What on earth is the point of the Liberal Democrats if they can’t even develop a derelict site in the heart of our town?
For many years there has been a large area of wasteland in the centre of Guildford which symbolised the council’s failure to modernise the town. Finally, or so it seemed, the council was about to support a plan to develop this ugly patch of dereliction. About a third of this area is council-owned property, and the council agreed to sell this to St Edwards if planning permission was granted. Now, after three years of working with the developers, the plan the Liberal Democrats has overseen has been voted down by….those councillors who set it all up in the first place. This Liberal Democrat plan was voted down by ALL FIVE Liberal Democrat councillors. Labour’s Angela Gunning voted with the R4GV group and in line with expert advice from the council’s own officers, but the Liberal Democrats and Tories ensured the plan was rejected.
How many more years will it take for North Street to be properly developed? The Liberal Democrats promised us 3000 council houses and have delivered hardly any, and have continually failed to support schemes for new homes in Guildford. The conduct of some councillors is unacceptable, frequently voting against legal advice and racking up huge legal bills following inevitable appeals. There must be something wrong with the current consultation process which produces so many legal appeals; this incompetence is costing the people of Guildford hundreds of thousands of pounds to achieve nothing.
Guildford Labour did not think the North Street plan was perfect, far from it: we would have liked to see some of those 3000 council houses on the site; we also felt the height was just too high for the town centre and we would have liked to see more work done on the bus station re-vamp. But it would have been far better to work more intensely with developers to make the plan acceptable to the majority of councillors before bringing it to Planning, as the result is that no further homes will be built in the immediate future. Rejecting this development makes a mockery of any idea that Guildford can make progress under Liberal Democrat leadership.
Guildford is the left-behind town in Surrey, crumbling away as other towns show ambition and make their areas fit for the 21st century.