Face up to the Local Plan

It doesn’t seem like only mid-August when a mountain of draft Local Plan materials were published by Guildford Borough Council [GBC] and made available to residents.  Many man-hours of reading and digesting hundreds of pages and tens of thousands of words were in prospect and I wasn’t disappointed.

Then the next moment, the draft documents were superceded by the official ones.  Formats were changed, content removed and rewritten – not for the faint-hearted.  Then there was the questionnaire.  Forty-one questions, twenty-eight of which offer a multi-choice battery, all to be cross-referred to the “evidence” documents, all twenty seven of them.  How was a simple resident who only wanted a quiet life in a pleasant Surrey village in the Green Belt supposed to cope with this, especially when the strategy I’m supposed to consult on threatens to double the size of my village and make it a building site for the next ten years?

According to the Department of Communities and Local Government [DCLG] its “statutory consultation” and us residents have been given 8 weeks to respond by the the Local Planning Authority [LPA].  Anyone would think GBC didn’t wan’t me to reply, just let it roll over me, let the developers they’ve been talking to behind closed doors for the last 5 years do it to me and my fellow residents.

Let’s be polite, its the English way.  They’ve had their chance, now I have mine and so do all my neighbours.  Bring it on.

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9 thoughts on “Face up to the Local Plan

  1. I would love a really simple questionnaire which would easily debunk all the “assumptions” published which have resulted in Normandy being high on the list of appropriate villages for developement. A handful of questions to the current residents would highlight the insufficient infrastructure as follows, I use myself, and my family of four as a prime example: Where do you work: Windsor, accessibly only by car via A31/A331/M3 etc…… Where do you do your main food shop: Godalming, by car…… Where do you pick up top ups: Fairlands or COOP, by car…. where do you go to school, 1 goes to Guildford by Train (dropped off by car), 1 goes to Guildford by car. Do you use any of the village facilities: What? Where? No! What do you do for leisure: Go into Guildford, by car, or walk the dog (on foot!).

  2. I look forward to seeing the Parish Council’s draft response to the GBC consultation. No doubt this will rectify some of the misleading impressions created by its response to the September 2011 GBC questionnaire, which others have pointed out on this site. Of particular significance is the fact that GBC is now able to claim that “the local community consider Flexford to be a part of Normandy”, which means (a) that we are lumped together for ratings purposes and thereby attract a higher score (i.e. more appropriate for development) and (b) that a rationale is provided for ‘infilling’ once we are removed from the Green Belt. The GBC document also significantly exaggerates the level of community cohesiveness and our connectedness with the outside world other than by private car.

    If this seems complicated (as it did to me when I started looking at this) I suggest looking at a very good site maintained by the “Guildford Residents Associations” or GRA for short at: http://www.guildfordresidents.co.uk/what-is-the-local-plan/ (NB this is not just for people from Guildford town but includes surrounding villages as well.) This explains in simple language the whole consultation process and makes it easy to access the key documents. Links are included to the two documents “Guildford Borough Settlement Hierarchy” and “Guildford Borough Settlement profiles” that show how Normandy/Flexford has come to be misrepresented as a “large village” and is now clearly GBC’s prime candidate for turning into a new urban settlement (reminder: an extra ca. 750 houses in phase 1 with a possible 2,700 down the line…) These two documents are also both on the DVD that GBC has helpfully made available or can be downloaded here: http://www.guildford.gov.uk/settlementhierarchy

    The flyer attached to NAG’s latest Newsletter (#44) warning of the dangers for Normandy residents of GBC’s proposals, including a helpful map, is available for download from: https://t.co/l7eZdo9FCs Here you can also find the simple template that the members of the GRA are suggesting should inform our responses to the consultation. Their campaign platform is very clear and simple and one on which the residents of Greater Normandy (as we should perhaps start calling it!) would I imagine be happy to stand. Remember also that we can make our views known simply by writing to the Council; it is not necessary to fill out the questionnaire if that is too daunting.

    Incidentally, shouldn’t NAG/Normandy Parish Council now join the 26 other community associations and 4 Parish Councils in Guildford Borough who have come together to form a united front by creating the GRA? “United we stand; divided we fall.”

  3. Guildford Borough Council are retaining yet another group of consultants to update the Strategic Housing Market Assessment [SHMA] evidence document (dated 2009) as it is now regarded out of date. However, the new updated report will only be available in December 2013, outside the consultation period. It will be published but we won’t have a chance to attenuate its influence. Nice for GBC officers and members when they come to decide who gets the housing and how much but too late for us to comment.

