Wisley campaigners challenge Council’s rejection of legal bill

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.”

ends

Issued on behalf of The Wisley Action Group August 7th 2014

Why is our Housing Number out of step with nearby Local Authorities?

Another pertinent letter in the Guildford Dragon

Letter: Why Is Our Housing Number Out of Step With Nearby Local Authorities?

Local Plan Letters imageFrom Peta Malthouse

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

http://www.guildford-dragon.com/2014/07/26/letter-housing-number-step-nearby-local-autorities/

 

The Great University of Surrey Housing Scandal

this is a letter from a local resident which explains the impact of Surrey University’s policies on housing demand and the Green Belt.

Dear Editor

 The Great University of Surrey Housing Scandal

 As I was preparing to speak at the Excess Housing e-petition last week, I was researching the effect on housing demand and shortage created by the University. What I found is of great concern to everybody, where ever you live in Guildford.

We are all aware the University is a very large institution. According to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) in Appendix C, it shows that the University in 2013/14 had 13,700 students up from 8000 in 2001. So measured by attendance, Surrey University now has around 10% of the borough population.

Of more concern to the Local Plan process, the University has also dramatically increased its mix of FULL time students.  Referencing ONS data 2001-2011, there are 3723 additional full time students living in Guildford (a 53% rise). In the same period the borough population increased by 7400 (129,800 to 137,200). Student growth therefore accounts for 50% of the recent growth of the Guildford Borough population, and we are told the University want to expand further.

This growth, led by students, is being fed in to the growth projections to justify building a massive 652 houses per year.

In 2003 Guildford Borough Council as part of the 2003 Local Plan removed a large part of Manor Farm (owned by the University) from the Green Belt.  In return, the university promised to use it to the benefit of Guildford. The 2003 Manor Farm Master plan was to build 3000 residences in the period 2003-2008, then 300 in 2009/11, then 1490 in 2011. That’s a grand total of 4,790 residences.

The University has not kept up. I believe there are 3125 residences and 270 houses which in its own words has “chosen not to build”, while giving the weak excuse that they are part of its “20 year plan”.  Interestingly that same 20 year plan, does not apply to its own growth rate on full time students! The University has admitted not building 2121 students residences and the 270 staff houses in various meetings and minutes.

Let’s look at this in from another direction. The University also committed in the 2003 Local Plan to make sure 60% of its full time students were housed ON site.  That is a big part of the reason Guildford Borough Council allowed Manor Farm out of the Green Belt in 2003.  FYI – The number of 60% is also given for guidance in the current NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework)

In 2013/14 the University according to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment has about 5100 residences (Manor Farm, Hazel Farm and Stag Hill) and 11,523 FULL time students.  It therefore houses about 44% of its full time students on site today.  At peak student numbers, before the Fees were introduced in 2011/12 it only had 38% on site. Both numbers are way below of its 2003/4 commitment of 60% (University Manor Farm 2003 development brief – section 5.2)

If you also get sight of section 5.5.2 of the 2009 University Estates Plan (you can Google it), you will see the University has NO INTENTION of meeting the 60% commitment. This document sets an internal target of 42% and sees no additional need to build accommodation.

Instead the University is happy to trot out irrelevant facts like it is “number 6” on the “housing-students-on-site” league table. Given its location and size in relation to the town, on this measure it should be NUMBER 1 by a distance.

On the basis of an average of 3 students to one house (I approximate), this gives a combined figure of about 1300 houses being occupied by students in Guildford today, which should be free for residents AND available for social housing.

I also learnt from the SHMA Appendix C support documentation that the University wishes to increase its student population to 17000 by 2017. At current rates, that’s around 3000 EXTRA full time students. One assumes these are also to be accommodated in private housing outside Campus as the campus dwellings are 98-99% full.  We wait to see the assumptions taken for this in the ONS projections, and in preparation of the Local Plan / SHMA numbers.

