Guildford Leader to Inspector – We’ll Increase Housing For Woking But I Really would Prefer Being a Nimby

Surrey Lives

Whata slimy low move – blaim an inspector doing his or her job simply because you didnt do yours and cooperate with Woking each trying to be more Nuimby that the other.

Guildford’s council leader has attempted to distance the council from additional sites proposed for the borough’s local plan.

Councillor Paul Spooner told a meeting of the council executive on Tuesday (September 4) that the proposed addition of 555 homes on green belt land was at the direction of planning inspector Jonathan Bore, describing the plan as “the inspector’s plan”.

He said: “I was very supportive of the Local Plan that was agreed [by the council] and I’m personally quite disappointed – although I’m not surprised – that the planning inspector wanted to find yet more housing, particularly in the first five years.

“These sites were not put forward in the main body of the draft local plan that was submitted and I believe there was a reason for that, and that is because we didn’t view them as ideal.”

Following a series of public hearings on the draft Local Plan that ended in July 2018, Mr Bore said the plan was basically sound but required a few modifications, including the provision of more housing in its first five years (2019-2024) and meeting some of the unmet housing need in Woking.

As a result, the council has proposed additional housing allocations for sites in Flexford, Chilworth and Send Marsh as well as 200 homes at the Aaron’s Hill site near Godalming.

These proposals must still go to public consultation, a process that was approved by the executive on Tuesday and is expected to begin around September 11.

Leader suggests council could disagree with planning inspector’s suggestions

Cllr Spooner encouraged members of the public to make their views heard on both the new sites and the proposal for more housing to meet Woking’s unmet need.

He told the meeting: “I do urge the public to look very carefully at [the sites] and provide objective comments in relation to those new sites.

“I am still also unhappy with the unmet need from Woking. I’m unhappy with the fact that that’s going through to the consultation stage and I would be very interested to hear members of the public and residents’ views from across Guildford on meeting unmet need from Woking, particularly when Woking have not undertaken a full countryside and green belt study.

“They undertook one study but only targeted to reach their own number of 500 [homes] that they wanted to look at in the green belt and therefore I feel it is unfair that Guildford seems to be bearing the result of that position in Woking.”

“It is equally important to remember that the inspector does not make the final decision.

“Whilst many would say we would be mad not to take note of the final position, I think we will be looking very carefully at where we stand when the inspector has finished his work and whether we agree with those findings.

“It would be very unusual for anyone to take a position where they didn’t support their own local plan, but I think I can say from the majority group and from discussion with the other groups in the council, we are very wary of protecting Guildford and so we will be looking very carefully at the position.”

Alderton’s Farm in Send Marsh Road was previously allocated for 200 houses, but now might be needed for 120 (Image: Grahame Larter)

Opposition leader suggests Woking ‘build another tall building’

His comments were echoed by Caroline Reeves, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, who said she thought many residents would “struggle” to understand what was going on.

She said: “I have had residents saying they can’t understand why we have to meet Woking’s unmet need, why can’t Woking just build another tall building and fill it up with flats.

“Of course, one might say that is a very sensible thing for Woking to do.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves said constituents were asking why Woking could not build “another tall building” instead of having Guildford meet its unmet housing need. (Image: Grahame Larter)

Cllr Susan Parker of the Guildford Greenbelt Group argued again for the council to suggest a lower housing number to the inspector, but Cllr Spooner said it would be “extraordinary” to make such a proposal when the inspector had asked for a higher housing number.

The executive agreed to send the proposals out for a public consultation. Once the consultation is complete, the planning inspector will review the responses and write his final report.The full council will then have to formally adopt the plan, which is estimated to take place in March 2019 although Cllr Spooner said he was still aiming to have the process completed by the end of the year.

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