Council critic becomes Tory candidate

From the Guildford Dragon:

Council Critic Becomes Tory Candidate in Lovelace By-election

Ben Paton the Conservative candidate in the Lovelace ward 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.

Map showing the three parishes of Wisley, Ockham and Ripley, in the north east of Guildford Borough, that make up Lovelace Ward.

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.

Face of Rural England to change forever: CPRE report: Targeting the Countryside

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:



Responses to Cllr Mansbridge’s press release

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.

Press release on behalf of the Leader of GBC

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

Ockham Lane and Plough Lane: unsuitable for HGVs and for a ‘new town’

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:

Will GBC set out any exceptional circumstances? Letter in Guildford Dragon

Letter: What Are The ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ That Would Justify Altering the Green Belt?

Green belt land south of GuildfordFrom Ben Paton

Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) 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 National Planning Policy Framework states (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.

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.

Go to Guildford Dragon to see public comments:


Local plan flaws are even worse than described: letter in Guildford Dragon

A good follow on letter

Letter: Local Plan Flaws Are Even Worse Than Described

Local Plan Letters imageFrom Roland McKinney

Although Graham Moore illustrates some of the flaws in the Draft Local Plan, the picture is actually much worse than he describes. This is because the projections made by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that were used by all the consultants who produced the reports in the so called “evidence base” were flawed; they were based on a dataset derived from the 2001 census.

The result of the 2011 census showed that the ONS were overestimating the growth in Guildford’s population, so they revised their dataset, and their projections. New versions were published in May 2014. This means that any [previous] ONS projection used in the production of the evidence base is flawed.

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) were aware of these flaws, they were pointed out to them by the Guildford Society through their work on student numbers, and in subsequent communications with the ONS. Yet no effort was made before the release of the Draft Local Plan to correct these known errors. How can members of the public properly assess the evidence base, when it contains statistics known to be inaccurate?

Graham Moore was absolutely correct in saying that GBC merely cranked a handle and extrapolated ONS projections. The ONS is very clear that this should not happen, that their numbers do not contain any trend analysis, absolutely essential when developing forecasts.

This is not good enough. GBC and its consultants should have started with an examination of the base ONS statistics and where there were anomalies, these should have been explained by examining underlying trends.

By way of examples of anomalies, the ONS use five-year moving averages in their population projections, but measures such as birth rates and net migration vary considerably with time, so the five-year moving average may not provide a good guide to the future.

Another classic example is the net migration rate. This varies considerably over time, so using a five-year average is very likely to overstate the net migration rate in some local authorities – and does so for GBC. Yet there was no examination of these statistics, no attempt to identify trends, nor was there any attempt to understand the driving forces behind trends.

Without this analysis, mechanical projections are next to useless, and when taken with the inclusion of projections based on statistics known to be incorrect, render the whole of the draft Local Plan unfit for purpose.

But as Susan Parker [Guildford Greenbelt Group] has said, it is essential to comment. We should all let GBC know what we think of their contempt for the consultation process.

Guildford Borough Council were asked to respond to this letter. No response has been received.

Draft Local Plan is not Logical: letter in Guildford Dragon

Good letter in the Guildford Dragon. See their site for the follow on comments.

Letter: The Draft Local Plan Is Not Logical

Local Plan Letters imageFrom Graham Moore

The logic of Guildford’s Draft Local Plan is flawed. It is not a plan, it is merely a forecast, an extrapolation of very recent trends, assuming that no other factors will affect those trends. This, to use a planning inspectors’ phrase, is not a “true reflection of reality”.

There is no recognition or discussion of the consequences of trying to expand Guildford’s population so drastically.   The more that Guildford Borough expands, the more it comes up against the constraints of geography, etc. Logically, we should be planning for a slower rate of growth in the future, not an acceleration. To dress an extrapolation of past trends as if it were some sort of “evidence base” is misleading.

I wish to make four points:

1. The target for new homes seems to have been arrived at regardless of the very significant constraints imposed by geography and finance. Guildford’s road and rail network is already overloaded.

How will the existing congestion be overcome?   How much worse will this become as a result of housing developments in neighbouring boroughs, such as the substantial expansion planned in the Cranleigh area? What further problems will be created by a 20 per cent increase in population?

