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