Local Plan Consultation Turmoil – Council Announces New Deadline For Comments

Guildford Borough Council Announces New Deadline For Comments on Local Plan Consultation

Dragon_blk_cropped_400x400

The Guildford Dragon News reports:

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has apologised for continued confusion over the Draft Local Plan consultation and extended the deadline to 23.59 hours this Friday 26 September.

An earlier apology following a complaint from the chair of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), Susan Parker had asked anyone affected to contact the council.

But in a dramatic turn at 6.44pm it was left to a council spokesperson to announce: “We can reassure everyone that all comments submitted to the Draft Local Plan consultation up until 23:59 on Monday 22 September were received. They are in our system and will be fully considered.

“Because of some unfortunate confusion regarding automated email replies, we will continue to accept submissions up until 23:59 on Friday 26 September.

“We are very sorry for any confusion or concerns caused by this error.”

Mrs Parker, who has led the GGG since it’s formation earlier this year, said of the situation last night (September 22): “This is an outrage. GBC announced that the consultation would be open until midnight.

“I have been contacted by someone who was relying on being able to send an email this evening , sent it at around 10pm, and received an email at 10.14pm(22.14) telling him that the consultation was now closed – almost two hours before it was due to close.  Another correspondent confirmed that her response was rejected at 23.21pm.

“No one knows how many people have had their responses rejected.  Are these replies stored? It would seem not. Whatever people have to say, they have a right to believe that a deadline will not be changed unilaterally to prevent them saying it.  If a time is publicised, and confirmed, then that time muststand…

“The council needs to re-open the consultation for at least a day, with wide publicity, in order to ensure that all rejected responses are now taken on board.

“I have written to all four MPs [those whose constituencies partly fall within the GBC area] this evening asking them to help with this, urgently.  Michael Gove has sent a message telling me to send it to an address that then bounces.  Jonathan Lord has said an automated message that he will try to respond in 10 working days. I am waiting for the responses from Anne Milton and Paul Beresford.”

The complaint follows confusion about the deadline for responses. Following an enquiry yesterday morning, from The Guildford Dragon NEWS, the council issued a press release stating the the consultation ended at 5pm and the Swan Lane shop closed at 4pm. At 4.30pm Susan Parker noticed the stated time in the article and contacted the council as the time stated contradicted an earlier publicised time of 2359hrs for emailed submissions.

Cllr Spooner, lead councillor for licensing and governance

Cllr Paul Spooner, (Con, South Ash & Tongham) lead councillor for governance, confirmed that responses would be accepted until 2359hrs and the council’s PR team issued a correction. But Susan Parker subsequently received several reports of responses being rejected by email, accompanying messages stating that the consultation had closed.

Roland McKinney in a comment sent to The Dragon today (September 23) wrote: “I emailed a submission yesterday at 5.13 pm which was rejected.  Following advice from Cllr Spooner I resent this morning at 10.10 am.  Rejected.

“What a shower of incompetents.  And these people are in charge of the Local Plan, and Guildford’s future.  I wouldn’t let them walk a dog.”

Cllr Spooner was invited to comment earlier today but no comment has so far been received.

4 Responses to Local Plan Consultation Turmoil – Council Announces New Deadline For Comments

  1. Michael BrutonReply

    September 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Nothing surprises me nowadays about Tory Guildford Borough Council. We have loads of highly/over paid staff running the council and they cannot even get the basics right.

    How do we now know what they do with our Local Plan submissions generally? Do they collate them, acknowledge all of them or maybe lose a few? How do we know what we submit will actually reach the planning inspector?

    Can we now expect another odd press release from Cllr Mansbridge, asking us “Why complain if you are not a victim?”

  2. Roland McKinneyReply

    September 23, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Update at 1753hrs.

    Following the BBC Drive radio announcement and the statement referred to above, I resubmitted – and received by return the same rejection email.

    If you were to write a farce featuring this level of incompetence everyone would laugh and thank heavens it wasn’t true. But this is true, it is what is happening here in Guildford Borough.

    How can anyone have any confidence in the future of Guildford with this shower in charge?

  3. Helen JefferiesReply

    September 23, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    These guys couldn’t organise the “proverbial” in a brewery.

    It is time that they fell on their swords or perhaps they’d rather meet their fate at the ballot box.

    At some point in time someone will realise how toxic this is to the Tory vote. The question is will this be before it’s too late?

    Time for a vote of no confidence in whoever is running the place.

  4. George PotterReply

    September 23, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    In fairness, it’s easy to understand someone setting up the auto-reply for email submissions incorrectly by mistake.

    What’s not so easy to understand is why no one double checked it and why it wasn’t fixed properly after it was brought to the council’s attention.