From the Guildford Dragon:
Council Critic Becomes Tory Candidate in Lovelace By-election
A Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) supporter and one of the most vociferous critics of the Conservative led Guildford Borough Council (GBC) had his nominated confirmed last night (August 28) as the Conservative candidate in the Lovelace by-election.
Ben Paton, a regular correspondent of The Guildford Dragon News, is an Ockham resident and a vociferous opponent of the Draft Local Plan, in particular the proposal for a new settlement on the old Wisley airfield.
Those present at the selection meeting, held last week, describe it as a tense affair. Council leader Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham) is understood to have been present, accompanied by Executive member, Cllr Richard Billington (Con, Tillingbourne).
Cllr. Mansbridge’s presence at the selection meeting was challenged but it was eventually accepted that he was exercising his right to attend as leader of the Conservative Group at Millmead to which the Conservative candidate will, if elected, belong. It is reported that Cllr Mansbridge opposed the selection of Mr Paton but was outvoted.
As the Lovelace Ward, which includes Ripley, Wisley and Ockham, falls within the Mole Valley parliamentary constituency it is their Conservative Association, thought to be less influenced by the GBC Tory group, that is responsible for candidate selection rather than the Guildford Conservative Association.
Bill Barker, a Conservative Surrey County Council councillor for the Horsleys said this morning: “I am delighted with the nomination. He will be a very good representative for this ward.”
Susan Parker, speaking on behalf of the Guildford Greenbelt Group said in reaction to the news of Mr Paton’s nomination: “The most important issue confronting voters in Lovelace Ward is the Local Plan‘s proposed development in the area, particularly the proposed new town at the former Wisley Airfield. This should determine the result of this election in this ward.
“GGG is forming “The GreenBelt Party” which has applied for status as a political party from the Electoral Commission. It is not yet authorised so cannot yet formally propose candidates; candidates will stand for election next May.
“Ben Paton, the Conservative candidate, and Colin Cross, standing as a Liberal Democrat, are both founder GGG members who have been very active in GGG since it formed. They have spoken and written for GGG and obtained signatures for petitions and the current referendum petition.
“As a result, GGG is supportive of both its members. GGG recommends that supporters who are voters in Lovelace should vote for one of those two candidates.”
So far, candidates representing Labour and Ukip, in addition to the Liberal Democrat and Conservative party have been announced. Nominations close today (August 29). The by-election will be held on Thursday, September 25th.
Further reaction to this news will be sought. Please check back.
The Guildford Dragon News is inviting all candidates to be interviewed. The first interview with Colin Cross, the Lib Dem candidate, has already been published. It is hoped to publish an interview with Ben Paton will be published soon.
The Campaign for the protection of Rural England (CPRE) has just published a report titled ‘Targeting the Countryside’.
The Daily Mail article states:
New home surge is ‘catastrophic’: Face of rural England could change forever as 27,000 houses get go-ahead to be built on greenfield sites despite ferocious local opposition
- New report says the contentious measures threaten face of rural England
- Planning permission given to 27,000 homes on greenfield sites in two years
- Campaign are demanding a shake-up of reforms and targets for housing
- Britain is facing a shortage of homes as not enough have been built
The full Daily Mail article can be read here:
Jules Cranwell Reply
August 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm
Since Cllr Mansbridge has chosen to selectively quote a small extract from my private correspondence, I would like readers to be aware of the full extract which is:
“I’d like to reiterate that I have nothing against her personally, but I do want her off the job of planning, given her history of pro-development.
“I accept that GGBG should keep away from this, it just needs a few good folks to make individual complaints, and we should get her out of the role.”
I make no apologies for the above which I wrote in the light of information I had seen.
Nobody has seen fit to produce any evidence of any insults, attacks, disdain, or racist intent, that have been circulating and reported by some parts of the media. I have been particularly offended and insulted by the latter.
I am clear on four points:
– You are indeed innocent until proven guilty, and the case against Cllr Juneja is for the courts to decide.
