Category Archives: Letters to Guildford Dragon

20130317 Bellerby JR Opinion

In response to posts on the Guildford Dragon News

I am a member of the GVG Steering Group.  I understand the agonies of observers for and against the Bellerby development, and I would point out (speaking for myself and not for or on behalf of GVG) that, had the processes of site allocation, site disposal, integrated evidence, and a realistic examination of alternatives been properly and comprehensively undertaken by the Council and applicant – and we are going back to before the application was even submitted – it is quite possible that all of us who would like to see Waitrose in the town could have had our way – but not necessarily on that site, and almost certainly not in that format. 

Whilst some may choose to speculate on my class, wealth or employment status, this is not about NIMBYism, this is about quality and about strategic planning

If we are to accept development ‘In My Back Yard’, we must demand that it is done properly, without wasting the scarce resources of our previously developed sites (before raiding the countryside to make up the housing numbers for example), and we must make sure that the rest of the town can not only continue to function but can grow its economy, as indeed it should – and as the Region and Country requires it to.

This will require good governance, good leadership and good application of the law and planning regulations.  Better engagement with stakeholders and communities would be a good start and I hope the forthcoming Local Plan consultations will embrace this and move us much further forward with an up-to-date, workable and comprehensive plan for the town and the Borough.

I hope there will be a sensible location and solution for both Waitrose and John Lewis, but I personally am not prepared to stand by and let our town be destroyed for a lack of patience and imagination, and from misguided pragmatism.

Julian Lyon (17th March 2013)

120504 Local Democracy

Comment posted on Guildford Dragon website

Let All the Councillors Have Their Say

In response to your opinion piece, ‘Where is GBC’s ‘Openness and Transparency’?’, as I recall it, Mr Hill’s other interventions during the debate on the Guildford Philharmonic were to tell the Scrutiny Committee what it can and cannot discuss and what sub-committees it can and cannot establish.

It is, surely, bad enough to have a relatively unaccountable Executive Committee (7 rural councillors and a token urban one) running affairs in our town – often to the complete disenfranchisement of the remaining forty or so councillors – but to also have a non-local Chief Executive deciding how this Council should conduct the democratic part of its business and behaving petulantly at that meeting whenever anyone said something with which he disagreed is palpably ultra vires. He was at the meeting as an officer (standing in for the one whose demise he oversaw) and should have behaved as such.

It is questionable how well the administrative part of his job is done – I know several members of the voting public to whom he has not even afforded the courtesy of a reply in respect of letters, emails and calls, relating to important issues affecting the town and Borough*. I also have received comments from many employees across the Council (all too afraid to speak out despite the Transparency Code implemented last year) that tell a different story when compared to that protective cloak of concern for his staff he discovered somewhere for the occasion of that meeting.

It is not the professional part of the job that is at question here, though. If David Hill wishes to get involved in local democracy, he should (1) move here so that he is eligible to stand and to vote; he should (2) put himself forward and see what the good burghers of Guildford actually think of him; he should (3) earn sufficient respect to be voted as party leader of the majority party so that he can (4) become the leader of the council.

Let all of the councillors have their say. Let them all provide strong and free representation of those who entrusted them with their votes. No-one should be disenfranchising whole sections of the Borough. Not the party political system, not the Executive Committee and, most definitely, not the Chief Executive.

* I have been asked to remove this reference as some instances have been agreed as misunderstandings – my own experience is very mixed (for example, as of 14th May and as far as I can tell, I have not yet received a reply to or acknowledgement of my email to him of 27th April).

120421 Waitrose

Letter to Guildford Dragon

The travesty of the conflicting interests of the Borough Council when it comes to deciding how much of the gross capital receipts should be commuted for s106 and s278 agreements for highways improvements is that we have no traffic study or long term plan against which to measure the appropriateness of any allocation.

Indeed, Waitrose themselves (in the form of their traffic engineer at the exhibition at the Guildhall on Friday 20th) acknowledged that their modelling, based on a generic traffic modelling system, only analysed the traffic impact of their proposals on the York Road roundabout and York Road itself.

Continue reading 120421 Waitrose

120413 Master Plan

Letter to Guildford Dragon

Guildford desperately needs to address its traffic congestion (clearly confirmed by the meeting of 150 to 200 people on 21st March launching the Guildford Vision Group) and to create a vision for a better town to meet the needs of all its stakeholders.

The Council’s Draft Town Centre Masterplan, with minimal consultation over the busy Christmas period, has been widely criticised as “woeful”, “badly researched”, “lacking any vision” and “fundamentally flawed” – mainly because it did nothing to address congestion and the impact of traffic routes on pedestrian access between the station, the town, the river and elsewhere.

Perhaps having a plan approved by a Council Executive I have previously criticised for its lack of transparency, is more about selling off Council-owned (actually our) town centre sites, and triggering quick-fix solutions such as the Bedford Road bus station idea and the Waitrose supermarket land sale! (For those unaware, a sale of the Bellerby Theatre and surrounding land to Waitrose has been rushed through before the Council even had the chance to grant itself planning permission – although it did publish a planning brief to convert less lucrative residential use to a ‘preferred’ supermarket use without any reference to traffic generation or solutions).

Continue reading 120413 Master Plan