Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

To hear questions (if any) from councillors of which due notice has been given.


(a)       Councillor Catherine Young asked the Lead Councillor for Climate Change, Councillor Cait Taylor, the question set out below. (Councillor Taylor’s response to each element of the question is set out in red type below.)


“Would the Lead Councillor for Climate Change please update the Council on the following?


1. How is the Council's Climate Change Action Plan progressing and when are we likely to see a draft for consideration?


The Council recently filled the vacant role with a dedicated Climate Change Officer to develop a Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP).  We have already met with Council officers and climate interest groups within Guildford towards building an holistic, achievable and robust CCAP. We are currently at the data gathering phase of putting the plan together. We have received the 2020-21 Carbon Emissions for the Council and we are co-ordinating our internal service areas to centralise the reporting of climate related projects and initiatives. We are also working to align the Action Plan with existing strategies from SCC (Greener Futures) and the Waverley Action Plan, while addressing the unique challenges that Guildford faces. Estimated draft would be available September – November depending on current findings and future initiatives. We have planned to present the draft to Executive in November therefore we are aiming to present first to the Climate Change Board at the autumn meeting.


2. Where are the Council in terms of Community Engagement with regard to Climate Change, and how are we working with Surrey County Council and Waverley to bring this forward urgently? Whatever we do now needs to include raising awareness and also mitigation.


We are currently in the process of writing a comprehensive Comms strategy in which engagement will feature.  This will be available for the Board to review in September. We are also working with Surrey to produce a collaborative comms strategy for the county.


3. The Climate Change Board's meetings remain ad hoc.  Please can these be set for the year ahead now that we have Nat Prodger (Climate Change Officer) in place, so that attendance can be planned and necessary items placed on the agenda - we are all feeling the urgent need to move forward, especially with the issues of Climate Change so prominent in the news last week!


Meetings are booked for August and September and three further dates are currently planned for November, January, and March, and these will be finalised shortly.


4. How will the Lead Councillor for Climate Change ensure that Climate Change is given centre stage during the review of the Local Plan?


Responding to the climate change emergency is embodied in the national legislation and policies that guide the production of Local Plans.  Local Plans themselves are required to demonstrate how they have responded to environmental objectives as well as economic and social objectives within the Sustainability Appraisal that is a key document that supports the approach taken in the Local Plan. These objectives are contained within the Corporate Plan which reflects the Councils wider objectives including its approach to climate change.   It should be noted that increasingly achieving climate change targets through new development is controlled through the building control function and not the planning process.   


5.  Would the Lead Councillor please commit to providing a Climate Change Update as a standing item on the agenda for future Full Council meetings?


Given that we publish and make available to the public the Climate Change Board papers, which will contain all the necessary updates on progress with various initiatives, I do not believe that committing to provide update reports at every full Council meeting would serve any practical purpose and would not be a beneficial use of our Climate Change Officer’s time.   


In response to a supplementary question which asked the Lead Councillor to reconsider her response to part 5 of the above question, the Lead Councillor confirmed that she would reconsider the position in due course following discussion with the relevant officers and allowing the new Climate Change Officer time to settle into his new role.


A further supplementary question sought clarification of the response to part 4 of the question, in particular the statement that “increasingly achieving climate change targets through new development is controlled through the building control function and not the planning process”.  The Lead Councillor confirmed that actually both planning and building control had a role to play and both functions would be actively involved in the work of the Climate Change Board at its next meetings.


In response to a further supplementary question regarding the allocation of sufficient resources to address the climate emergency declaration, the Lead Councillor confirmed that further resources had been allocated for additional officers, including an Energy Officer.  A budget of £33,000 was available for the purpose of meeting our green targets, particularly in relation to electricity.  The Lead Councillor was confident that additional funding would be allocated.  The Leader pointed out that Surrey County Council had made available £450,000 revenue funding from the Empty Homes Scheme. The first tranche was earmarked for this financial year to be spent jointly with the Environment Agency in respect of flood alleviation works. Spending next year would be directed specifically at climate change initiatives driven by the Climate Change Board and the Lead Councillor.