All this is very concerning, and very much a matter for the Local Plan feedback, it is not scandalous.  That is until you understand that in effect, the University is creating its own housing demand. Not just on Blackwell Farm, but for the WHOLE of Guildford. By increasing its student population, and providing no additional student accommodation, housing demand is artificially raised.

In the 2003 Local Plan Section 16 (now marked “Expired”) the Plan details how in return for taking Manor Farm out of the Green Belt it says, “In an attempt to overcome any additional pressure on the existing housing supply within the Borough, the University will be expected to provide student and some staff accommodation resulting from the proposals included in this Plan on the Manor Farm site “.  The University has simply not done what it promised in 2003.

Now instead, in the 2014 Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, the University is making NO build commitment in the 1-5 year plan. NONE.  NOTHING.  Its only commitment is to build 66 houses on Walnut Tree Close (not Manor Farm) in the 6-10 year time period, which roughly equates to those it demolished on Guildford Court i.e net ZERO.

If Surrey University owes this Borough and people all these houses, and has the land at Manor Farm available to build (which it has), and has a need (which it clearly has), and can make money out of building them (which it can). WHY has the University chosen not to build these residences?

The reason becomes clearer when you go to my next point, and this is where scandalous comes in.

In effect the whole of Guildford Borough is struggling to find land to cover for the expansion of the University of Surrey.

The University has submitted the Blackwell Farm site to the local plan, AND despite the Green Belt study evidence and AONB concerns, Guildford Borough Council has selected this as a strategic site.

The University wants to build 3000 houses (not 2000) according to the latest presentations. From this they are likely to make hundreds of millions of pounds on housing which will be worth a staggering £1Bn!  Guildford Borough Council it appears, want to build on Blackwell Farm, I presume as they will get a nice CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) payment.

This is wrong in my view. Maybe in yours too?

What is Guildford Borough Council doing about it?

Guildford Borough Council seems to have missed this point altogether despite several attempts to point this out. I refer to Mrs Stevens http://youtu.be/MWWAcdueLrA  and Mr. Payne http://youtu.be/yc3bajGIj1w earlier this year.

On Tuesday 8th 2014 council heard from a Send Group e-petition, who demonstrated (and it was widely agreed during that debate) that Guildford Borough Council were not able to manage something as simple as the existing “car garage” estate.

How then can we expect this council, to pay attention to a large and ambitious University, which seems to have no interest in the residents of Guildford? There are plenty of other promises made in 2003 like the Manor Farm Visitor Centre, The Ancient Woodlands Protection, Management of the Scheduled Ancient Monument, and the sale of Hazel Farm to name a few which should have benefited the residents of Guildford, but simply have not materialised.

Lead Guildford Borough Council councillors continue to extol the virtue of inward investment driven by the University, and how it is an excellent seat of learning. I will not comment on these further, but when in November Guildford Borough Council approved the veterinary college – and another 400-500 students we are not able to accommodate, I really think we all must ask what is going on.  Perhaps the relationship between the council and the university is a little too cosy?

Guildford needs housing. Particularly social housing. 

Not once over the last few months have I heard any of the same lead Councillors talk about the role of the University in generating a social housing shortage.  From the Strategic Housing Market Assessment, it now seems very clear that the chief cause of the growing housing shortage in Guildford over the last 10 years is University students.

 Instead of promoting the University, Guildford Borough Council could and should have been restricting the University’s ability to demand off site housing for more students until it met its 2003 promises on Manor Farm.

Guildford Borough Council immediately needs to get commitments from the University to build its “2003 Local Plan” housing backlog in the 1-5 year period of the 2014 Local Plan together with anything else it needs to expand further. These units should be included in the SHLAA documentation to protect our Borough.

Student residences are good investments – ask Warwick University – and if run well, can give a good and steady yield. Guildford Borough Council could also help financially. These are probably a safer and better investment than some of the commercial investments Guildford Borough Council been making recently – either way this is a good investment.

