Dear Fellow Normandy Residents,
My apologies for bothering you again, but in case you haven’t managed to respond to Guildford Borough Council (GBC)’s consultation on the Local Plan I thought I would remind you that the deadline is 1700 hours this Friday, 29 November.
I am amazed at how much opposition and community action against this plan there is across the Borough. If you look at the Normandy Action Group’s Twitter site: https://twitter.com/NormandyAG you will get a sense of it. However, much of the action comes from the small villages to the East of Guildford, and there is a real danger that the Normandy voice will not be heard – unless we make it so!
Normandy Parish Council is preparing its own response to the consultation and I am told that the Parish Council monthly meeting is this Wednesday evening at 1930 where the NPC document will be put forward for approval. Please turn up if you want a chance to influence what they say. But that is not a substitute for submitting our own views as individual citizens.
Many people I have spoken to have commented on the daunting nature of engaging with this consultation process, given the length of the questionnaire, the number of supporting documents, and the technical nature of many of the issues. However, it is perfectly OK just to write a letter to GBC; there are numerous action groups and residents’ associations who will be responding to the questionnaire in great detail, but the important thing is that GBC should understand it is not just a few individuals who are unhappy about what they are proposing. So the more people who write letters the better, but it must be in their own words as apparently GBC will be using anti-plagiarism software to spot the mass mailings!
The Guildford Residents Associations website contains a high-level statement of what we should be arguing for: http://www.guildfordresidents.co.uk/what-is-the-local-plan/ and there is a draft response to the full questionnaire on the same site.
The Normandy Action Group has recently produced its own summary of some of the key issues on the blog at: https://mynormandyvillage.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/keep-normandy-washed-over-by-the-green-belt/comment-page-1/#comment-12 . The NAG flyer with the map is available at: https://t.co/l7eZdo9FCs
However, if all this is too much I would suggest the main arguments are:
- This is a poor ‘consultation’ process because while a huge amount is at stake the detail is so intimidating that it puts most people off. GBC should have consulted us much earlier on the basic principles before they paid consultants lots of money to come up with a draft plan that most of us simply do not have the time or the expertise to engage with.
- Nevertheless it is clear from reading the documents that the evidence base on which the draft plan is based is fundamentally flawed. In the case of our own village Normandy is characterised in a way that bears little relation to reality, as follows:
- First, Normandy is portrayed as a “large village” when in fact it is a collection of hamlets separated by green spaces. It is this very openness that gives the village its special character and contributes to the openness of the Green Belt. According to the Government’s National Planning Framework “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”. Thus the suggestion that it should be removed from the Green Belt is out of line with Government policy and is a travesty.
- Second, it is portrayed as a coherent, well-functioning, community with excellent transport links and a wealth of amenities. Nothing could be further from the truth; the infrastructure is woefully overstretched and most inhabitants are more or less entirely dependent on private motor cars to carryout their lives. See the post from Annalisa Newell on the blog: “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 development. 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 CO-OP, 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!).”
- The main strategy of GBC for meeting its housing targets seems to be to free up private developers to build on green fields. That is completely unacceptable. A number of the other campaign groups have demonstrated that there is plenty of brownfield land available in Guildford; for whatever reason GBC has chosen to ignore this. What we need is a strategy that as well as adding to the housing stock will strengthen the cohesiveness and resilience of existing communities by improving infrastructure – especially transport infrastructure – while preserving the vital character of the Green Belt. This should not and cannot be driven by purely commercial considerations.
- If this plan is adopted it will change the character of our village for ever. GBC needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with something better.
Finally, as well as responding to the consultation we can all sign the online petition on the GBC website calling on the Council to “Protect the Borough’s designated Green Belt and remove inappropriate large scale housing development from the Local Plan Consultation”. This is available until 4 February at: http://petitions.guildford.gov.uk/KeeptheGreenBelt/ However doing this is not a substitute for responding to the Consultation exercise – deadline this Friday!
I hope this is helpful,