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Committee system petition follows planning row

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Activists have begun a petition to return a borough to the committee system following a row over its draft local plan.

Guildford Greenbelt Group is seeking the 5,423 signatures – equivalent to 5% of the electorate – it said were needed to force Guildford BC to hold a referendum on switching from the executive system to committees.

Guildford’s dispute turns mainly on the 652 new homes per year for the 2011-31 period. These are included in the draft local plan now out for consultation.

A scrutiny committee had recommended an unspecified lower figure but the Conservative-controlled council’s executive stuck to the 652 total.

Further antagonism has arisen over proposals to build on some 2% of the borough’s green belt.

The draft plan, which has gone to public consultation this week, stated: “While this plan will be emotive to some, it seeks to take up all the brownfield sites that are available first.

“However, there are not enough to meet our housing requirement. We therefore have to look at all other options, which includes green belt land.”

It described the 652 homes figure as being arrived at as “the product of an intensely difficult balancing act”.

Guildford Greenbelt Group’s chair Susan Parker said: “The executive committee has ignored calls from the council’s own scrutiny committee to review the housing target and the housing requirement calculations it is based on.

“We feel we have no option other than to petition for a referendum to return the council to a more democratic structure which will better respond to residents’ and councillors’ concerns.”

Monika Juneja (Con), lead councillor for planning, said: “We want to maximise the use of brownfield land in the borough.

“However it is concerning that many brownfield sites are not deliverable in the much-needed first five years of the plan. We continue to focus on the use of previously developed land first.”

The call for a return to the committee system follows a referendum which in May required Fylde BC to return to committees.

A similar petition at Canterbury City Council has been overtaken by a council decision to consider the matter later this month.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Petitioning for a return to the committee system is no more an appropriate response to a disagreement about the local plan than would be petitioning for King Herod to be appointed Chief Executive because of a concern about population growth.

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  • It's not a response to a disagreement if you care to understand the situation at hand in Guildford (and possibly many other buroughs). The issue is that the executive is running rough shot over democratic process. The "leadership" is running the council and, therefore, the burough like some wild west town; the leader thinks he has the fastest gunslinger in the town so what he says goes. The joint scrutiny committee motion was isgnored by the executive. The executive committee structure has forced us towns folk to march, pitchforks an' all in hand, to the jailhouse to kick these vermin out.

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