Moreover extra land will need to be set aside for new schools, hospitals, etc. How will these be funded? As the plan does not discuss this aspect, should we deduce that the planning department at Guildford Borough Council (GBC) does not think it relevant?

2. Although the draft plan refers to “local market dynamics and the supply/demand balance”, it fails to explore how this balance will be affected by the supply and prices of houses that are built.

Obviously if more houses are built, more immigration into the borough will be attracted.   The plan seems to be to build houses to allow for an increase in the population to 166,052, i.e. an increase of 28,850 (20.7 per cent) over the next 20 years.

3. Net immigration at 16,340 (12 per cent) accounts for more than half of the future growth. It would be more logical to conclude that since immigration is largely responsible for the housing shortage, there is now no scope for providing for further immigration into the borough.

I note that, following an inspector’s comments in the case of Hart Rural District Council, Waverley Borough Council was unable to sustain the argument that there should be no net migration, but Waverley is only 61 per cent Green Belt, and they were not considering such a high proportion of growth from immigration.

4. The report downplays the importance of green belt policy.   The green belt is meant to provide a limitation on the inexorable growth of London.   Nick Boles, until July the planning minister, stated quite categorically in March this year “authorities should meet objectively assessed needs unless specific policies in the Framework indicate development should be restricted. Crucially, green belt is identified as one such policy”.

If the local authority wishes to adjust the green belt it may do so, but “it must be transparently clear that it is the local authority that has chosen this path”. It could not be plainer: this overrides NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) guidance.   As the Draft Local Plan does not argue otherwise, I can only assume that GBC Officers are not aware of the minister’s statement.

The lengthy documents produced by Guildford’s planning officers are very laborious, and lack a clear overview.   There is no explanation of why, after all the consultation on the 2013 draft plan, the target has been raised from 322 homes p.a. to between 652 and 780.

The officers merely respond: “…guidance is clear that we must allow for migration to the borough. A zero net migration model is not a true reflection of reality and adopting such an approach would lead to an unsound plan”. Net immigration at 16,340 is very far from zero. And no reference is made to Nick Boles’ assurances.   Did he mean what he said?

I am clearly not alone in being dismayed at the fundamental changes being planned, without any apparent appreciation of the consequences.

Given that most of the comments on the October 2013 “consultation” have been totally ignored, one must wonder whether the current consultation, closing on 22 September, will meet the same fate?



Adam Smith Institute justifies building on Green Belt with a ‘one factor’ model

This is the headline in a recent blog post at the Adam Smith Institute – a ‘conservative’ think tank.

Goodbye, Green Belt!

Written by Sam Bowman Tuesday July 22nd 2014

And this is the thesis:

‘..I suggested we should allow construction on the Green Belt around London to increase the supply of developable land.

Cheshire-htg-fig-1Land, as Paul Cheshire likes to point out, is the key. The graph above shows how closely house price rises have tracked land price rises. Land-use restrictions on the Green Belt are quite strict: under the National Planning Policy Framework, local councils face a very high burden of proof to approve new developments on Green Belt land. If they were made less strict, then the supply of land and housing would increase and the price of both would fall.

Profound analysis or cheap propaganda?

Well any explanation for a complex phenomenon which relies on just one  or just one main causative factor us usually false or misleading. The cause of high house prices is just asserted to be land prices without any coherent logic. The circularity of the causation from house values back to land values is conveniently ignored. So to is the effect of mortgage lending and money printing at the Bank of England (so-called QE or Quantitative Easing) which has driven up the price of all financial assets. And the fact that we live in one of the world’s most open economies is just overlooked altogether.

Fine, so it is irrelevant that the money price of a house is affected by money liquidity and the availability of credit? And the fact that Greeks and Russians and Chinese and any affluent capitalist you care to name would like to have a pied a terre near civilised, cosmopolitan London and Heathrow airport where property rights are protected by a thousand years of Common Law and the Judiciary has been independent at least since 1689 has nothing to do with it? If you were a Russian and your property could be judicially stolen if you got on the wrong side of the President you might well see the merits of buying property in England. We run the best tennis tournament because it venerates tradition and rules and quaint ideas like ‘fair play’. Something similar applies to the way we run our economy. We don’t have that many players who win cups (although we still have proportionately more than statistically we should) but the rest of the world certainly likes to come and play the economic game here.

