First – Let’s Properly Analyse The Housing Problem

Dragon_blk_cropped_400x400Guildford Dragon Letter: With Comments

housingsectorFrom Adrian Atkinson

I tend to agree with some of David Smith’s comments in his letter:What Alternative Is There To Building More Homes?, especially the one about not arguing with facts. But where are the facts to justify the numbers of houses proposed [in the Draft Local Plan] and wholesale changes to the green belt in the borough.

The best place to start is to understand the true need and apply physical and legal constraints. Then we will all know the challenge we face. At the moment we don’t know the real nature of the problem to solve, let alone be in a position to provide the solutions. This process has been the wrong way round.

In the world of innovation and disruptive thinking (I guess we will need to do one or both of these in Guildford) you have to know “what is the job to be done”; what is/are the brilliant question/s we need to ask to come up with new thinking.

If this Draft Local Plan was presented before industry no agency would even start until it knew what the real task at hand was. They would start by asking “Why?” at least five times to every answer which was given to the simplest question/statement “We need more houses” Q “Why do we need more houses? A “The existing ones are too expensive” Q Why? A……? etc. Soon you end up in a much richer, motivating problem, pleading to be solved.

One thing is for sure we won’t solve the affordability issue of the area by building loads of houses unless we make Guildford Borough such an undesirable place to live in and locate businesses in, as a result. The size and importance of London, proximity to Heathrow and Gatwick, the influence of China, Malaysia, Korea, Russia etc on London property prices are all too powerful.

Can we imagine Steve Jobs tackling our “problem” with lets “build them higher” or “over there in that field because its owned by hedge funds and I know they want to make money?”

Guildford can think better than that but let’s all agree on what the real job to be done is first. Let’s hope this happens soon.

5 Responses to Letter: First – Let’s Properly Analyse The Housing Problem

  1. Neville BryanReply

    September 25, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    This is an excellent analysis from Adrian Atkinson, well said. He has got the five why analysis in there too – do I see a six sigma element creeping in?

    As a former project and programme manager the analysis is spot on. If you run a programme in the business world, or any other world for that matter, it will fail if it does not have clear objectives (and GBC’s Local Plan is a big project).

    Stage 1 – Define your problem. GBC did not – they simply defined the answer – build houses and grow, with no vision apart from use the available green belt and countryside, conveniently made available by amongst others the University of Surrey.

    Stage 2 – Measure your problem. GBC did not – they measured the things they thought that would help. Social housing lists, incorrect ONS data etc, and the land rush created by the SHLAA [Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment]. They ignored the things the public want to hear, like environment, transport and schools.

    Stage 3 – Analyse your problem. GBC gave us:
    – an infrastructure “wish list” rather then solid plan,
    – a late and hurried Sustainability Assessment and Habitats study,
    – a SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment] we still do know fully how was calculated, but based on a period of special conditions designed to maximise growth, and
    – the SHLAA analysis, not using the available land effectively, like leaving out the University campus, minimizing the opportunities in Walnut Tree Close (and whatever the number nobody denies this needs development), excluding windfalls etc. I could go on.

    Stage 4 – Improve… we cannot implement what they have not done parts 1, 2, and 3.

    Stage 5 – Control… enough said.

    Stage 6 – Report… for those who commented on the Draft Local Plan, then if this measures much more than the number of houses built, I was unable to find it…

    You never run a project without objectives, unless the first part of that plan is to define the objectives. However that is what GBC have just tried to do and it has failed, cost £500k (at least), and six months (at least).

    Perhaps GBC need a professional highly experienced and independent (and one who can control the GBC executive influence) program manager.

    Our new lead planner has is work cut out, but I really do wish him good luck, and say this to him:

    If you play fair with the people of Guildford, I will support you and so I believe will most of Guildford. We want a plan too, but a fair, and visionary one, with a logical and constrained build number, well designed infrastructure, etc. We do not want one which simply rips up our fields and green spaces (from Ash to Effingham, from the Hog’s Back to Town Centre etc).

    If this had been done right first time, most of us would not have needed to be involved now, and Guildford would not be slipping from the Rightmove list of the 12th best place to live in England to who knows where.

    The people I meet are angry, and frankly so am I. The battle I fear is not over. Please prove me wrong.

  2. Adrian AtkinsonReply

    September 26, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks Neville. What belt are you?

  3. Neville BryanReply

    September 26, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    In Guildford green belt! Everywhere else black…

  4. Adrian AtkinsonReply

    September 26, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Thought so re black and has to be green in our context. I’ve never been involved in sigma6 myself to get my dan.

  5. Jim AllenReply

    September 28, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I can but agree with the commentators above and the first question one must always ask is, “What do you want?”

    That was the very first question the Burpham Neighbourhood Forum asked and over 380 people took the trouble to tell us.

    It is a shame the Guildford planners didn’t do the public survey before the final report as opposed to reporting what the survey should say.

    I do hope that the question(s) is/are asked before the plan is re-written. It is such a simple process: a sheet of paper, a web site and a simple computer attached to the web is all that is needed. And perhaps a certified advanced user of MS Office.

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