that these wards are large but sparsely populated means that their populations will explode. For instance, Lovelace has just over 2,000 now but will go to in excess of 7,000, with the Horsleys, Clandons and Send going in a similar direction.

    The reality in these outlying areas is that they are rural, with limited infrastructures to match and no amount of hot air and promises will change that fact.

    The disproportionate spread of the housing growth shown above will therefore ultimately be proven unworkable and it will be, sadly, [lead] back to the drawing board.

  5. Peta Malthouse Reply

    January 14, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    How is it thought to be a good use of the site at Pewley Hill to put two six-bedroomed homes on it?

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