Only homeowners in the Green Belt support it – because it protects the value of their property

We may as well deal with some other  innuendo in the Adam Smith blog. The people who support the Green Belt are disproportionately the people who own property there!

Another assertion backed by logic? Or more developer’s tripe?

On balance most property owners in the Green Belt might be financially much better off if the designation was abolished. To say that most home owners in the Green Belt are against building because it would negatively affect the value of their homes is a travesty. In fact the reverse applies. The property rights of home owners inside the Green Belt have been legally restricted for five decades by Green Belt designation. They cannot enlarge their houses much if at all and they cannot build on their gardens if it affects the ‘openness of the Green Belt’. If Green Belt restrictions were removed completely most home owners in the Green Belt would make a packet enlarging their houses, selling off bits of land – gardens or garages – or just selling out to a property developer.

Most people who live in the Green Belt have broader concerns than just the value of their houses. The Adam Smith Institute may be peopled with economic automatons whose only motive is money but people beyond its walls actually find it more heart-lifting to look at the beauty of nature than to admire a pile of banknotes.

Support for the  Green Belt  is hardly confined to people who own property inside it. Many come to the Green Belt from urban areas to enjoy the countryside- as originally intended by its creators.

Here’s another quaint idea from the Adam Smith Institute

“Allowing London to expand outwards would eat away at the Green Belt, but also allow more people to have gardens and for more (and bigger) parks to be built.”

Wisley Property Investments would agree with that one. That’s why it says it will create a ‘new Country Park’! Of course it does not point out that the only reason it is creating this park is because by law it cannot build on that bit of its site (35% + of the site?!) and by law it must create a “Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space”. Does it mention that the legal purpose of a Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (SANG) is to divert the public away from the rare and endangered species inside the Special Protection Area (SPA)? Of course not! Because that would expose the inconsistency of having the SANG right up against the SPA!

So the Adam Smith Institute says that developing the Green Belt will give everyone a garden? Just take a look at the 2100 houses which the developer is going to put on 69 hectares. That’s a density of over 30 houses a hectare – not leaving any land aside for essential roads, parking, shops, schools etc.  If this development is representative then Green Belt development is not going to create much garden space!

Is there really a shortage of land?

Or is it just a convenient presupposition to justify building on the Green Belt? According to the Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) there is enough Previously Developed Land or ‘brownfield’ land to build another 1.5 million new homes on.

Can existing infrastructure cope with new houses?

Anyone caught in traffic at a standstill on the A3 near Junction 10 would think this a relevant consideration. The Adam Smith Blogger does not mention infrastructure at all. It is apparent that current infrastructure is inadequate for existing houses – let along thousands of new ones.

And what about the effect of new taxes on house prices?

Successive governments have increased  taxes on new homes . The public has not heard of most of them –  Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL, the SANG levy, S106 money, affordable homes, etc, etc.  All of these that are supposed to create “infrastructure”.  Who pays these levies?– house buyers, not developers.  And if the price of a new house goes up as a consequence, well so will the price of a “used” house.  So house prices are also inflated by stealth taxes, which are being steadily increased.

 And one last thing!

Go back and look at the chart. Marvellous evidence that chart. Really makes the point that you should build on the Green Belt!

Just one problem: it shows that house prices (which drive land prices and not the other way around by the way) are cyclical.  And is the Adam Smith Institute suggesting that you should buy low and sell high? Look closely.

“Property prices must have fallen in 1974 and 1993 because the supply of land was increased. The money supply and interest rates had nothing to do with it”

Yah sure. Whatever it takes to get a planning permission.

Perhaps we should ask the Adam Smith Institute to try correlating London House prices with land prices on the ring roads around Shanghai. Perhaps it could interview the chinese families that have made fortunes buying a house outside each new ring road just as it is built?

Perhaps the Institute could explain why, if the ‘build houses’ theory of economic growth was the philosopher’s stone,  the two European countries which built more houses in the last 20 years than in their entire previous history (Spain and Ireland) are still poorer than they were before the global financial crisis?