  4. It is important that as many people as possible respond to the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) consultation on the Local Plan. As has been pointed out, this is a somewhat daunting task given the size of the consultation document, the length of the questionnaire, and the complexity of some of the issues. However (a) it is possible for people to request a hard copy of the questionnaire, by writing to: Planning Policy, Guildford Borough Council Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford, GU2 4BB, and (b) it is also possible just to send in a letter recording ones views. The deadline is 29 November.

    Put simply, the plan for Normandy revealed by the consultation document is to turn it into a satellite/dormitory town for Guildford. This is to be achieved by taking it out of the Green Belt (on the grounds that it is a “large village” that is not sufficiently “open” in character to make it worth preserving as a contributor to the openness of the Green Belt itself – see below); by building during the first phase an extra ca.750 dwellings (on top of the existing total for all of Normandy of only ca. 1300) on plots that have been identified purely by asking landowners if they would be willing to sell – i.e. with absolutely no consideration for the aesthetic value of the sites; and by anticipating a further 2,700 (not a misprint) dwellings “between Normandy and Flexford” down the line. This is serious stuff.

    The plan can be challenged on a number of grounds, some of which are technical, and the most promising of which may be the statement in para 86 of the National Planning Policy Framework that: “If it is necessary to prevent development in a village primarily because of the important contribution which the open character of the village makes to the openness of the Green Belt, the village should be included in the Green Belt.” We all know that Normandy is not a “large village” but rather a collection of smaller settlements, and that it is precisely the open spaces between them that gives the area its Green Belt charm. (However I am not an expert on planning matters and would welcome views from those who are.)

    Other arguments can be made on the basis that our road and other infrastructure is already under severe strain and that it is hard to see how it could keep up with development on this scale. We also know that if this is allowed to happen it will not be delivered in a planned, coherent, fashion but will instead be driven by purely commercial considerations, because that is the way the planning system works in this country. Developers will prioritise the land that delivers the greatest return for them, not that which is most worthy of development. Therefore it is really important to make our opposition to these plans known at an early stage, before GBC’s ideas gather momentum.

    GBC’s proposals will change the character of our village fundamentally and irreversibly. As my friend and neighbour Phelim Brady has put it, it will be like removing all the ‘punctuation marks’ that give Normandy its special character. If you are happy to see this happen – do nothing! If you care about Normandy, please get stuck in and make your views known!

  5. • Education.
    o I believe that the nearest secondary school is Ash Manor School. This is more than 1km from the village boundary and should therefore be discounted from Normandy’s score for the reason stated in the paragraph at the bottom of page 25 of Settlement Hierarchy.
    o Availability of places at Wyke Primary school has been discounted by the study. (Bottom of page 25 of Settlement Hierarchy).
    • Public transport.
    o Bus. 2 services run through Normandy, 20 and 520. Service 20 runs along the main road, service 520 runs via Westwood Lane and Glaziers Lane. Service 20 could be scored by the Settlement Hierarchy criteria as 4, service 520 as 1. Using the tool at the website Freemaptools, it is my view that a significant part of the village population is more than 1km away from the bus stop on the main road and therefore this might call in to question the validity of the given score of 4. It would be interesting to get a more precise percentage figure on this.
    o Rail. Using the same tool above, Wanborough station is more than 1 km away from the ‘nearest local centre’, as depicted on the maps in the Normandy Sustainability Assessment Walking Distances Plan (taken as the doctor’s surgery/village hall). Again it would be good to get a more precise figure on how much of the village populous is more than 1km away from the station, with particular relevance to those less able to walk.
    • Flooding.
    o The NPC response regarding flooding on page 100 of the Settlement Hierarchy document is inaccurate and needs to be updated. Reference to the Normandy Flood Forum should be made.

  6. Having read much of Guildford Borough Council’s Local Plan report, as well as many of the supporting documents available on disc, there would appear to be a number of very serious inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

    In particular, the relatively high score given to Normandy via the council’s so-called ‘sustainability data’ – within its “Settlement hierarchy” documents – would seem to suggest the village is among the most appropriate for development. However, the scoring system glosses over the fact the village lacks countless basic amenities such as a food/convenience store, baker, butcher, greengrocer, pub, newsagent, bank/cash point, library, Post Office, café, etc, etc.