The ONS recently revised its population projections downwards by around 5000, and one key reason for was the revision in the future impact of students. We are waiting to see the affects of the ONS changes on the next set of SHMA data. The assumptions used for University expansion, and student accommodation will impact heavily on the amount of land needed for new housing. This is why these assumptions need to be public and open to scrutiny.

Had the University built the student residences it committed to all those years ago, Guildford Borough Council’s call on Greenbelt land would be minimal, but so would the University’s ability to make money on Blackwell Farm.

That the University chooses not to build on the open spaces at Manor Farm is a situation the residents of this borough can NEVER accept.

Neville Bryan

Wood Street Village

Links

SHMA & SHMA Appendix C

http://www.guildford.gov.uk/shma

SHLAA

http://www.guildford.gov.uk/shlaa

ONS 2001 Student Table

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?newquery=*&newoffset=0&pageSize=25&edition=tcm%3A77-211026

ONS 2011 Student Table

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ons.gov.uk%2Fons%2Frel%2Fcensus%2F2011-census%2Fkey-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales%2Frft-table-ks501ew.xls&ei=D23CU8KeGOnH7Abl04CoBg&usg=AFQjCNETNoFqQXBZ5Qy4z9U-oEBuB9R-Wg&sig2=FtguP2imduoPQE3hhtGAwg&bvm=bv.70810081,d.ZGU

University Estates Plan 2009 http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCUQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fportal.surrey.ac.uk%2Fpls%2Fportal%2Furl%2FITEM%2FB8FF309C0CE7501FE0440003BA296BDE&ei=CnPCU-nMEeTQ7Aaui4DIDw&usg=AFQjCNFYc-e9q5vCZCDGQl2vhwjuSuNGDg&sig2=uxgZ_hhmLZfcRX8Kil-01w&bvm=bv.70810081,d.ZGU

Manor Park Development Brief 2003/4

http://www.guildford.gov.uk/media/4495/UniS-Manor-Park-Development-Brief1/pdf/UniS_Manor_Park_Development_Brief1.pdf

Local Plan 2003 SHLAA (section 16)
http://www.guildford.gov.uk/media/1068/localplan2003-2/pdf/local_plan_2003_%282%29.pdf

 

Good letter in the Guildford Dragon

John Robson wrote:

I must live in a parallel universe to Gordon Bridger (Councillors Deserve Credit…). I didn’t see much real debate from the elected representatives. What I saw was the Executive steamroller proceeding on its merry way to open up the green belt for developer profiteering, notwithstanding the protestations of most of the 19,000 responses to the draft local plan thus far.

This isn’t a local plan, this is Westminster’s plan. That’s why the consultation has merely paid lip service; it’s just something the Executive have to endure. They hope to demonstrate in the eyes of the inspector that they have acted responsibly. In reality, the GBC Executive has sold Guildford and its green belt down the river to meet the failings of central government economic policy.

The collateral damage is that the genuine fears of residents of Guildford borough are nonchalantly brushed aside, “You’ve had you say, you’ve had your three minutes, order, or I’ll clear the council chamber,” cries the custodian of our “democracy”.

The Executive talk the talk, but they won’t be the ones walking the walk. They won’t be the ones pleading with schools to accept their children into next year’s bulge class built over the school playing-fields.

They won’t be the ones pleading with the GP for an appointment in three to four weeks, they won’t be the ones enduring the daily commute and they won’t be the ones queuing for an affordable home only to be gazumped by London-based property speculators, who will cram four students into a two-bed house because it produces a better yield at a blistering £1,200 a month, plus.

This, of course, being on the proviso that our altruistic developers actually decide to build some “affordable homes” to start with. That’s right, we’ll ask them nicely..

Look at Guildford’s projection of demography over the next 50 years, because that is a realistic time-term. Yes, we need housing, we need brown field housing, we need starter homes, retirement homes, flats and we need a proper housing ladder, not one that contains only four-bed detached executive homes.

