20130624_Localism like terrorism?

How strange it is when a group of professionals give their time and expertise to (help Councillors) hold the Council’s officers to account and are likened by a senior Councillor – in the Council chamber – to IRA terrorists?

Professional people who give something back to their communities on a pro bono basis, and who even incur costs to do so, are precisely what Big Society is about. It does, however, require elected politicians to be brave enough to listen to these professionals alongside the advice of the Council’s officers and take the time to satisfy themselves that they understand the differing views and that they can make an objective decision.

Unfortunately, in Guildford, the officers still seem to hold sway and the Councillors are too fearful of knowledgeable challenge.

They have allowed the officers to bring forward a Statement of Community Involvement where amendments have not been out for consultation and, still further, have adopted it with an amendment that allows a Councillor and the Senior Planning Officer to change it without even having to go back to committee – how ironic is that?

Guildford Vision Group has pooled decades of development experience across the country and internationally to help bring about a once-in-a-generation replanning of Guildford including ambitious infrastructure proposals. This requires an independent professional masterplanning exercise but Guildford’s officers (and consequently it’s councillors) have set themselves four square against a Town-wide strategic plan.

Repeatedly calling for such a plan and highlighting the risks of not having one is apparently a campaign equivalent to terrorism. This cannot be right or rational, and is inherently bad for both democracy and town planning in Guildford.