EFFRA share the discontentment over
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.”