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
2. St Albans
3. Tesco stores v Dundee
4. Hague v Warwick
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.