– Concerned members of the public, who suspect wrong-doing by elected officials, should not expect to be abused in correspondence or press announcements from elected officials.
– Not one jot of evidence has been produced of press bias, abusive statements, personal attacks, or racist intent, as has been alleged.
– We are all victims if complaints against elected officials are not properly investigated and instead those who make the complaints are attacked.
Roland McKinney Reply
August 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm
What an astonishing question from the leader of Guildford Tories. “Why complain if you are not a victim?”
How about the following reason?
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller, concentration camp inmate 1937 to 1945
Lisa Wright Reply
August 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm
What absolute tosh!
As someone who lives in the west of Guildford, has been resident in the borough for 14 years and has a good knowledge of the area, including the eastern villages, I would like Mr Mansbridge to know:
– I and many others are concerned with the rhetoric of growth coming from Guildford Borough Council (GBC) and the government at the detriment to current residents.
– From all the campaigning, letter writing, council meetings and discussions I can quite honestly say there’s about 2 per cent of people who actually agree with the level of housing development and growth currently proposed in the Local Plan.
– There are even fewer people supporting huge developments in Gosden Hill, Blackwell farm and Wisley Airfield. I haven’t met a single person that thinks these developments are a positive thing without widening or tunnelling of the A3.
GBC should be welcoming the detailed inputs from the section of highly educated and experienced residents who are volunteering their time to dissect all the evidence documents and proposed plans to make sure the final plan is sound, safe and sustainable for Guildford whilst protecting the countryside setting which drew us here in the first place.
Unfortunately, the council seems to prefer to ignore this valuable resource and plough on with a Local Plan that will later be pulled to pieces in court.
I have had every opportunity to speak directly with Ms Juneja and Cllr Mansbridge can be assured that if I had anything derogatory to say I would have said it to her face.
He should stop hiding behind the ‘they’re picking on us’ attitude and take note that this is not a playground.
The Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Stephen Mansbridge requested the following statement be sent to our media and local contacts:
The police investigation into Cllr Juneja’s professional life beyond Guildford Borough Council, and the subsequent charges, are the result of a clear political campaign by a number of residents from the East of the borough who seek to discredit the Council’s draft Local Plan. The complainants hide behind a charge for better public probity; whilst they mask behind computers with insults, rhetoric, disdain and disorder. They have spent a year hounding this Councillor. It is worth reminding ourselves of the e-mail sent by Mr Julian Cranwell on 15 December 2013, which stated “…I do want her off the job of planning, given her history of pro-development. I accept that GGBG should keep away from this, it just needs a few good folks to make individual complaints, and we should get her out of the role.”
Having returned from holiday, I have taken soundings amongst my political Group, and I am clear on four points:
· – You are innocent until proven guilty in this country and I hope that never changes with the slurry of biased media coverage on this issue.
· – Many of my elected political group do not wish Cllr Juneja to resign from her Executive role.
· – Why complain, if you are not a victim?
· – The conduct of Surrey Police in terms of this investigation and its relationship with the complainants is the subject of a number of complaints to the IPCC.
We have a difficult task to accomplish, which is to steer a Local Plan through to successful adoption in order to secure the future of the borough of Guildford. If we want Guildford to remain as lively and good as it is today, then we need to embrace this opportunity rather than reject it. We need to remember that continuity is protected by change and not destroyed by it.
Having said all this, most reluctantly I have asked Cllr Juneja to step down from her Executive position. Whilst, I have had many messages from organisations, pressure groups and individuals from around the borough imploring me to keep her on, as I have had from my own Councillors, I make this decision with the best interests of Cllr Juneja, my Conservative Group and the Council as a whole at heart.
Cllr Juneja will not be suspended by the Conservative Group from her role as a Councillor, as a clear majority have voiced their opinion that this is an unnecessary act, particularly bearing in mind her diligence, commitment and heavy workload during her time as a Lead Member.
I shall take charge of the Local Plan process and Planning, supported by my Executive.
