PRESS RELEASE Guildford Liberal Democrats Council Group
Immediate release 9 October 2014
The draft Local Plan: Lib Dems say ‘Let’s get it right the second time around’
On Tuesday evening, Guildford Borough Council debated a petition signed by 829 residents calling on the Borough Council ‘to reduce the proposals for additional housing on Green Belt land in the draft Local Plan for the villages of Send and Send Marsh/Burnt Common’. In his response, Guildford Borough Council’s Conservative Leader announced that there will be a second consultation on a revised draft Local Plan in June next year.
Liberal Democrat councillors are calling for two key changes to the Council’s approach to the Local Plan, to ensure the Council gets it right the second time around:
- The proposed housing target is way too high, and would lead to massive traffic congestion, environmental degradation, and unnecessary loss of precious Green Belt countryside. It can and must be reduced, by taking account of legitimate constraints on the borough’s capacity to accommodate more housing, particularly infrastructure and Green Belt.
- The Local Plan should be produced bottom-up: the Borough Council must consult and involve all borough councillors and the communities they represent in the preparation of the next draft.
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Caroline Reeves commented “Lib Dem councillors opposed the draft Local Plan going out to consultation in July because we felt it was not ready. There were too many flaws and questions marks over the housing target, whether or not the infrastructure could be delivered, and the fairness of a strategy which proposed disproportionate development in some villages and urban areas. Sadly we have been proved right, and the Conservative administration has now conceded that they got it wrong and they must look again at the work done by the consultants. They have a mountain to climb to regain the trust of residents, many of whom spent huge amounts of time studying the voluminous documents and giving the Council very detailed responses and criticisms of the draft during the first consultation.”
At the meeting of the Council’s Joint Scrutiny Committee in May, Lib Dem councillor Tony Philiips called for a review of the housing target involving the Joint Scrutiny Committee, and this was accepted by the Council’s Executive. That Joint Scrutiny meeting has yet to happen, and the Conservative Council Leader claims to be waiting for the joint SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Assessment) being carried out with Waverley and Woking to be published.
Speaking at Tuesday’s Council meeting, Effingham’s Lib Dem councillor Liz Hogger pointed out the report on the Send petition contained a statement that the joint SHMA ‘indicates a level of housing need that far exceeds levels previously identified.’ Cllr Hogger referred to Government Planning Policy Guidance published on 6 October, saying “We don’t have to take that raw SHMA housing need figure as our target in the Local Plan. We CAN take into account constraints such as green belt to restrict development. We CAN take into account other constraints such as infrastructure and the need to avoid increased traffic congestion.”
Cllr Hogger continued “This Council must get on urgently with the task of setting a sensible housing target that meets genuine community needs without destroying our environment. Let’s publish the Joint SHMA as soon as possible, let’s have a meeting of the Joint Scrutiny Committee, let’s have a thorough debate and get the housing target right. Only then can this Council get the Local Plan process back on track, preferably this time with the support of local people.”
Speaking after the Council meeting, Cllr Colin Cross, the newly elected Lib Dem Councillor for the Lovelace villages of Ripley, Ockham and Wisley, said
“It’s no exaggeration to say that this draft Local Plan has blighted many people’s lives across the borough, with worries about the impact of over-development on their local environment and the effect on property values. It seems extraordinary to me that the Conservative administration pushed this draft out to a formal public consultation with apparently little discussion with local borough councillors, or listening to Parish Councils or residents associations. Second time around, we need to see a real dialogue and understanding between the Borough Council and all our local communities.”
After the Council debate on the petition, the Conservatives pushed through a motion claiming that Send and Send Marsh have not been targeted for disproportionate expansion. Lib Dem councillors voted against, pointing out that the proposed increases of 22% and 27% for Send and Send Marsh were clearly disproportionate, and the Council should spell out their intention to review the housing target and take into account the constraints of infrastructure and Green Belt.
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