Guildford Greenbelt Group claim the Conservatives “can’t be trusted” after breaking pledges to protect sites
Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) previously confirmed it would field candidates in the borough elections but it has now emerged the party will challenge both Mrs Milton and Mr Beresford.
The party was launched as a campaign group in December 2012, as an umbrella organisation for campaign groups forming to oppose proposals for thousands of new homes in the countryside.
A draft local plan for the borough included proposals to remove villages from the green belt and allow the development of new settlements on sites including the former Wisley Airfield and the university-owned Blackwell Farm.
In September Mrs Milton, following widespread protests by campaigners, told the Surrey Advertiser the draft plan lacked ‘vision and ambition’ , and called for a rethink.
The next month, following government guidance on developing in the green belt,council leader Stephen Mansbridge announced a further consultation after the election.
A Conservative insider told the Surrey Advertiser that Mr Beresford recently set up a meeting with Susan Parker and Helen Jefferies from the GGG to ask them not to put up candidates to stand against him and Guildford MP Anne Milton in the general election – or against Conservative candidates in the local elections.
Mr Beresford denied this, saying the meeting at the Holiday Inn was arranged to discuss the possibility of working together.
He said: “At this stage we are talking with the GGG but I did not ask them not to put up candidates.
“I am absolutely on side with them on the issue of the green belt and I have been violently opposed to the draft local plan in Guildford from the beginning, even before the GGG was conceived.
“My main concern is that we have a force in the local authority, as well as in parliament, to safe guard the green belt.
“We had a real discussion because I am worried that voters would be stuck between two stalls, both doing the same thing.
“To have somebody standing against me, who basically holds the same position as me on the green belt is a waste of time.
“I think it would be a complete waste of time fighting against me on the same issue, where we essentially agree.
“With regard to the local elections, all Conservative councillors will be mandated to protect the green belt, and at the moment we have two forces on the same side.”
Helen Jefferies, a GGG party member confirmed to the Surrey Advertiser that the group would field candidates against both Mr Beresford and Mrs Milton.
In a statement, Susan Parker, leader of GGG confirmed the meeting with Mr Beresford took place, and that the party refused to cooperate with the Conservatives.
She said: “Helen Jefferies and I did meet Sir Paul and this proposal was made.
“GGG have explained that we will definitely be putting forward candidates as borough councillors in the local elections for most rural wards and some urban ones.
“We are also considering candidates for the general election.
“GGG policy is that we will not enter into a coalition or pre election pact with any other parties.
“We consider that a vote for any of the existing parties, or for any councillor who voted for the existing plan, is to continue with the current proposals since there seems to be little appetite for wholesale reconsideration.
“The Conservatives promised to protect the green belt at the last election but broke that commitment with their draft plan in Guildford and they cannot be trusted.“
Until GGG started to question its validity, the local plan was supported unanimously by all parties.
“If the people of Guildford care about their environment they need to vote for GGG at the ballot box, because no other party can be trusted to protect our countryside.”
Mrs Milton was unavailable for comment this week.
The other candidates confirmed to be standing in the Guildford constituency are Kelly-Marie Blundell (Liberal Democrats), Richard Wilson (Labour), Harry Aldridge (UKIP) and John Morris (the Peace Party)