Paul Follows: Why should town be made to suffer?

By Paul Follows   |   Deputy leader Waverley Borough Council, Lib Dem councillor for Godalming Central and Ockford, and Godalming Town Council leader   |
Friday 23rd July 2021 1:45 pm
@https://twitter.com/PaulDFollows
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The hybrid planning meeting saw members and officers debate across the floor of the council chamber as well as remotely over the internet ()

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I attended Waverley Borough Council’s western planning committee in person on Tuesday evening as an observer (I am not a member of that committee) because of the sheer scale of concern expressed by hundreds of residents and Haslemere Town Council in regards to the application near Scotland Lane (Red Court).

Despite a reprehensible and deeply-misleading attack on social media issued by the Conservatives in the previous week about this application, they were the only ones who voted for this thing. Despite the Conservatives, it was (quite rightly) refused on the night by the majority of other councillors in the room.

However, comments from Cllr Dan Hunt (Lib Dem) and Cllr Kika Mirylees (Farnham Residents) in that session inspired me to write something very different than I had planned.

They spoke in response to Cllr Carole Cockburn (Conservative), who made two points: that planning wasn’t political and that (to paraphrase) ‘if Farnham had suffered, so should everybody else’.

Both Cllrs Hunt and Mirylees made the point that we can all sit here and pretend planning isn’t political, but this rather conveniently ignores the fact the planning system is set by the government and is intrinsically skewed towards developers at every turn.

One has only to consider recent national commentary on donations by developers to the government to get a feeling of why that might be.

That because one area of Waverley ‘has suffered’, it’s only fair another one should suffer equally in response is faulty logic.

The government has put our planning officers and, ultimately, all our councillors in entirely impossible positions.

A system practically rigged for developer profit, arbitrary national housing targets, and profoundly flawed national planning, environment, industrial and energy policies combine to make unwanted and unsustainable development the norm.

It also gets in the way of what we need – GENUINELY affordable and social housing and the infrastructure to support it.

Not merely content with just poor planning outcomes, another consequence is this feeling of putting one community of Waverley against another.

I firmly believe the towns and parishes of Waverley and the borough council should use this watershed moment of the Red Court application to unite against the common problem – government planning policy.

Cllr Cockburn said in the session: “We have to do what the government tell us. If you don’t like that, vote them out.”

Let me take this rare opportunity to agree with her.

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