A useful update for us all about Localism and the Threat to the Green Belt
The Government favours local decision making. Localism is good in theory but not if it is a political pretence at grass roots democracy and decisions actually fail to reflect the clearly expressed wishes of local people affected by them. Guildford knows very well – and 22,000 letters should have left them in do doubt – that their plans to destroy our Green Belt are totally contrary to the wishes of the electorate.
Surrey’s Green Belt is a precious possession to be preserved for our children and grandchildren. It should not be sacrificed by a group of remote councilors who are using suspect figures to justify their actions, paying scant attention to the wishes of the people who voted them into office – and behave as if they can do whatever they like in furtherance of some unapproved master plan destined to line the pockets of developers. Once they start to destroy the Green Belt by building large new housing estates it will be gone forever and never reinstated.
The Disconnect between Government Policy and Guildford Borough Council Policy
Why should local councilors get away with snubbing their noses at the Secretary of State for Local Government, Greg Clark MP, who when he was in the constituency in December said:“Our Green Belt is the envy of the world, the genius of our planning system. It must be preserved at all costs”.
Or our MP, Sir Paul Beresford, who in his latest newsletter said: “I, along with all Mole Valley Guildford Borough Council Conservative candidates, stood on a mandate of Green Belt protection and together we have every intention of delivering on this vital campaign promise”.
Both these sentiments are being directly contradicted by GBC. We cannot have the Government and the local MP saying one thing and GBC doing exactly the opposite. That is not democracy, it is duplicity.
Update on the Meeting at Lancaster Hall of 25th January
About 100 residents attended the recent meeting at Lancaster Hall, which was well organized by Send Parish Council and chaired skillfully by Janet Manktelow. The two Guildford Borough Councillors, Furniss and Billington (pictured below), who attended, either did not appear to have the required knowledge of the emerging Local Plan or were evasive in many of the answers they gave to detailed questions.
Cllr Richard Billington Cllr Matt Furniss
They did however advise that the new draft Local Plan is expected to be completed by March and will be available for a June “public consultation”. The first draft attracted 22,000 objections from the Borough, including several hundred from Send. Councillor Spooner the GBC leader who was supposed to come along and actually leads on the Local Plan did not turn up because he was in Dubai.
Councillor Paul Spooner
Despite the councilors claiming that the second draft would be different from the first, the changes cannot amount to very much because Guildford are intending to use what is known as Regulation 19 for the next stage. Unlike Regulation 18, which requires a full new consultation, the use of Regulation 19 means that they just have to publish their proposals with minor amendments, on the basis that they did the consultation the first time round. They can only do this if the proposals have not changed very much.
The Threat to our Village
This strongly suggests that what will shortly be published will once again try to take great areas of our village out of the Green Belt and build large numbers of houses on our fields and open spaces. Most residents accept that some new housing is needed but based on last time’s figures the numbers were excessive, not based on valid arithmetic or transparent analysis of demographic changes, and concentrated disproportionately on Send.
Make no mistake. Send Village is under threat as never before. In the last Local Plan draft GBC proposed to change the village fundamentally, by taking huge areas out of the Green Belt even along our precious River Wey corridor. This is contrary to the wishes of Send residents and not what any of us voted for. But it is getting the support of GBC councillors who are unfamiliar with Send, sit for other parts of the Borough and are hell bent on a growth agenda.
What are our own Councillors doing?
Our own councillors, Susan Parker and Mike Hurdle, have been fighting strenuously on our behalf but have faced scandalous attempts to exclude them from the local plan briefing meetings. This casts serious doubts over the legitimacy of GBC procedures and is an apparent breach of GBC fair democratic governance. Susan Parker has proposed that the Local Plan is subject to the review of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on which she sits, but this is being resisted by the Executive. Susan has also quite reasonably asked for the proposed housing need number to be scrutinised by this committee.
This is not the open local government we were promised by the new council Leader, Paul Spooner. This is decision-making behind closed doors.
So what can we do about it? We need all Send residents to make their views known at every opportunity:
Please object now to the proposed use of Regulation 19 which avoids consulting residents any more. Ask them why they are ignoring public opinion. Demand the full transparent calculations on housing need. Ask how they are applying constraints to the proposed housing numbers due to the presence of the Green Belt and inadequate infrastructure. Draw attention to the flood risks and land contamination in parts of Send. Emphasise the worsening traffic congestion on Send Road. Challenge them on unnecessary excessive growth. Tell them they have no mandate to destroy the Green Belt.
Please write to, or email, or tweet as many as possible of the following :
Councillor Spooner, Leader of Guildford Borough Council, GBC
Councillor Furniss , Lead Councillor for Infrastructure, GBC
Councillor Billington, Lead Councillor for Rural Affairs, GBC
and the other councilors.
Write to the local newspapers. Speak to the local radio.
Urge Greg Clark, the Secretary of State and Sir Paul Beresford MP to make GBC do what residents voted for not what developers want.
Please help to Save Send.