We need to rectify this already dysfunctional town. We need a vibrant town centre, with an imaginative joined-up transport policy to ensure it doesn’t take 40 minutes to travel the last mile into town centre. After four years, “the draft” Local Plan still does not deliver this.

Conversely, and I know that this may not sit well with the true blue ethos of Guildford borough, but if you want to protect the green belt, vote Conservative in the local elections and Labour in the general election. That is the only way this Executive will stand up to central government, as they did in 2010. Otherwise, the asset-stripping of Guildford will continue unabated.

It’s only 2% of our green belt they claim; more smoke and mirrors. There is only 13% of green belt left in England. If we’re going to play the statistics games let’s look at the big picture.

Once the genie is out of the bottle where will it end? If the likes of the University of Surrey get their way, Aldershot is the answer.

I heard that one member of the Executive didn’t even see the merits of attending the council meeting because he had a prior engagement in the West End to watch Penn & Teller perform their professional illusions. He could’ve saved himself a trip: the real illusionists were at work in Millmead. Remember the green belt? Now you see it, now you don’t.

http://www.guildford-dragon.com/2014/07/08/letter-local-plan-westminsters-plan/

Cllr for Horsley (Andrew French) denounces the draft local plan

“Mr Mayor I consider that this plan in its current form will do IRREPARABLE AND IRREVERSIBLE damage to this borough as a whole. It isnt ready and I cannot possibly advocate it to my residents. it is for this reason that I regret that I cannot vote for this draft in its current form.”

And so say all of us!

Listen to him on this link

http://youtu.be/YYb4eDqvz0o

 

 

Cllr for Effingham (Liz Hogger) exposes the failings of draft local plan

See Cllr Liz Hogger on You Tube arguing against a new town at Former Wisley Airfield at the Council Meeting on 19 June 2014

http://youtu.be/foZOEZ3lk4o

Liz Hogger argues in Council against issuing the draft Local Plan for Consultation until the Housing Requirement figures are agreed and the problems in the draft are fixed.

Denounces proposal for a new town at Former Wisley Airfield.

If only more Cllrs examined the facts.

WAG gives all Councillors a copy of QC’s Opinion on 3FM

News from Wisley Action Group [WAG] – June 19th 2014

 Inclusion of Wisley ‘new town’

could threaten legality and

viability of entire Draft Plan

 

The inclusion of a ‘new town’ proposal at Wisley may threaten the legality and viability of the draft Local Plan in its entirety.

Written opinion from barrister Peter Village QC provides three main reasons why the inclusion of ‘Three Farms Meadows’, the former Wisley airfield, in the Draft Plan is not sound.

His advice to the Wisley Action Group [WAG] is that the Wisley site does not meet the definition of ‘available’ as set out in the National Planning Practice Guidance because it includes land that is outside the developer’s ownership and which is not available and because the site contains a VOR navigational beacon.

He further advises that there is insufficient available land within the site to justify its inclusion in the Draft Plan and that the site is not suitable because it is in the Metropolitan Green Belt and immediately adjacent to a Special Protection Area.

Other more appropriate sites should be comprehensively considered, he says, concluding that the Wisley site is neither ‘available’ nor ‘deliverable’.

The advice makes mention of the Council’s policy to exclude land from consideration where ‘landowners have either told us that their land is not available, or we have not heard whether their land is available, for development’ [Draft Plan at para 9.53], and  makes mention of a specific property which was “erroneously and inexplicably” omitted from the list. In his view the Council acted unlawfully in failing to apply its own policy in respect of the Wisley site.

WAG committee member Helen Jefferies said today; “The written opinion we have received clearly suggests that the inclusion of the Wisley site in the Draft Plan is not sound and is susceptible to legal challenge.  Indeed it would appear that its inclusion could have far reaching implications.”

