Ben Paton writes about Local Plan in Dragon News – with interesting follow-up comments

Is The Draft Local Plan Questionnaire A Disgrace?

Draft_Local_Plan_Page 1From Ben Paton

The Dragon Says article Silly Questions? Don’t Worry – Tell the Council Your Views Anyway is the voice of common sense.

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) should take a leaf from the medical profession’s book. Before a patient is invited to take a drug or undergo a surgical operation he should be in a position to give “informed consent”.

The doctor (GBC) has a duty to translate technical science into terms the patient (the public) can understand and take a view on.

Has the doctor explained what he is going to do to the patient? Or has he said, in effect, ‘this is going to hurt but trust me, it is necessary?’

When a patient asks, ‘What is diabetes?’, he does not deserve an answer which requires a medical dictionary and specialist training to understand.

This doctor has been telling thousands of citizens for decades that they can’t develop their properties because it affects the “openness of the green belt”. Now when the doctor wants to put whole new towns on the green belt he does not even come up with the required “exceptional circumstances” to justify what he wants to do.

GBC has not properly informed the public. Burying information within hundreds and hundreds of pages is not the the same thing. The people who have bothered to read the hundreds of pages tell us that the “evidence” is riddled with problems.

GBC’s reaction is to treat these people as trouble makers who must be circumvented. It seeks to legitimise what it is doing by claiming ‘force majeure’, by informal ‘public engagement’ and by seeking approbation from people who are not in a position to give ‘informed’ consent because they have never read even a fraction of the ‘evidence’.

Is this open, accountable, and transparent? Or is it a disgrace?

Ben Paton is a member of the Wisley Action Group (WAG)

3 Responses to Letter: Is The Draft Local Plan Questionnaire A Disgrace?

  1. Jim AllenReply

    August 13, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    While Mr Paton an I cross swords on the subject sometimes, I must concede his analogy is 95 per cent correct, save for omitting to say that the diabetes patient has now got circulation problems too (the law allows change of the green belt during local plan ‘time’)and only at that time. So something has fundamentally changed. – but was in the statue for some many years since the inception of Local Plans (though may be wrong)

    As for analogies I would prefer the Yes Minister version, the one where Sir Humphrey provides a stack of papers with the important one to be signed, at the bottom. The important paper in our case is the SHMA {Strategic Housing Market Assessment] which they have attempted to bury.

    And yes there are errors and yes the questionaire took me one hour fifty minutes to complete, with all the documents on a double screen in front of me.

    So yes, it is a farce – but have you seen the Waverley figures? They are double what they had in their plan last year. Another 17,000 cars to feed into the Guildford road network

    I think some of us from across the whole area should get together and knock on the door of No 10, not GBC at Millmead. How can we write neighbourhood plans fit for the specific areas of the plan, if five tiers higher the process is being undermind by irrational and illogical thinking?

  2. Julian LyonReply

    August 13, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Neither the consultation nor the questionnaire is a disgrace (however much we might have liked it to be different). Ignoring the responses and any inaccuracies highlighted by consultees would be. This will be the true test.

    Everyone with a view, whether they have read the thousands of pages or not, should take the opportunity to respond.

  3. Peta MalthouseReply

    August 14, 2014 at 10:49 am

    The green belt boundaries can be changed during the Local Plan process but my understanding is that the “exceptional” test still has to be applied.

    Under the Guildford proposals ‘new greenbelt’ will be created in Ash in or near Cllr Manbridge’s constituency’ whilst existing green belt along the A323 corridor will be sacrificed in order to bring 7000 more cars along the A323 which struggles now.

    Yet approximately 40 per cent of new housing is proposed to go along that corridor from the Hog’s Back at Blackwell Farm through Worplesdon and Normandy. And please don’t point to the A31, my village gets gridlocked when an accident occurs on that road.

    The High Court ruled recently that new green belt cannot be created as part of the process yet GBC does it. Prior to this plan if you lived in Ash you knew you were in an area outside the green belt and therefore subject to some more building, even if on green field sites. I will argue my own corner but the devil is in the detail and self interest is clear as a bell.