At this point, on behalf of the Executive, Conservative Group and the Council, I wish to thank Cllr Juneja for the exceptional service that she has given as a Lead Member for both Planning and Governance. Her departure is a loss for herself and the Executive, a loss for local politics at large and a loss for the borough as a whole. She takes with her a vast body of knowledge which cannot easily be replaced.
Communications Officer – Local Plan and major projects
PR and Marketing
Guildford Borough Council
Cllr Monika Juneja, (Con, Burpham) has been charged (August 14) with seven offences, including one count of wilfully pretending to be a barrister contrary to the Legal Services Act 2007.
A police statement said that 35-year-old Cllr Juneja: “… was also charged with two offences contrary to the Fraud Act 2006, three offences contrary to the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, and one count of pecuniary advantage contrary to the Theft Act 1968 when she returned to Guildford Police Station earlier today.
“The Crown Prosecution Service has been consulted throughout the investigation.
Letter to the Surrey Advertiser…
The Guildford draft Local Plan is not logical or sound because it does not set out the ‘exceptional circumstances’ on which GBC relies to make the most drastic changes to the property rights of everyone living in the Green Belt since 1945.
The Green Belt is intended to be ‘permanent’. So the law provides that it can only be changed if exceptional circumstances necessitate the change.
The NPPF states at paragraph 83:
‘Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.’
The 2005 UK Government Sustainable Development Strategy paper sets out ‘Guiding Principles’, one of which is
‘Promoting Good Governance: Actively promoting effective, participative systems of governance in all levels of society…’
GBC should justify changing the boundaries of the Green Belt by setting out the exceptional circumstances on which it relies inside the draft Local Plan. It has not done this.
The draft Local Plan: Strategy and Sites document uses the phrase ‘exceptional circumstances’ just once . In para 4.123 the requirement of para 83 of the NPPF is repeated. But no exceptional circumstances are cited. Para 4.123 refers to the Green Belt and Countryside Study (GBCS) and states,
‘This will enable us to demonstrate the level of development we consider we could accommodate…’
Note that it does not state that the GBCS has demonstrated – past tense. It states that it will demonstrate – future tense.
The Green Belt and Countryside Study does not set out any exceptional circumstances justifying moving the boundaries of the Green Belt? Pegasus Consulting expressly state at para 18.5 of the Summmary of Volume V of GBCS Pegasus:
“It is not within the remit of this Study to assess whether exceptional circumstances exist to enable major development,
The only mention of moving the Green Belt boundaries that appears in the draft LP is in Policy 10 Green Belt and Countryside where it is stated:
“The Green Belt boundaries can be viewed on the Policies Map. “
The Policies Map is not included in any of the published documents. You have to go to the Local Development Scheme 2014 to find out more about the Policies Map:
There you learn that the Policies Map has not yet been created and there is no timetable for its creation:
‘Whilst the Policies Map is an LDD it is not proposed to set out a detailed timetable for its preparation. The Policies Map will be revised as necessary upon the adoption of each DPD, as the DPD tables below show. The adopted Policies Map will be revised as and when new LDDs, or their revisions, are themselves adopted.’ (Bold emphasis added. No tables below are apparent!)
LDD = Local Development Document (required by law)
DPD = Development Plan Document
The proposed Green Belt boundary changes are not set out on the Policies Map – because it does not yet exist.
The Public is being consulted about potential boundary changes that have not yet been justified. GBC reserves the right to change the Green Belt boundaries at some later date by reference to an as yet unpublished map which in turn is subject to HRA and Heritage Assessments (and still other stuff) which have not yet been produced (or even started?).
GBC should be accountable for its proposals to move the Green Belt Boundaries. It needs to set out its justification now in the draft local plan not at some point in the future as part of some other document which the Public may never look at.
Why is the draft LP conspicuously silent on the exceptional circumstances upon which GBC purports to rely?
I asked a Guildford Borough Councillor where the exceptional circumstances upon which the Council is relying are set out. This was the response:
‘GBC could now reasonably say they have now set out the ‘exceptional circumstances’ in the Topic paper, but of course these should have been available to all councillors BEFORE we were asked to agree to consultation on the draft Local Plan.’
