Housing zones won’t stop Green Belt grabbing

The Chancellor and the Housing Minister have popped their heads over the parapet as the initial shots in the election campaign are fired.  The ‘whizzy’ new idea is 10 housing zones outside London using ‘brownfield’ land; a shortlist of 29 areas has been published, each of which have bid to become one of the housing zones.  Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has been quoted as saying “this would protect the Green Belt“;  he must have been listening to the CPRE in part. Unfortunately, 10 zones with 2,000 houses each is a drop in the bucket compared to his and the Chancellor’s joint aspiration of 200,000 homes nationally on ‘brownfield’ land. In the meantime, where do the other 180,000 go? I know, in the Green Belt. Silly me. Continue reading

There are community boundaries, then there are community boundaries…

There’s a heated debate going on between some of our local residents about what constitutes the community boundary.  It’s been brought about by the local council’s need to develop a new Local Plan. The council would love to stuff as much new housing as it can into small villages all over the borough, either by relaxing planning rules within the village boundaries, or ear-marking large chunks of countryside and green fields and reserving them to receive thousands of new homes at some indeterminate point in the future, when other ear-marked development land is used up, or by appending chunks of the Green Belt to communities by extending their boundaries to include such land. Continue reading

0.4 Hectares goes a long way

Its funny how such a small piece of land attracts so much attention.  In ‘old money’ it’s a fraction under 1 acre, enough to grow a crop of root vegetables or for use as a grazing meadow in an agricultural small-holding but not for much else, you’d think.  There are a small number of pieces of green fields of this particular size in and around my community for sale on the open market, advertised by local agents, not agricultural land agents but estate agents.  Surely something is afoot. Continue reading

Caught up in the final rush

A neighbour kindly sent me a copy of their considered response to the consultation on Guildford Borough Council’s draft Local Plan and a very trenchant document it is.  This is the “real” consultation, where residents’ responses will go forward with the rest of the much-criticised ‘evidence base’ to the planning inspector who examines in public the submitted plan next May (2015), not the sham consultation last year, used by the council to draw the sting of those motivated to respond and then manipulate the evidence base where politically convenient.  Now, residents’ comments really do matter.  If you write, you have the right to request being heard at the examination in public and put your points personally and directly to the planning inspector.

My neighbour had read the 19 policies in the draft document, picked out the Site Policies relevant to Normandy and Flexford, gone back to the ‘evidence base’ documents referenced in the policy notes, taken the trouble to re-read all 207 paragraphs the National Policy Planning Framework, noted the letters of ministerial guidance issued by the various incumbents of the planning portfolios over the last 18 months and also taken the trouble to be aware of the decisions flowing through the courts that modify interpretation of the NPPF.  This is the dedication being shown again by thousands of incensed residents that believe this council has been and is being secretive, misleading and duplicitous in the development and presentation of this plan.

When faced with a council where the lead councillor for the Local Plan process has had to step down from the Executive Committee of the council as a result of being arrested, bailed and appearing in court, facing seven charges variously reported in the press as including forgery, fraud by false representation, obtaining monetary advantage by deception and wilfully pretending to be a barrister; where the Head of Planning came back from holiday in August, sat down at her desk and promptly resigned; and where the deputy leader of the council’s Executive Committee has resigned recently “due to pressure of increased work commitments outside the council”, residents cannot be blamed for expressing deep dissatisfaction with the governance of the borough and the management of the Local Plan process.  Something is rotten in this borough.

What did my neighbour write in his letter to the council planning department, outlining his rejection to the potential ‘concreting over’ of Normandy and Flexford? Perhaps you would like to read for yourself… Continue reading

Hands up, who voted for it?

Who voted for what?  Well, the Guildford Borough Council 2013-2017 Corporate Plan of course. Didn’t all the Councillors vote to approve that last October?  Question is, did they actually know what they approved?

As has been commented elsewhere, it’s all about the money.  The Corporate Plan seems a good place to start, smuggled out last October, after approval by the full council and review by the Corporate Improvement Scrutiny Committee [CISC], subject to no public consultation.  If you read the accompanying CISC 19 September 2013 document for the draft Corporate Plan you’ll find para 8.2 states “There will be financial implications to deliver the elements outlined in the action plan”.  Too right there will be financial implications and we’ll come on to those below.  Continue reading

Quack, quack, quack

Like little ducks lined up all in a row, Guildford Borough Councillors voted for their own motion that rejected the “Excess Housing” e-petition debated in the council chamber in front of the full council last Tuesday 8 July 2014.  No Councillor voted against and only five abstentions. Not that you would expect anything else.  The scene had already been set on 19 June when the same Councillors voted to accept the final draft Local Plan as presented, without change to the excessive annual house building target of 652 per year over its 15 year lifetime, and so moved it into the second round of consultation.

The e-petition requested “We, the undersigned, petition Guildford Borough Council to reject their current aggressive pro-development pro-building strategy. The current strategy would mean building more housing than we need (and also more commercial buildings than we need) because of an incorrect perception that economic growth can only come from building. This strategy is unsustainable and must be rejected.” Continue reading