Widespread Discontentment Over Local Plan – Say Parish Councils in Guildford Dragon

EFFRA share the discontentment over

Local Plan

Parish Council Forum Survey

95 per cent of Guildford parish councils and residents associations that responded to a survey say they can see no benefit for their parish or area in the Draft Local Plan.

The damning results come from a survey conducted by the Guildford Parish Forum amongst Parish Councils in the Guildford Borough area. 19 of the 26 parish councils or associations contacted responded.

Other findings were:

  • No-one felt that Guildford Borough Council (GBC) was reacting well to public opinion
  • 89 per cent of parishes said the [Local Plan] documentation is too complicated
  • 89 per cent would prefer to see decisions made by an elected committee rather than Executive committee
  • 74 per cent were dissatisfied with levels of notice given for feedback 
  • 54 per cent thought their councillor did not represent the majority view of their residents
  • 17 out of 19 respondents felt that GBC information lacked complete impartiality

Fiona Curtis, chair of the forum said: “In an effort to gain an overview of opinion of the Local Plan for those outside the town of Guildford, I conducted a short survey which went to 20 out of 22 Parish Councils. The Parish Councils of Puttenham and Tongham did not have listed email addresses.

“Parish Councils were also invited to forward the survey to any Residents Associations in their Parish. 13 Parish Councils responded, and all six of the Residents Associations contacted.

“I hope the results will be useful. The level of concern about the Draft Plan as it is today will hopefully not be underestimated. Feedback from meetings and other forums indicates lack of ‘buy-in’ or local support on some scale.

“The reasons have yet to be fully established  but it is clear that the majority are unhappy with the overriding premise of the plan i.e. economic growth rather than meeting local need and the contortions of evidence used to fulfil criteria to enable attainment of these goals.

“The NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] is open to interpretation and Guildford’s exposition is at odds with ministerial advice on green belt as well as planning by appeal, which GBC widely presents as a significant and real threat whilst ministerial advice suggests a reality of less than one per cent of appeals are approved this way?

“This smoke and mirrors approach to empowering the community is clearly not working and has resulted in wide spread dissatisfaction in the process and loss of trust in the individuals attempting to promote it. The discontentment is felt by residents, Parish Councils, and local groups including town based groups with whom we intend to share information.

“To start the process with the warning, ‘It’s not whether we will build but where we will build that you have a say in,’ was not a great start. Similar statements were also recently made in the press.

“In my experience Parish Councils are not prone to over-reaction, and I hope the results of this introductory survey will encourage you all to consider how community opinion can be used constructively to achieve improvements with consent rather than dissent.”

The survey results have been published as the consultation period on the Draft Local Plan draws to a close. Questionnaires have to be returned and comments made to GBC by September 22nd. Community meetings across the borough continue as the deadline approaches.

Leaders of all three political groups at Millmead were invited to comment. Only Angela Gunning from the Labour group responded to say: “It is disappointing to see such a negative result, but I wonder how truly representative of overall residents’ opinion this survey is. True there is a lot of documentation as the basis for the Local Plan, but the evidence base has to be comprehensive, and so needs time and perseverance to understand.

“The decision to put the draft plan out for consultation was made by full council, and prior to that it had been through the joint scrutiny committee. What in the opinion of the respondents would constitute a ‘benefit’ to their parish? Positive ideas should be sent to GBC as part of the consultation.”

Comments


  • Jim Allen
    Reply

    September 8, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I can but agree with this forum’s survey findings. As the song says ‘there are more questions than answers’.

    Most of the councillors don’t understand what they were voting for and if they read all the polices they would never have agreed to go to public consultation, especially if they had read and understood the full text of policy 17.

  • Clare McCannReply

    September 8, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I certainly agree with those who are unhappy about the process.

    The consultation I went to at Lancaster Hall, Send felt like a farce. The impression was that it was all a done deal and that they were going through the motions. I have heard nothing from our councillors.

  • Graham MooreReply

    September 9, 2014 at 11:01 am

    This is a very valuable survey and reflects the frustration which many residents feel for the draft plan and so-called “consultation” process.

    The key question is not whether we should build more houses, but how many should be built. The Draft Local Plan has arrived at a figure which is double the figure in the last plan. It claims that this is “evidence based”, but refuses to disclose what this evidence is, even after a Freedom of Information request. It alleges that “we” need 650 new homes per annum to be built over the next 20 years, but fails to define who “we” are. How much is for local “need”? How much for the need of people outside the borough? The latter is of course an infinite number depending on the supply and price of the homes to be built.

    Moreover there is no acceptance in the plan that the number of houses that should be built must take into account the constraints imposed by geography and the practicalities of developing the local infrastructure.

    One cannot avoid the impression that the plan has been launched on a trajectory, which ignores the principles of “localism” and the requirement for genuine consultation.

  • Colin CrossReply

    September 9, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Clare McCann is spot on with her observations.

    I went to a similar consultation forum for parish councils but walked out after 30 minutes as it was a charade and I was getting too angry for my own good.

    The parish councils are much closer to local opinion in rural Guildford than Labour could ever hope to be, as proved by their leader’s ill-judged support for the plan.

  • Ben PatonReply

    September 9, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Cllr Gunning’s comments are so out of touch she must have a response:

    1. How truly representative of residents’ opinion is this survey? Parish Councils have been with us for a thousand years. Their members are elected. They live in the places they represent.

    Instead of taking them at their word, Cllr Gunning appears to prefer the opinion of here-today-and-gone-tomorrow ‘consultants’ – the sort of people Chancellor Lawson once derided as ‘teenage scribblers’. What do these consultants know? Have they any local knowledge? Not to judge by the superficial and error prone descriptions they set out in the Settlement Hierarchy.

    2. Cllr Gunning writes that ‘the evidence base has to be comprehensive’ as if that were some sort of excuse. Yes it has to be comprehensive and it is not. The Sustainability Assessment was not produced before the consultation began. A first draft has been produced part way through the process. It is wholly inadequate as evidence. It even states that there is not much story to tell – because GBC has done next to nothing on this issue.

    The Heritage Assessments have not been completed. I could cite other examples. What about infrastructure such as schools and roads? Where are the road transport studies? Has Cllr Gunning seen something we haven’t?

    ‘Comprehensive’? She must be joking. And apart from comprehensive it should be intelligible, fair and disinterested. It is blatantly none of these things. No “exceptional circumstances” for building on the green belt have been set out, for example. The Draft local Plan therefore advocates a course of action which it has not justified with legal argument or relevant evidence and as such will be contrary to the NPPF and illegal.

    How extremely disappointing that Cllrs have such a poor grasp of the technical details of the draft plan, of the evidence base and of the views of the people who live here.

    3. Perhaps Cllr Gunning can explain why GBC has not responded to my FOI request to receive a copy of its GL Hearn population projections? How accountable, open and honest is that? This is a basic piece of work and GBC has no business keeping it a secret.

    Cllr Gunning should be demanding that she can see it. It is after all basic and essential evidence. And if it is good enough for her to see then all of her constituents should be able to see it too. The NPPF says that the plan should be evidence based. Let’s see the evidence please.

    Ben Paton is the Conservative candidate for Lovelace ward in the forthcoming borough council by-election.