Letter: Affordable Housing, Flooding and Wisley Airfield 

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Every farm that is built on means an incremental increase in our balance of payments deficit.

From Roland McKinney

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Assuming that readers are not interested in long detailed responses I have tried to keep responses to issues raised by others short, but feel that I must respond, so:

Affordable housing – Anyone who wishes to comment on this should at least be up to date on the issues faced by communities that need affordable housing. In many cases developers renege on their promises using “viability” studies.

Before the excitement of the election, the BBC had a series of programmes on this topic and national newspapers have produced many articles: see for example, “The truth about property developers: how they are exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities”

If you do an internet search you will find there are consultancies specialising in how to minimise commitments made, be they S106, CIL or affordable housing. Click here to see an example.

In short, the fine words about building a proportion of affordable homes in developers’ submissions or in the draft local plan are meaningless. Experience from other areas shows that these are not being delivered.

Flooding – Cllr Caroline Reeves suggested that Walnut Tree Close was unsuitable for housing due to flooding issues, and that the Environment Agency will not approve housing on any sites in this area. It is odd then that student residences have had planning permission. It is equally odd to think it acceptable for retail and commercial premises to flood. One has to wonder what their insurers think of this policy.

The simple truth is that it is possible to design housing suitable for areas that flood, as has been done in Weybridge – and further afield, in Germany and the Netherlands. Parking is always an issue and so ground floor accommodation could be devoted to car parking, designed to provide an urban flood plain, easy to clean following floods. Access to apartments above parking should include a route above the flood level.

My understanding of the Liberal Democrat policy is that housing should be built across the borough, proportionate to that which already exists. If this is indeed the case, then Guildford town must accept housing. Caroline Reeves mentioned housing in the North Street redevelopment, but this is largely about an expansion of retail, not about housing – in my opinion a mistake. At no time have I said that the town must take it all, or that Walnut Tree Close is the only possible area for housing.

Lord Rodgers has been very critical of policies which concentrate new housing outside existing towns, writing that this results in “new town blues, lifeless dormitories, hollowed-out towns and unnecessary encroachment on green sites”. In his articles he is clear that there are benefits from building within existing towns and I suggest that Caroline Reeves reads some of these, as well as reports such as “Vital Cities not Garden Cities”.

My opinion is that the Wey could provide a green parkway/corridor through the town, with pedestrian and cycle routes along the river, linking the eastern and western parts of the town, with housing behind this parkway that respects heritage assets like the cricket ground and Dapdune Wharf.

Guildford town has a terrible traffic problem and reducing the number of HGV movements along Walnut Tree Close would help to reduce congestion in this area. It’s a shame that Cllr Reeves appears not to share this vision for Guildford, one that was touched on by Allies and Morrison. There is no reason why a gradual redevelopment of Walnut Tree Close would not result in a wonderful asset for Guildford, whilst revitalising those parts of this area that are in sore need of it, as well as providing much needed starter homes within the town.

Wisley airfield – Finally, in a comment, Gordon Bridger called Wisley “abandoned”. He cannot have visited it as it is a working arable farm on good agricultural land. In an earlier article in The Guildford Dragon he detailed his concern about our national balance of payments deficit, writing that in the long term this deficit was not sustainable.

He needs to delve deeper into this. In the UK, our net trade in food and food products is such that we import about 40% of the food we consume. Last time I looked at this, our net deficit in food was about £18 billion (yes, billion) a year, a major contributor to our balance of payments deficit of about £100 billion a year.

Every farm that is built on means an incremental increase in our balance of payments deficit. Is this really what he wants? Mr Bridger should at least be aware of the effects of the policies he is promoting and the contradictions within them.