The Green Belt Topic paper says this (at para 2.13) about the purported exceptional circumstances:
‘There is no definition of what constitutes exceptional circumstances, as this will vary from locality to locality.’
That’s not accurate. The Court of Appeal has defined what exceptional circumstances are in this context.
‘Housing (or employment land) need can be an exceptional circumstance to justify a review of Green Belt boundaries.’
In theory it can. But does it? At this point GBC has not yet completed its Strategic Housing Market Assessment and cannot as yet know whether that gives rise to exceptional circumstances, unless it has prejudged the outcome which would make a mockery of the consultation.
‘There is a combination of factors that exist locally that together constitute the exceptional circumstances that requires us to amend our Green Belt boundaries. This includes the high level of housing need, including affordable homes, exacerbated by a significant backlog of unmet need, the lack of suitable alternative land, the general lack of affordability across the borough, issues with housing mix and employment needs.’
That’s an unsupported assertion. It does not state exactly what the exceptional circumstances are either individually or collectively. Neither evidence nor argument is set out to show that affordable homes constitute an exceptional circumstance. There may in fact be no backlog of unmet housing need contrary to GBC’s assertions. General lack of affordability is not an exceptional factor since it is well known that house prices are cyclical. No evidence or logic for Housing mix and employment needs being exceptional circumstances are set out
I made a Freedom of Information request of GBC to discover what exceptional circumstances it is relying on :
‘Please set out the Legal advice taken by GBC in full stating a) the author of Appendix 4 of the document [which I quoted – which has almost identical wording to the Topic Paper] b) the author of the cited legal advice c) the substance of the legal advice.’
This was the response:
‘The Council’s solicitor considers that the advice is covered by legal privilege and that failure to disclose would not be a breach of the Code of Conduct.’
What about accountability to the public during a public consultation? This is a matter of public policy affecting the entire borough. This is a matter of public interest. Legal privilege is a flimsy pretext not a serious argument. Why does GBC not want to disclose this? Other Councils have disclosed legal opinion. Why won’t GBC?
Many people consider that the ‘public consultation’ is a sham. GBC’s failure to set out and consult upon its case for exceptional circumstances reinforces that impression. It has a public duty to be accountable and transparent about its justifications for the radical changes it proposes, changes which profoundly affect the property rights of everyone living in the Green Belt.
These lanes have HGV restrictions along their entire length – with good reason:
* There is no room for two lorries to pass along most of their length
* In many places the lanes are single carriage only
* Plough Lane floods every Winter and is impassable to traffic
* There is no pedestrian footpath anywhere along Plough Lane and along most of Ockham Lane
* Heritage buildings are within metres of the Ockham Lane and are shaken by traffic
* Local traffic includes regular, heavy farm vehicle movements and horse riders.
* Both lanes are major cycle routes out of London for cycling clubs
These lanes are completely unable to service the requirements of a ‘new town’.
See this video for more:
Press Release issued by WAG:
QC’s opinion resulted in changes
to draft Local Plan documents
says Wisley Action Group
Guildford Council’s refusal to reimburse legal charges incurred in highlighting fundamental errors in the draft Local Plan has been challenged by campaigners opposing a ‘new town’ on green belt at Wisley.
The Wisley Action Group [WAG] originally invoiced the Council on June 23rd in respect of written legal opinion received from leading counsel Peter Village QC earlier the same month. His view was that proposals for a settlement at ‘Three Farms Meadows’, the former Wisley airfield, were unsound because they embraced parcels of land which were neither owned by nor available to either the would-be developers or the Council.
But a letter to WAG from Satish Mistry, Executive Head of Governance at Guildford Borough Council, issued a month later [July 22nd], claimed that the Council “has no liability whatsoever to pay the invoice” and so “cannot and will not” reimburse the charge.