    Furthermore, there are fundamental flaws in the criteria used by the council in determining that Normandy scores a total of 26 points, ranking it fifth in the overall table of communities. For example…

    The council acknowledges (in its Settlement profiles) that Normandy offers “limited employment opportunities within the settlements and residents have to travel to find work”. However, Normandy scores “3” for ‘wider employment market’ while so many other communities (among them Puttenham, Pirbright, Wanborough, Albury, Compton, East Clandon, Gomsall, Send and Shere) score “0”. A number of these other communities border Normandy or are arguably much nearer to key centres of employment such as Guildford and Woking.

    It’s also strange that Normandy scores “1” for having a village pub when no such facility exists.

    According to the sustainability scoring, Normandy scores “2” for having a secondary school… which doesn’t exist. If this figure purely reflects the fact a school is within driving distance, then surely similar values should be given to countless other communities currently scoring “0”. In addition, the “1” given to Normandy for its primary school overlooks the fact the village school is already at capacity – at least judging by the experiences of some recent arrivals in the village who were told there were no places. Normandy’s scoring should not be influenced by primary school places that don’t exist.

    The criteria used in relation to Normandy’s railway station, which gives the village a huge “5” weighting in the council’s sustainability scoring, is also flawed by its over-simplicity. Normandy DOES have a station within its boundaries but it is not on a main line and has an infrequent service. Furthermore, the council gives neighbouring Wanborough “0” for a station when Normandy’s station is actually named “Wanborough”, and lies considerably closer to Wanborough’s border than to many, many homes in Normandy.

    By addressing these various inaccuracies or inconsistencies, Normandy’s score would fall instantly by six or seven points, meaning its overall ranking drops from fifth to 16th or 17th. If the highly simplistic scoring for “Wanborough” station was dealt with more scientifically, Normandy’s ranking would fall outside the top 20.

    The current weighting given to Normandy appears to be not just flawed morally but flawed legally. It raises the very real prospect of the borough council needlessly squandering valuable funds fighting a doomed legal battle.

    On a broader note, the council describes Normandy as having “a rural character”, with housing being “low density and only one row deep”. This so-called character would be completely destroyed under the Local Plan, not only by the specific proposals to take huge swathes of land for housing but by the ill-conceived suggestion to remove Normandy’s green belt status.

    • In the ‘Settlement Hierarchy Normandy’ is described as a large village. In fact Normandy is a dispersed village made up of a collection of hamlets strung together. The hamlets are Christmas Pie, Flexford, Pinewoods, Willey Green and Wyke. Where is the centre?

      According to Guildford Borough Councils Settlement Hierachy, ‘the survey on railways stations was undertaken using the Southwest Trains website that covers the services in the borough and the Village audit questionnaires 2011’. Information gathered from the village audit questionnaire 2011 (3.3.5 The functional score) ‘is based to some extent on the subjective judgement of the parish council’).

      It states: Stations that are over a 1km walk from the village settlement have been given a score of 0 as they do not add to the settlements sustainability.

      Due to the dispersed nature of the village, an example below clearly highlights that in areas of the village the station is over 1km away from the station. Should Normandy therefore score 0.

      (Example)

      Beech Lane is 1.5km away from the railway station. The bus route is poor in this area of the village.

      In a recent application 12/P/00303 Highways stated that, ‘Housing development in this location will not meet the locational and transportation requirements of PPS3 – Housing and PPG13 – Transport, which normally requires housing development to be within easy reach of essential services and facilities, and have adequate non-car transport infrastructure available……., it is remote of essential services and facilities and has limited public transport in the vicinity of the application site, therefore future occupiers of the development would be heavily dependant on private motor cars.’

      3.3.5 As would be expected, the larger villages generally score best in terms of the services and facilities. The functional score is based to some extent on the

      subjective judgement of the parish council and it does not directly correlate to

      population size. The functional score will, however have been indirectly influenced by the availability of services, facilities and public transport.

      In the ‘Function Score’ Normandy appears at the top of the table, however, how can Normandy appear at the top of the table when there are clear issues with public transport in areas of the village and no essential facilities such as a shop, post office, pub, etc., .

      ‘Are people able to travel to work, to shops and to access education and other services using either public transport or other alternatives or are they entirely reliant on the private car?’

      Normandy Parish Council wrote: Yes

      However, due to the dispersed nature of the village and the previous example residents around the village are heavily dependent on their car.

      Environmentally sensitive

      Does your village flood? If so, where and how often? What impact does it have?

      Normandy Parish Council answered – On some roads.

