How to CHEAT in Guildford’s sustainability examination

The Settlement Hierarchy, Three Farms Meadow (Former Wisley Airfield), Ockham and ‘sustainability’.

The consultant at the WPI Exhibition told visitors, ‘We say that Wisley Airifield is the most sustainable site in Surrey’.

 What does GBC say? What does the Local Plan Evidence base say? 

 The key relevant document released on this question so far is the ‘Settlement Hierarchy’. This is dated May, 2014. Its authors are the planning consultants Pegasus Group. It directly addresses the question of the relative sustainability of different settlements across Guildford Borough. Everyone who lives in Ockham and /or has an interest in Three Farms Meadow should read this document – released in May 2014.

What does the Settlement Hierarchy aim to achieve?

It states that the largest settlements with the best infrastructure are the most sustainable.

  • The idea behind the hierarchy is to direct incoming growth to sustainable areas.
  • Sustainable settlements are defined as settlements which can support additional growth and are the easiest to get to.

How does it score settlements?

The scoring criteria are set out in para 3.2. The key elements are:

  Criterion Sub criterion
1 Shops No of shops in  bands
2 Schools Elementary, Primary, Secondary
3 Community facilities A long list of items including libraries, places of worship etc etc
4 Transport Buses, railways, roads
5 Employment Local and wider

How do different settlements score on these criteria?

 This is how some relevant settlements have been scored:

 

Total points Community Facilities points Rank
Guildford Urban Area

49

18

1

Ash and Tongham

49

17

1

East  Horsley

38

18

3

West Horsley

19

9

13

East & West Horsley together
Shalford

29

11

4

Chilworth

28

10

6

Effingham

26

11

7

Send

26

14

7

Send Marsh/Burnt Common

17

7

19

Ripley

25

12

9

Fairlands

24

12

10

Wood St Village

20

9

20

Ockham

4

4

32

 

Note that

1)     Ockham gets 4 points and ranks at no 32 in the settlement hierarchy ie at second last in the entire borough.

2)     Ockham gets ONE point for EACH these factors:

  1. Place of worship
  2. Open space
  3. Restaurant/café/take-away
  4. Village community hall

3)     Guildford Urban Area gets just ONE point for EACH of these factors:

  1. Place of worship
  2. Restaurant/café/take-away
  3. Village/community hall

[This implies that these facilities in Ockham are somehow equivalent to those in Guildford Urban Area. They get an identical score. Don’t believe me that that is possible? Then look on page 27 and see for yourself.]

What do we deduce from the sustainability scores for the different settlements?

As a rule of thumb it looks like:

 1)     settlements with scores above 20, especially above 23 points, are considered suitable for growth

2)     settlements with scores below 20 are not considered suitable for growth UNLESS sufficient houses are built to justify new facilities

Note that they fudge the Horsleys. East Horsley is scored very highly on these critera. West Horsley scores rather low. So they lump the two settlements together. (I thought the Green Belt was to stop urban sprawl and the merging of settlements – but not according to Pegasus/GBC. But then they are planning consultants after all)

See that East Horsley’s shops get a score of 4 for ‘convenience and comparison’ whilst Guildford Urban Area gets a score of 6. [Is that your assessment of the relative convenience and comparison of shops available in each settlement? Its not mine.]

So how can WPI claim that Wisley Airfield is the ‘most sustainable site in Surrey’?

This is how it can be done:

Score today Potential/pie in the sky
Shops

0

2

Schools
   Infant

0

3

   Primary

0

3

Community Facilities
   Recreation

0

3

   Post Office

0

3

   Doctor

0

3

   Dentist

0

1

   Place of worship

1

1

   Open space

1

2

  Children’s play area

0

1

   Restaurant/café/takeaway

1

1

   Community hall

1

1

Transport
   Buses

0

3

   Railway (within a mile)

0

0

Employment
   Local

0

2

   Wider

0

0

 ——–

 ——–

4

30

 =====

 =====

The method is to ‘tick the boxes’. Look at what the Pegasus methodology awards points for and then put them into your plan. What do points mean? Development! (Millions in the bank for WPI).

Take Transport. They will never be able to claim that TFM is within a mile of a railway station. But the consultants do make the claim that there will be buses every 15 minutes. [Don’t believe me? Go to their exhibition and ask them.  Its up to you if you want to believe that any unsubsidised bus operator would provide such a service.]

Take schools. The scoring system blindly gives points for the mere existence of a school in the settlement. It takes no account of whether there is any spare capacity at the school. So the developer can get points for building a school (which should be the responsibility of the local government – except they wish to buy it with soft commission from the developer) – even though we all know that any school capacity they build will do little more than fill the existing deficit rather than meet the needs of the new settlement.

Conclusion: some planner with the ability to ‘tick the boxes’ can create the ‘most sustainable site in the whole of Surrey’ without having ANY local knowledge or leaving his desk to go further than the coffee machine.

Does this mean that Former Wisley Airfied would make a genuinely sustainable settlement? Of course not. To make such a claim is a travesty. It is intellectually dishonest. Only someone corrupted by the prospect of a huge financial profit could make such a preposterous claim.  In other words only a hired lackey at a firm of consultants could make the claim –because they don’t have to live with the consequences. So much for ‘Localism’!

Does the methodology show a genuine understanding of the concept of economic, environmental and ecological sustainability? No! It is a facile overlay of some basic criteria which creates a scoring system which any developer can ‘game’ in order to demonstrate sustainability.

And all of this is overseen by a ‘Lead Councillor’ who has misrepresented her professional qualifications. Can someone who has casually lied about their qualifications be trusted to oversee a process which relies on scoring systems which depend on highly subjective judgements about subjective data? Form your own view.

In fact it is worse than that. This whole process is overseen by a Council which does not think that lying about your professional qualifications is a breach of the Nolan Principles. It commissioned an ‘investigation’ by a tame solicitor which held that no criminal offence had been committed. And the Council now considers the matter closed.  Would you buy a second hand car from these people? Or let them shape your town or village for the next 20 years?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *