You Get The Councillors You Vote For

by Roger Smolski (Secretary,  Ash Residents Association).

(Ash Residents Association is constitutionally bound to be non-political. References to political groupings in the following article are purely for identification purposes and are in no way meant to express political views).

As you may know Guildford Borough Council is in the process of formulating a new Local Plan which among other things will identify sites on which housing development can occur over the next twenty years. Before the final plan is produced a "Strategy and Sites Issues and Options" document for public consultation was approved at a Council Meeting on the 17th September 2013. At the same meeting Councillors also approved an eight week period of public consultation from 1 October 2013 to 29 November 2013.

It seemed to us that the Council Meeting on the 24th September 2013, to consider the 400 homes South of Ash Lodge Drive, rendered the consultation process due to start one week later redundant as far as residents of Ash and Tongham were concerned.

Of course we wrote to all the Councillors before the meeting pointing out the local residents main objections to the development but we wrote an additional letter to each of the 12 Liberal Councillors. The reason for doing so is contained in the letter itself which is reproduced below:

Re: Planning application 12/P/01973 for up to 400 residential dwellings South of Ash Lodge Drive, Ash.

Dear Councillor (Name)

We will be writing to all Councillors outlining local residents objections to the above application but in addition wish to raise a specific issue with Liberal Democrat Councillors.

Liberal Democratic Party Policy Statements acknowledge that "Local people are the experts in their own neighbourhoods and their own needs" and that "Liberal Democrats have long campaigned to make planning more responsive to local demands and concerns".

We believe that the consultation process that commences on October 1st for the borough's new Local Plan supports these Liberal Democrat Party principles.

On 24th September exactly one week before the Local Plan consultation process starts Councillors will be asked to approve outline planning permission for 400 houses in Ash South. As you will know this application is opposed by 99% of Tongham, Ash Green and Ash South residents, but most importantly approval at this stage will deny local people any meaningful input into the local plan.

The question Ash South & Tongham residents have for Liberal Democratic Councillors is, does the principal of genuine participation in the democratic process apply to Ash & Tongham residents or are they to be presented with a fait accompli? Does prejudicing their input into the Local Plan accord with Liberal Democratic principles?

In the past 12 months planning permission has been granted for some 123 new homes in adjoining land and these are currently waiting to be built. As a result local residents can see no advantage to anyone, except the developers, in approving such a large development immediately prior to the consultation process.

We would ask you to defer approval of this development until after the consultation process and the adoption of the new local plan.

The letter was sent to: Councillor Mark Chapman, Councillor Zöe Franklin, Councillor Steve Freeman, Councillor David Goodwin, Councillor Lizzie Griffiths, Councillor Gillian Harwood, Councillor Liz Hogger, Councillor Julia McShane, Councillor Anne Meredith, Councillor Tony Phillips, Councillor Caroline Reeves, Councillor Pauline Searle.

Not one single Liberal Democrat Councillor bothered to reply.

Ten Liberal Democrat Councillors attended the Council Meeting on the 24th September 2013, two were opposed to the development Councillors Harwood and Griffiths, and eight were in favour of the development, Councillors Hogger, Reeves, Franklin, Goodwin, Meredith, Phillips, Searle and McShane.

The eight Liberal Councillors who voted in favour of the development live an average of 10.7 miles from South Ash so there is no reason to suppose that they would have any understanding of, or affinity with the residents of the community. However what it is surprising is their total lack of support for democratic principles as applied to the residents of South Ash and communal lack of common courtesy in responding to communications.

On the other hand if the Liberal Democrat group in Guildford Borough Council can elect David Goodwin as their leader anything is possible. Here is David Goodwin in a video clip from the Council Meeting on the 24th September 2013 behaving like a pompous bully boy and showing absolutely no empathy or consideration for the 400+ residents who attended the meeting.

You do indeed get the Councillors you vote for....

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