The Local Plan sets out a long-term development strategy for Guildford. It is where the major decisions on planning for the future of communities and land are made, including where new development should be concentrated.
Preparation work by Guildford Borough Council on the Local Plan have gone on for over five years to date. This has included two public consultations to which there was over 85,000 responses and a final examination in public by the Independent Planning which ruled the Plan to be sound and acceptable for adoption. This was agreed at the Council meeting in March 2019 – and the Plan adopted.
In many ways the Local Plan is more important for what it rules out rather than rules in. If an area is not allocated for house-building, then there is little chance that a developer can get house building approved. The other side of the coin is that even through an area might be allocated for house building that does not mean it will definitely happen. The council still has to approve any actual planning application.
Without a Local Plan all land is open to developers. Surrounding boroughs who are still debating their plans are finding inappropriate and unwanted housing developments are being approved because there is no strategic reason to turn them down. Without a plan, planning is like the wild west.
The priorities for Guildford Labour Party are that housing developments should meet the needs of the people in the borough; we have enough multi-million pound mansions and not enough two bedroom properties for young families. Too many so-called affordable houses (defined as 80% of average local house prices) are simply not, and we need more council and social housing at reasonable rents. We need developments which have sufficient and appropriate infrastructure and yes, in some cases, limited development on green belt land is appropriate. Guildford Labour would like to see local communities being more involved in planning their own housing need and encourage small, community builds in the villages. The above can only be delivered by having a sound local plan, which is why Guildford’s Labour councillors have supported the plan.
Rather than waste tens of thousands of pounds on barristers and lawyers’ fees, it is time Guildford Borough moved on and started to plan for the future. Guildford does need more housing for local people and key worker staff, not massive five-bedroomed houses in gated developments. The villages do need some housing if they are not to become dormitory settlements where schools close because no families can afford to live there and affluent older people are trapped unable to downsize to more manageable properties. We need a radical new plan for the town centre, radical new transport plans and radical new ideas to combat the climate emergency. We need to look at how we will make life in Guildford in ten years’ time better, greener, and more equal than it is now, with no rough sleeping and food banks phased out. These are the real challenges for Guildford Borough and your local Labour Party will be focused on these rather than endlessly fighting a plan which is already adopted.