As a result of the aggressive letter from four Councillors (two of whom subsequently withdrew their support) to which I replied, I raised a series of requests to Guildford Borough Council for information under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.
I carefully crafted my request to ask for information that, based on the Chief Executive’s report to the Scrutiny Committee Meeting in April and the accusations made (which I am given to believe were assembled at a meeting involving senior officers and Councillors), should have been readily to hand.
The most recent Scrutiny Committee minutes appear to have been misrepresented by the inclusion of a cut-off date of 15th July that no-one I know who was present can recall ever being given.
David Hill, Chief Executive of Guildford Borough Council (who makes it hard for anyone to have any good words to say about him) sent out letters dated 1st June 2012 which were not sent out until some weeks later, and which did not mention any cut-off date.
At the most recent Scrutiny Committee I was given a very much limited slot (required to use up a third of the 3 minutes allocated to me by explaining whether I had any conflicts of interest, etc.) and so I made available a copy of my report into the Philharmonic to all Councillors on the Committee – having previously sent it to the Portfolio Holder, the Leader and the Chief Executive.
The main thrust of my objection surrounds the impact of the development on the traffic system in Central Guildford and a failure to take into account other proposed developments set out in the Draft Guildford Town Centre Masterplan.
I also object to the inappropriate choice of site for a supermarket, notwithstanding the oblique references in the Bellerby Theatre Planning Brief to a supermarket use being acceptable, including the loss of a logical town centre residential site and non-compliance with theLocal Plan 2003.
The application and decision is premature pending adoption of a properly constituted and engaged Town Centre Plan formulated in accordance with Clause 12 of the National Planning policy Framework.
I believe the design is inappropriate in scale, character and materials when compared to the surrounding period housing and will also have an adverse impact on the street scene from York Road.
Finally, I believe the application should be exposed to an independent planning inspector due to the perceived potential or actual conflicts of interest between the Council as vendor and its role as planning authority; and between, the council’s strategic retail consultants (Cushman & Wakefield) role in advising on the allocation of sites, their role as agents for the Council and their close agency relationship with The John Lewis Partnership.
The full explanation of my objections is in the document linked above.
To view the planning application please click here.