She went on; “We believe WAG has legitimate grounds for challenging the Council’s inclusion of the Wisley site.”

 -2

 Note to Editors.   Copy of written opinion accompanies this statement.

Issued on behalf of the Wisley Action Group                                         June 19th 2014

By

Anthony Edwards Publicity

Tel 01483 222722  Fax 01483 223989

Vote against this DAFT local plan tonight

Dear Borough Councillor,

 The biggest threat to our borough and to the Green Belt is not the NPPF. It is Lead Councillors Mansbridge and Juneja.

 1. Bogus business agenda

They purport to follow a ‘pro business’ agenda. Their rhetoric is full of buzz –words: growth, ambition, development, targets. It attempts to imitate a radical Thatcherite agenda – which was appropriate when Arthur Scargill used his power as leader of a union which had a near monopoly on the supply of labour to an industry with a near monopoly of supply of fuel to the electricity industry in the UK. This rhetoric is hollow and ridiculously out of place in 2014.

 Remember, Mansbridge and Juneja have NO business credentials. They have simply appointed themselves as spin-meisters for the business sector. But they have never worked for the multinational businesses like Ericsson or Sanofi which are important to Guildford. They simply do not know what they are talking about.

 Why are these companies here?

 1)     Transport. Access to Heathrow, Gatwick and London. What does the Local Plan propose? Injecting transport cholesterol directly into the transport arteries of the borough. Thousands of new houses right on the A3 at Junction 10 and near the University.

2)     Skilled labour and unique countryside. These companies employ highly paid ex pats from across Europe and abroad and expect them to re-locate and to travel at short notice. This workforce is here because of our ‘green and pleasant land’ and the transport access. What does the Local Plan propose? To turn significant parts of the borough into a building site.

 2. The electorate and the rule of law.

 The voters of Guildford – yes even the silent ones – did not vote for and do not want revolutionary encroachment into the Green Belt. The silent majority is silent because it expects that the rule of law will be respected.

 What does the law say?

It says that the Green Belt should be permanent. What part of the word ‘permanent’ do Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja have difficulty with?

It says that the Green Belt boundaries should only be changed in ‘Exceptional Circumstances’.

 Do you understand what this means? Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja clearly don’t. Cllr Juneja asked Tim Harrold at the Executive Cttee meeting to approve the LP, ‘what do you think exceptional circumstances are?’

 She misses the point. The interpretation of the meaning of the policy, the words themselves, is not for Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja to determine. It is not for GBC to determine. It is for the Courts.

 GBC claims to have received legal advice that there is no legal definition of what constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’. This is just not true.

 Doubt who to believe? Then read the case law for yourself and form your own opinion.

 Here are the relevant cases:

If you want to read the originals click on the links

 1. Gallagher:

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2014/1283.html&query=gallagher+and+v+and+solihull&method=boolean

 2. St Albans

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1610.html&query=st+and+albans+and+v+and+hunston&method=boolean

 3. Tesco stores v Dundee

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/uk/cases/UKSC/2012/13.html&query=tesco+and+stores+and+v+and+dundee&method=boolean

 4. Hague v Warwick

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2008/3252.html&query=hague+and+v+and+warwick&method=boolean

 5. COPAS

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2001/180.html&query=COPAS&method=boolean

 6. Carpets of Worth is not on Bailii. But I have a copy if anyone is interested.

 The judge in the Gallagher case (only a couple of months ago) stated:

1)     the test for re-defining Green Belt boundaries has not been changed by the NPPF

2)     the Local Plan process does NOT constitute an exceptional circumstance.

3)     This proposition is clear and uncontroversial: ‘Whilst each case is fact-sensitive and the question of whether circumstances are exceptional for these purposes requires an exercise of planning judgement, what is capable of amounting to exceptional circumstances is a matter of law and the plan maker may err in law if he fails to adopt a lawful approach to exceptional circumstances. Once a Green Belt has been established and approved, it requires more than general planning concepts to justify an alteration.’