WAG has challenged the rejection in a subsequent letter to Mr Mistry of July 30th which claims it is a matter of public record that the Council’s draft Local Plan presented a proposal for a ‘new town’ at Wisley which included land which was not and is not ‘available’.
‘Yet this fundamental inaccuracy was to be included in the draft Local Plan to be presented at the June 19th Council meeting,’ says the WAG letter, which confirms; ‘As a result of the written legal opinion from leading counsel Peter Village QC, supported by earlier written evidence from Bell Cornwell, the Council’s papers presented at the Council meeting were amended to reflect that professional opinion and remedy the Council’s previous error.’
The letter concludes; ‘It is self-evident, therefore, that if WAG had not called for and presented legal opinion in the matter, the Council would have instructed councillors to vote on a flawed and unsound proposal. In these circumstances we believe that our invoice submitted is wholly valid and look forward to the favour of your early remittance to avoid further expense.’
The Council has not, so far, responded to WAG’s letter.
Helen Jefferies, a member of the WAG campaign committee, said today that the Council appeared to be ignoring the facts.
“It is quite clear that last-minute amendments to the draft Local Plan documents presented at the June 19th Council meeting were made as a direct result of legal opinion received from our barrister which we’d made available to Guildford Borough Council in advance of that meeting,” said Mrs Jefferies.
“The Council’s rejection of our invoice appears to be based on the premise that, having received its own legal advice, it had no obligation to reimburse local groups for an alternative legal opinion – even when the Council subsequently acted upon that alternative advice to remedy its previous errors. In the circumstances we feel wholly justified in looking to the Council for reimbursement of the costs we have already incurred.”
Issued on behalf of The Wisley Action Group August 7th 2014
Another pertinent letter in the Guildford Dragon
Letter: Why Is Our Housing Number Out of Step With Nearby Local Authorities?
Why is it that all other boroughs and district councils in Surrey have a annual build number around 300-350* and Guildford persist with 680? This is what is putting the pressure on the green belt: a stupid “evidenced based” document that the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Executive has insisted should be put forward in this consultation, without amendment, despite hard facts and figures being produced to show our annual build should be around 400.
If I felt that by building in Guildford our young people would be able to live here I would support it but we are a commuter town and always have been. I spent the first 15 years of my married life in Aldershot before finally being able to afford Normandy and I would say, to younger aspiring home owners, there was nothing wrong with that, it is not that far away.
I am sure Carol Humphrey finally had enough of just doing what she was told by the council leader, Stephen Mansbridge and Cllr Juneja and of being treated so badly by the leader (as reported in The Guildford Dragon NEWS) in public.
Such a huge housebuilding number requires schools, shops and medical facilities. It is difficult to find non green belt land for these. So perhaps GBC should not only consult but listen and learn from the huge talent provided by the Guildford Society and GGG, amongst others.
Personally I am very concerned by the choice of the contractors who have prepared the papers. Their website says that they are “one of the UK’s leading independent property consultancies providing trusted commercial property advice to the public sector, developers, investors and occupiers”. So we can see what the figure is based on: the drive to expand Guildford as a commercial centre.
*Source: April 2014 press release from CPRE, EGRA, GRA, GGG, GSoc, GVG, Save Hogs Back, entitled “Key Local Groups Combine on New Homes Target for Guildford”
Extract from the release:
“Comparison with other authorities
Whilst not a formal step in the Local Plan process, it is well worth comparing Guildford’s targets with those of other neighbouring authorities. Those with agreed targets include:
Epsom 181; Tandridge 125; Spelthorne 166; Mole Valley 188; Surrey Heath 190; Rushmoor 374 (includes a major brownfield opportunity); Elmbridge 225; Woking 292.
This benchmarking demonstrates that a target for GBC of 300-345 is in line with other neighbouring authorities and demonstrates to the public that Guildford is delivering its “fair share” of housing.”
Editor’s note: It has been reported that Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan was rejected by a Planning Inspector because the housing number it contained was too low. It has also been reported that the housing number for Woking Borough Council is now subject to review.
Go to Guildford Dragon to see public comments