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GGG leader calls for Guildford Local Plan revision

Susan Parker, leader of GGG, challenged Guildford council Executive to fundamentally review its proposed Local Plan. "This council urgently needs a Local Plan which is fit for purpose. GGG has argued - since before the first draft of this plan came to consultation - there are fundamental problems here. 32,000 replies to the last consultation confirmed the people of Guildford agree with us and meant that the plan had to go back to consultation."

"The number went up from the previous consultation, not down.  Despite repeated consultations, and the consistent views of the local population, this council keeps bringing back broadly the same plan. Not surprisingly, the electorate continues to give the same answer."

"Since we don’t want another huge response to the consultation, with consequent delay, I would argue for much more wholesale revision.  I don’t think you will find that urging the population of Guildford to shut up and accept the plan will be successful. That tactic has never worked before.   If we get the same scale of response, we will not be able to submit this to the Inspector by December. Instead, we would need to make required revisions before the Inspector sees it.  I therefore urge this committee to require wholesale change in this draft before passing this to Full Council and then to the public."

"You will have all received the letter from Ockham Parish Council, among others.   This urges us as a council to propose deferring consideration of the Local Plan pending the revision of the NPPF and the impact of the recent Housing White Paper, and notes that other councils are doing so.  Basildon District Council today announced a six month delay in order to reduce its housing number radically, and consequent impact on the Green Belt.  I don’t want delay for its own sake – I want a short delay in order to achieve wholesale and radical revision to produce a good and workable Local plan that we can put out for consultation, that will get broad public support."

"In this draft we do have a small reduction in the housing number, from 13,860 to 12,426." 

"Note that the spread annual housing target – a critical number –is being left blank in the analysis on page 50 which is a serious gap in this document. We do know that the number is described as 654 homes per year – (by a simple division of 12,426 by 19). Note that this is smoke and mirrors – we have 17 years of the plan, not 19, to run. Even so this more than double our current allocation.   This lower number has been achieved by stripping out the extra “economic growth” factor from the much discredited SHMA, but takes no account of the other changes – not least the fact that in breaking news Theresa May has agreed to remove student numbers from the immigration statistics. In our university town this will have a huge impact on the SHMA, and on the consequent housing number.  IF that number comes down, then the impact on our countryside will be significantly reduced.  We need to see the impact of the housing white paper, probably change the consultants preparing the SHMA from pro-development G L Hearn, and calculate a number that meets our actual housing need, not some developer-led fantasy."

"There are other anomalies here which seem less than honest. There is the suggestion that the housing numbers for Blackwell Farm and Gosden Hill Farm will be “deferred” beyond the plan period.  We are therefore proposing to allocate countryside on the basis of anticipated need for a period beyond 2034. If we don’t know that we need it, don’t allocate it now.  Reduce the housing number to the net amount - or alternatively be honest, include the actual proposed housing number in this plan, and therefore take one of the strategic sites out of the plan.  Don’t play with smoke and mirrors to fudge the number and include as many sites as possible."

"In the ward of Send which I represent, there has been no improvement - all changes in the draft proposal have a severely negative impact. The Garlick’s Arch site and the Burnt Common site, taken together with the other proposals for further industrial and residential development, mean that there will be much more commercialisation and industrialisation. A rural village is being swallowed up by the conurbation, linking Guildford to Woking.   Gosden Hill Farm is just opposite the end of the Burnt Common Triangle. From Guildford to junction 10 of the M25 there will now be continuous development – echoed on the other side of the town by the conurbation stretching to Aldershot. We won’t get people to accept this by throwing the same document back at them repeatedly – we need to revise this plan. We need to go back to the drawing board – now or in six months."

"Finally, in terms of revision and going forward, might I note that the elephant in the room is that there is a pending General Election; that the consequences of that election are unknown – and that it might be prudent to wait, and adjust for the consequences of that election before we engage in the expense of another consultation."