Local MP and MHCLG SPAD conspire to reverse Guildford Local Plan Green Belt Deletions

Guildford Dragon News  – surely some confusion here.  The Council cannot reverse a binding inspectors report and plan adoption – and a local plan revision will take two years and it would be contrary to national policy to put a deleted site back in the GB.

Guildford’s Local Plan can be changed without a judicial review, according to a letter Mole Valley Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford has sent severa  l GBC councillors.

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After criticising the “astonishing way [the Plan] was pushed through an emergency full council meeting during the purdah period just before the local elections”, Sir Paul says he has “sought and received, verbal assurances from the Department of Housing Communities and Local Government that GBC can bring about a reversal of this with a ‘Local Plan revision’ ”.

Sir Paul said this morning (May 28) that he had obtained only verbal advice from MHCLG because of the need to act quickly. He had spoken to a SPAD [Special Adviser] who had referred Sir Paul’s questions to a senior planning official while Sir Paul waited on the phone line.

He added: “GBC officials can check but they should know. If required, I could get it in writing but this will take time because of the Parliamentary recess.”

A copy of the letter understood to have been sent to some of the councillors at GBC. Despite the final paragraph, it seems that some councillors who did not vote for the Plan have not received the letter.

Sir Paul now intends to write to parish council chairs asking for support. He also hopes to encourage residents to write to their councillors urging them to take the action he is suggesting in the letter.

He added that he had sent the letter to those who are responsible and those [councillors] “we think voted against the Plan”. Recipients are believed to include the GBC council leader, Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), the lead councillor for planning, Jan Harwood (Lib Dem, Merrow) and the re-elected Planning Committee chair, Marsha Moseley (Con, Ash Vale) but several councillors who voted against the Plan have not, so far, received a copy, including Joss Bigmore who spoke passionately against adoption of the Plan in the council debate before he was elected.

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Today Cllr Bigmore, R4GV leader (Christchurch), said: “Obviously we will have to investigate whether what Sir Paul suggests is possible. We will be pushing for a meeting with him and the MHCLG to try to add some substance to the verbal assurances he has received.

“While this could be great news, it appears to run contrary to other advice about our available options, so we shouldn’t get too carried away.

“R4GV will always be cognisant of the Mole Valley [parliamentary constituency] area of Guildford Borough bearing a huge burden of housing development in the Local Plan. But this must always be viewed in the context of the borough’s needs as a whole and not as separate issues.”

Cllr Susan Parker

Susan Parker (GGG, Send) said none of the Guildford Greenbelt Group councillors had received the letter from Sir Paul. “Frankly, I’m shocked at it,” she added. “If a judicial review is successful, land can have green belt status restored fast.  A review can quash elements of the Local Plan, if there are legal errors.

“That can’t happen with revision. Councillors have been advised this could take at least two years, possibly longer, with no change to green belt status. Maybe do revision as well, definitely not instead.

“Sir Paul has written lobbying against judicial review. Why? I don’t think GBC should oppose judicial reviews from the Guildford Local Plan Challenge, Wisley, and Save Hog’s Back.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves, Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government were all invited to comment.

This evening in a press release from Sir Paul headed “Mole Valley MP calls on newly elected Guildford Councillors to right the wrongs in the Local Plan” it is stated: “The Conservatives in the Mole Valley Constituency wards of Guildford Borough Council have spent years fighting against the damaging GBC Local Plan. Of particular concern are the proposals to take small rural villages in these wards out of the Green Belt, thereby allowing for development on what was previously Green Belt land.

“The site at the former Wisley Airfield is also marked for large scale, wholly inappropriate,
development. The campaign against these destructive plans has been led by Sir Paul Beresford, along with Conservative councillors and candidates from the Mole Valley wards of GBC.”