      However, flooding has affected various locations around Normandy due to the settlements overlying London Clay and to the north of the North Downs chalk ridge. The worse of the flooding is in the Flexford area of the village, exacerbated by the railway embankment. Resident’s gardens have been flooded, several properties have been at risk of flooding and properties were affected. These issues are being addressed by the Parish Flood Forum which comprises representatives from SCC, GBC, Thames Water, EA, Parish Council, Surrey Wildlife, and local residents).

      Communicating which each other

      This should not be scored highly

      Due to the disperse nature of Normandy, communication is a huge problem in Normandy. Not everybody has a computer in Normandy, pressures of work, busy home lives, not interested, can’t cope with what’s happening around the village, means some residents are not aware of what’s going on. Volunteers try to address this recurring problem.

      The following points are in the document Planning for Sites
      Significiant Expansion of exisiting villages
      9.57
      Land best located in a village that already has a good range of services and facilities.
      Suggest all residents look at 9.57 and 9.58 – Normandy is the large village they want to significantly change. 2,700 homes.

      When you compare Normandy with other areas, for example West Clandon which also has a Primary School and Railway Station, church, village hall two pubs (food), a garden centre with a cafe, does West Clandon offer a better range of services, employment, facilities than Normandy which is staying in green belt?

      Under 6.27 Severe Water Stress- GBC are addressing the problem with informative preventative ways of reducing our consumption, and putting us on water meters, however, during times of extreme drought but with the added pressure of potentially 2700 new homes in Normandy alone, is it going to be enough.

      Are they building a new reservoir or are they just going to divert water away from the rivers/streams therefore impacting on wildlife?

      Highlighting – Transport
      What infrastructure is in place?
      4.8 – Public Transport – Do you use it? Is it too expensive for a family or an average wage earner, is it poor in certain areas of the village, do you live over 1 km away from the station?
      In the meeting at Fairlands I raised the issue of congestion and GBC’s plans for the urbanization of this area. (Cllr Monika Juneja denied GBC were planning to urbanize the area). On the question of road congestion in the surrounding area, The Chairman of the Planning Committee answered, ‘That’s an issue for the Government’. This kind of answer from GBC highlights the lack of substance behind the Transport section, Planning for Sites. There is absolutely no substance on how the transportation infrastructure is going to cope in the future with the number of new homes suggested for this area. Public transport is all well and good, however, in the real world it is very expensive and under strain at the times when most needed; when we all have to get to work/school, colleges, university (with the increases in tuition fees, students are now opting to commute rather than live in student accommodation), and get home again.

      3.33 Farming is an important contribution to the rural economy; it maintains the landscape which helps attract tourists and helps produce food locally.

      Since this plan was published we have all seen a dramatic rise in food prices. It was announced in the next 20 years food is likely to triple. Basic commodities such a flour and butter have more than doubled in price over the past year and increasing. Exacerbated with the spiralling cost of energy, it is likely in the very near future all households will have to grow their own food in some way to supplement their diet? Due to the dramatic rise in the cost of food, the UK agricultural industry to meet the demands of a growing population in the UK and globally are investing in farming. By writing to land owners asking them to sell their land, GBC have prematurely (prior to the consultation period) inflated the price of pasture and arable land in this locality; making it much more difficult for local residents who already work the land, from either buying or renting land in the future. This could potentially stifle any chance of them expanding with the increase demand for food locally, affecting the future opportunity of local employment and possibly impacting on the the local economy.

      Grading of pastoral/arable land
      A visual inspection of pastoral/arable land has not been carried out on any of the green field sites suggested for development around Normandy. Heather Sandall from GBC Planning Policy informed me that the information had come from a National Data Base, probably Defra.

      • At the meeting on the 12th November convened by your Parish Council you will get a 1st draft of the response the Parish Council are putting together. It has take a lot of work so far and is far from finished… it is a proposed response outlining a ‘direction of travel’ and the above comments are helpful and to some extent could be added to the response. I and your Parish Councillors would like to add appendices to the document setting out in detail the reasons why Normandy should retain it’s green belt status albeit whilst accepting ‘sensitive infill etc within a larger settlement area
        Please come and please contribute . We will not be able to agree on everything but this needs to be a document which is representative of the majority view. We will do our best to acheive that but only with your help. Monica Juneja will attend at 8pm to answer questions about the consultation process. The meeting starts at 7.30pm. We were told on Monday the actual Draft Plan will be published for consultation in the spring 2014
        _Peta Malthouse. Chair NPC

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