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Opinion: Planning Inspector’s Questions Don’t Surprise Me

By John Rigg

Director of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG)

The questions posed by Jonathan Bore, the planning inspector who is examining the borough council’s Local Plan, should come as no surprise. They certainly don’t surprise me or my colleagues at Guildford Vision Group.

In fact, we are gratified that he has asked the pertinent questions which we have been trying to get the council to answer for some time now.

GVG has always proposed a major increase in housing in the town centre on brownfield sites as part of its masterplan to reinvigorate Guildford, centred on an open riverside.

We believe the housing is deliverable as required within the plan period. But this increase in housing should also be matched by major infrastructure upgrades to allow the town to operate efficiently, make the town more pedestrian-friendly, safer and less polluted.

So the GVG plan includes a school, health centre and much-improved public realm; all vital elements to meet the needs of an increasing population not just confined to the town centre. Our published plan addresses all these issues; increasing the population in the town centre will potentially avoid having to develop sensitive green field sites.

Like GVG, the inspector has also questioned the need for the massive retail uplift at North Street in the town centre, given the changing nature of retail It is vital Guildford town centre has a proper balance of retail, commercial, housing and other town centre uses. We want a balanced town centre, attractive to residents and visitors alike, that respects its heritage assets.

GVG hopes the examination provides a productive forum for all parties and stakeholders to examine the future of the town centre. The kind of town centre we need to create to meet the challenges of the next 100 years can only be achieved by a proper, comprehensive adopted masterplan and implemented through leadership committed to making a positive difference

We remain willing and able to contribute to securing the right Local Plan importantly one capable of implementation if only we are allowed.

See also: Local Plan Inspector ‘Very Concerned’ with ‘Unacceptable’ Speed of Housing Development and Council Leader Says Questions from Planning Inspector are ‘Another Step Forward’

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6 Responses to Opinion: Planning Inspector’s Questions Don’t Surprise Me

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    March 27, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    “We remain willing and able to contribute to securing the right Local Plan importantly one capable of implementation if only we are allowed.”

    Yet over a year after its launch, GVG claims to have published its plans and ideas (a 105 page document). It now seems this was restricted to six hard copies given to GBC.

    It’s still not available as an electronic document on your website (as are most GBC documents) and any personal requests are rejected. Is that “willing and able”?

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    March 28, 2018 at 11:40 am

    The inspector’s questions also require GBC to answer why it is proposing so much development on green belt land and removing villages from the green belt by “insetting,” in order to impose huge numbers of houses in rural areas. He is asking GBC to justify this action as they have not followed NPPF rules nor explained what are the exceptional circumstances for removing green belt.

    Interestingly, he is also questioning why it is justifiable to create more, new green belt in the areas around Ash (Cllr Spooner’s district).

    Many of the inspector’s questions, as John Rigg says, are those the public and GGG councillors have been asking for the last two years, which GBC has consistently refused to answer.

    • John Perkins Reply

      March 28, 2018 at 6:39 pm

      One “very special circumstance” as defined by at least two govt. inspectors is the claim that there is a need for new houses. It’s so often repeated it must be true even if nobody is allowed to see how it was calculated.

  3. Alan Robertson Reply

    March 29, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    The council’s Planning Department and those councillors involved with planning decisions are completely dysfunctional, for reasons about which we can only speculate.

    Developers are granted more support and credibility than concerned local residents. Until we have independent councillors, with proven integrity, the threat to Guildford and its surrounding environment will continue unabated.

  4. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 30, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Councillors tend to be voted into office solely on party colours and not on their abilities to do the job.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    March 31, 2018 at 8:45 am

    The Local Plan is doubly flawed. It does not even meet the criteria that are supposed to define it. It is not sustainable, achievable or deliverable.

    But worse still the premise upon which government housing policy is based, that there’s a general shortage of housing is just plain wrong.

    Far from being a ‘good’ thing, promoting excessive house building just imposes environmental costs on residents in the form of ever increasing journey times, ever more air and noise pollution and lower quality of life.

    A blog on the Resolution Foundation website concludes: “It’s true that greater supply would reduce rents and prices marginally. But most academic work on the subject tells us that no plausible amount of building will have a material impact on either problem. Oversimplifying our housing problems is leading policymakers down a blind alley – only when we grasp the real causes will we have a chance of solving the housing crises.”

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