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Planning Group Annual Report 2016

Aug 2016

The members of the Group are John Baylis, Gordon Bridger, Ian Macpherson, Amanda Mullarkey, David Ogilvie, Martin Taplin, Anthony Umney and John Wood. The Group is not represented on the Society’s Executive. John Baylis acts as Secretary for the Group. The Group has had no Chairman since the 2011 AGM.


John Wood has prepared a summary of the outcomes of the letters we have written to GBC about planning applications received during Jan – June 2015, and a spreadsheet showing outcomes for the last four six month periods. Both the summary and the spreadsheet have been placed on the Planning section of the GSoc website. They make very interesting reading.

Solum’s proposals for the mainline station

In February 2015 Solum announced that they intended to submit an amended application for the mainline station site. By about June they had prepared new plans and they entered another round of consultation. Subsequent to a ’Transport’ workshop with them on 20th July, there was a ‘Heights, Views and Materials’ workshop on 4th August. We sent detailed notes of the latter meeting to Solum: we objected to the heights of the proposed buildings which are not in keeping with the neighbouring conservation areas. The proposals were still higher than those proposed in their 2012 consultation. (We reminded ourselves that what we were getting is primarily a housing estate built over the old sidings i.e. brown field land, with spin-off benefits for rail users but also some added complexity, e.g. for short term parking.)

In November Solum submitted amendments to their planning application 14/P/02168. There were no changes to what they had proposed at the workshops. The Group put much effort into the preparation of a 12 page letter of objection sent to Neil Taylor, GBC Interim Director of Development, on 20th December. Copies were sent to Councillors. The full text can be read under ‘Hot Topics’ on the GSoc website.

We helped to prepare for the public meeting which GSoc mounted on 13th January. Amanda contributed to the flyers and press release prior to the meeting, Martin gave a presentation on the non-compliance of Solum’s proposals with planning policies and I undertook research and gave a presentation on Viability. All the presentations can be seen under ‘Hot Topics’ on the GSoc website.

As of the time of writing the application is still undecided and has not been to the GBC Planning Committee.


The Allies and Morrison Draft Town Centre Masterplan, commissioned by GBC, went to the GBC Executive last September with a recommendation that it be endorsed for public consultation. The Planning Group generated a great deal of comment that was used to help draft the G Soc Stance on the Masterplan, which was submitted to GBC in November. The full text of the Stance document can be found under ‘Hot Topics’ on the GSoc website.

Strategic Housing Market Assessment.

The most contentious item in the draft Local Plan is the housing target. The government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that LPAs should “use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as far as is consistent with the policies set out in this Framework.” The objectively assessed needs are deduced in local Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMAs).

The Feb 2014 draft SHMA for Guildford argued that Guildford has a housing need of 671 new dwellings per year and should consider a figure of 800. The consequence was the July 2014 draft Local Plan with its huge new housing estates in the Green Belt. The SHMA was attacked vigorously by ourselves, GRA and the newly formed GGG. G L Hearn, the authors of the SHMA, came back in December 2014 having considered all the representations and concluded that the need for Guildford is in the range 620 to 816.

G.L.Hearn produced a new SHMA, dated October 2015, based on the latest statistics. The figure is now 693. So it is still more than double the GSoc proposal, adopted by GRA, of 345. However this SHMA does say ”The SHMA does not set housing targets, and the Government’s Planning Practice Guidance clearly sets out that the SHMA itself must not apply constraints to the overall assessment of need, such as environmental constraints, green belt policies, and issues related to congestion and local infrastructure. This does not mean that these issues are not important. They are very relevant in considering how much development can be sustainably accommodated and where new development should be located. When developing new local plans, the Councils must weigh up these factors with the housing need, and test different options regarding how much development can be accommodated. The Government continues to attach great importance to Green Belts and this is one of the factors which must be considered in determining housing targets.”

Draft Local Plan

In response to many local pressures the draft July 2014 Local Plan was withdrawn by GBC.

The ‘Guildford Borough Proposed Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites June 2016’ went to the Borough, Economy and Infrastructure Executive Advisory Board on April 13th. It sets a target of 13,860 new homes completed over the 20 year plan period 2013 to 2033, i.e.693 new homes per year, the full SHMA figure. Most of them are in Green Belt.

The Society is beginning to work on its response.

Other major development proposals and meetings with developers:

Hitherbury House: Martin Taplin, Chris Blow and Doug Scott met with the architect on 24th July. A planning application has now been submitted which offers a sensitive restoration of the original Norman Shaw house. We have written a letter in support of the application. 

Martin, David Ogilvie and John Wood attended a meeting with Linden Homes and Cathedral representatives on 9th September to discuss their proposals for 134 homes on Stag Hill on the south and east sides of the cathedral. They submitted a planning application 15/P/02284 in October and we wrote that the Council will need to conclude that there is a very special case of overriding public interest sufficient to set aside Policy R5 on preservation of open space, and the reasons why should be clearly stated. We commented similarly on the failure to meet the affordable housing requirement. 

​Dapdune Farmhouse and Cottages Under new legislation it appears that local listing does not protect a building against demolition. The owner of Dapdune Farmhouse has been granted approval to demolish it (15/P/00879). We did not object at the time because there seemed to be no planning grounds on which to do so. We did object to a previous application, 11/P/00041, which was unusually 'for prior notification of proposed demolition' and the decision was 'permission is required'. 
Caroline Reeves took this up with the Society, and we offered to support her. Design and Heritage Group supported an application for National Listing and the Cottages are now Grade II listed. 
University of Surrey Gordon Bridger, Martin and I attended a meeting with Greg Melly in January to establish the University's general plans and its priorities in relation to infrastructure. The document "on the table" was the UoS / O'Rourkes report on the Town Centre Masterplan dated November 2015. 


Predetermination. Gordon has cleared with Planning England and the Leader of the Council a statement which frees Planning Councillors from the fear of being prosecuted if they dare utter a word about a planning application before Officers tell them - this misinterpretation of Government guidance has meant that Councillors have been terrified of being penalised if they comment on a planning application.

Group Meetings and letters

The Group continues to meet every three weeks at the Council offices. During the year May 2015 to March 2016 the Group wrote 60 letters to GBC on a wide range of individual planning applications, mostly in the town’s urban area. Eighteen of the letters concerned poor applications for new shop fronts, signs and fascias in the town centre, eleven were for major housing developments (greater than 20 homes) including Dunsfold, Wisley and the Cathedral, six were for smaller developments, and four concerned pavement cafés etc. The remaining twenty one were very varied, including the letter on Solum at one extreme to the letter on Hitherbury House.

Changes at GBC

Early in 2015 Tim Dawes, Planning Development Manager at GBC, threatened to withdraw the availability of paper copies of planning applications for our three weekly meetings. In April 2015 he agreed that our present arrangements could continue at least until the end of 2015. He emailed us on 16th November to say the availability would be withdrawn as from the end of the year and furthermore that we would no longer be able to meet at Millmead. This would have made it almost impossible for us to continue. John Wood objected strongly on the Group’s behalf and Gordon enlisted the support of Councillor Nils Christiansen. We met with Tim Dawes and GBC IT staff on 5th December and a compromise was agreed. GBC Planning will make three-weekly room bookings for our meetings. We will use the large screens in the meeting rooms for all but the largest applications, e.g. more than 10 dwellings. We will ask for the paper files for the largest applications and they will be provided. GBC Planning will provide us with IT support. We have been operating in this new mode for the last five meetings with mixed success. We also agreed to use the GBC website comment facility instead of writing letters and submitting them by email, but this has not been effective and we are reverting to email.

John Baylis April 2016