4)     Judge Simon Brown (now Master of the Rolls?) stated in the COPAS case: ‘I would hold that …- where the revision proposed is to] [alter the Green Belt boundaries] …[exceptional circumstances] – cannot be adjudged to arise unless some fundamental assumption which caused the land initially to be excluded from [or included in] the Green Belt is thereafter clearly and permanently falsified by a later event.    Only then could the continuing exclusion of the land from the Green Belt properly be characterised as “an incongruous anomaly.”

5)     The judge in the Gallagher case states: ‘In other words, something must have occurred subsequent to the definition of the Green Belt boundary that justifies a change. The fact that, after the definition of the Green Belt boundary, the local authority … form[s] a different view on where the boundary should lie, … cannot of itself constitute an exceptional circumstance which necessitates and therefore justifies a change…

 3. Regulatory capture

 There is still no satisfactory explanation for why a site in the Parish of Ockham has been selected as the ONLY site in the entire borough for a new town.

 Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja – and it would appear the permanent staff – ignore the objective facts:

1)     Not an airfield. The 114ha owned by WPI (fronted by a conservative politician) is 85% farmland and open countryside. It is false to describe it as an airfield. No plane has used this site for 40 years. It was sold back to Lord Lytton in 1980 as agricultural land. There are no buildings on site. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisley_airfield)

2)     Too small. GBC states that a site for a new town must be at least 110ha to be sustainable. 55.5ha of this site falls within the exclusion zone for the adjacent SPA. (See the Appendix to the daft local plan which shows the SANG – and gives the figure 55.5ha.)

3)     Not ‘available’: adjoining owners will not sell. Adjacent farmland has been included in the site in the draft LP. This adjacent land is NOT owned by WPI. Several of the owners have written to GBC to say their land is NOT AVAILABLE.

4)     No SANG has been identified by GBC. The developer’s proposal to put the SANG continguous with the SPA is ridiculous.

 On any objective evaluation this site should NOT be in the Local Plan.

 How do YOU reconcile the facts with the inclusion of this site in the LP as the ONLY site in the borough. What work has GBC done to assess whether a new town is needed? What assessment of appropriate sites has been carried out?

 So why is it there? Because the hedge fund manager behind this scheme was in the army and Cllr Mansbridge was in the army? Because the promoter of the project is a Conservative Cllr from Oxfordshire?

Doesn’t the inclusion of this site in these circumstances amount to regulatory capture? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture)

 Is it clear that the Planning Code of Conduct has been complied with. Is the evaluation of this site ‘honest’ and ‘transparent’? Form you own view.

 I believe that at best there have been serious ‘procedural irregularities’.

 It certainly does not help that the Parish of Ockham is for most practical purposes unrepresented in the Council at present – at a time when the Council is planning to obliterate it underneath a new town.

 Yes, OBLITERATE! You beg to disagree? Then consider this: the new town will contain as many houses as in the WHOLE of East AND West Horsley – in a fraction of the area -perhaps a fourth or fifth of the area! It will be THREE times bigger than Ripley. It will destroy the character and setting of the Ockham Conservation Area. It will destroy the character and setting of the Ripley Conservation Area. It will blight the setting of the many historic buildings in the Parish, many dating back to Saxon and Medieval times. It will blight the Special Protection Zone to the north. It will make the daily traffic standstills on the A3 and M25 even worse. Ever get stuck in ‘slow moving traffic’ in Cobham High Street? Just add a few thousand cars and a one way system in Plough Lane. Relax! With traffic improvements like this (paid for by who? – probably you as a taxpayer) everything will be even better.

4. Housing numbers

The NPPF prescribes how the housing numbers are to be evaluated. It is a sequential process. The key steps are:

 1. Household projections

These are demographic, trend-based projections indicating the likely number and type of future households if the underlying trends and demographic assumptions are realised. The projections are published by the Dept of Communities and Local Government and are subject to limitations set out, for example, in the section headed ‘Accuracy’.

 2. Full Objective Assessment of Need for Housing

This is the objectively assessed need for housing in an area, leaving aside policy considerations.

 3. Housing Requirement

This is the figure which reflects not only the assessed need for housing, but also any policy considerations that might require that figure to be adjusted to determine the actual housing target for an area

 Why hasn’t GBC followed all the steps in the sequence?

We now know that the household projection statistics were wrong. What do Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja propose to do about it? Find alternative justifications for the number which they thought of first.

 We now know that the objective need estimates are inflated by student numbers? What has been done to correct this? Nothing!

 We know that objective need is not the end result. It must be adjusted to reflect Green Belt constraints. Why have no constraints been applied?

 It is your responsibility as a Cllr to ensure that the housing figures are properly assessed. So far Cllrs have not done their jobs. Step 3 above has been ignored. Cllrs have blindly followed an incompetent Executive.

 If you are Lib Dem or Labour Cllr consider this: Why have you not provided an effective opposition to this development crazed Executive?

 If you are a Conservative Cllr consider this: why have you not stood up for ‘procedural regularity’ and the rule of law? Why has no Cllr stood up and pointed out that the Executive completely ignored the Scrutiny Cttee. Doormats have more grit!

 The little Tin Gods in Guildford with their Tin Ears may disregard the electorate. But the electorate will fight and the electorate shall be right. Confident in your leadership? Think they will win in Court? Happy for them to be wasting public money on these half baked ideas? If so vote for this incompetent and amateur local plan. With any luck you wont be re-elected in 2015 to have to justify it.

 Yours etc,

 

3 facts about WPI’s front man

Que.  Who is behind the plan to remove 117 hectares from the Green Belt at Ockham?

Ans The land was acquired by a Caymans company called Wisley Property Investments (WPI). It purchased the land from Wharf Land – a Jersey company since liquidated. It is thought that the promoters of WPI are the same or similar to the people behind Wharf Land. But they remain hidden behind the secrecy of their offshore registration – beyond reach of British disclosure rules – and taxes.

Que So who fronts up for this company?

Ans. The person who consistently speaks on behalf of WPI (but refuses to disclose any information about its owners and financiers) is Mr Michael Murray. He regularly gives quotes to the Surrey Advertiser.

Que. Who is he?

 Ans. It turns out that he is a Conservative Party Councillor from The Vale of White Horse District Council in Oxfordshire. This is his entry on their website:

Councillor Michael Murray

Party: Conservative

Ward: Hendreds

Que. Why is he promoting WPI’s change of use of its land at Three Farms Meadow?

Ans. Well you’d have to ask him of course. When I asked him whether he has any financial interest in WPI he was evasive. But he has stated that he had no conflict of interest. It is not clear if that means that he is does not personally stand to make money if WPI manages to achieve a ‘change of use’ of Three Farms Meadow. Funnily enough he has an executive position on the Vale of White Horse District Council.  He is ‘Cabinet member for planning policy, including the core strategy’.
Que. Aren’t the Conservatives supposed to support the Green Belt?
Ans. Yes it was a manifesto commitment of the Guildford Tories, apparently. They do not seem to be living up to their election promises though.
Que. Does Mike Murray have any connections with the GBC executive?
Ans. Dont know. But he was seen by constituents at one of the GBC roadshows promoting the Local Plan. Apparently he spoke in favour of a ‘new town’ at Wisley.
Que. Anything wrong with that?
Ans. Yes. People who were there say he did not disclose any affiliation with WPI. So innocent members of the public could have received the impression that his comments came from a disinterested member of GBC. Taken with the fact that WPI and its agent Savilles state that GBC is ‘promoting’ the former Wisley Airfield as a site for a new town it all looks rather cosy.