(b)       Councillor Ramsey Nagaty asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Joss Bigmore, the following question:


“The Guildford Greenbelt Group note in view of the fact that:


(i)          Urgently noting that the current spate of excessive housebuilding in Guildford’s countryside and villages causing growing public anger at GBC’s failure to curb the irreversible damage being done to our village communities and open spaces;

(ii)         Sharing residents’ alarm at Guildford’s climate emergency and the negative effects of unnecessary development on traffic, air quality and biodiversity;

(iii)        Recognising that new housing estates at Blackwell Farm, Gosden Hill and Wisley are certain to worsen pollution on the A3 which already exceeds legal limits;

(iv)       Recalling that housing provision in the town centre from recent new actual and planned developments will exceed the assumptions for housing provision in the town in the 2019 Guildford Local Plan;

(v)         Observing that the 2021 Census has now fully vindicated claims that the ONS population projections on which the Plan is based are exaggerated and unsound;

(vi)       Acknowledging that paragraph 61 of the NPPF states that the Standard Method of Calculating Housing Need is not mandatory if “exceptional circumstances justify an alternative approach which also reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals” and that ONS errors in basic population data constitute “exceptional circumstances” within the meaning of this paragraph;

(vii)      Concerned that almost none of the infrastructure deemed by the Inspector to be vital to the implementation of the Local Plan, including new railway stations and improvements to the A3 through Guildford, have been delivered or are likely to be delivered during the Plan period given the state of the national economy and local finances;

(viii)     Noting that at least ten local councils, of which nine are Green Belt authorities, have in the last six months abandoned, paused or delayed their Local Plans in response to climate change concerns and national policy uncertainty;

(ix)       Mindful that GBC have already agreed that a review of transport and other evidence supporting the Plan is necessary;

(x)         the NPPF allows for greenbelt boundaries to be changed by Local Councils within a Local Plan such Greenbelt can therefore with evidence be removed and or reinstated.

(xi)       The proposed new sewerage works is based on existing for 90,000 residents with growth up to 120,000 but population already exceeds that before development of the strategic sites and the river Wey is increasingly polluted by TW discharges.

(xii)      Accepting that a resource-intensive examination of large, non-contentious parts of the Local Plan evidence base is not a high priority and can safely be postponed until the mandatory five-year review;

(xiii)     Dismayed by the current Executive’s persistent and inexplicable failure to fulfil their 2019 electoral mandate to review the Local Plan or even to set any strategic goal for doing so;



This Council has agreed to work towards a review of the Local Plan by gathering evidence.  Can the Leader or Lead Councillor responsible for this work please update Councillors on the areas being addressed with details of the work done to date and confirm that the latest 2021 census figures on population as well as the lack of expected infrastructure that the Inspector relied on to find the Local Plan sound such as the A3 widening  and junction improvements, Tesco roundabout improvements and the proposed additional railway stations, none of which appear to be forthcoming during the life of the Local Plan will all be taken into account as part of the evidence base for a review of the Local Plan and that there surely is now compelling evidence to proceed with the Review?”.


The Leader’s response to the question was as follows:


“Thank you for your question, Councillor Nagaty.


The opinions you claim as fact in the preamble to your question were considered in this chamber on 5 April 2022 where the Full Council (it is not an Executive responsibility as you state) debated and then endorsed a strategy to deal with the timing of a Formal Review and any subsequent update to the Local Plan.     


We have a strategy in place to deal with the Review and unfortunately there is no new information that to my mind alters that strategy.  The Planning policy team sent a comprehensive explanation of the consequence (or lack thereof) of the census results via email to all Councillors, which I set out below. I wrote to Michael Gove (unfortunately on the morning of his defenestration) and will write again to Greg Clark and both PM candidates highlighting my dismay at the continued use of the Standard Method, and the need to have Housing Plans based on the most recent population data and sound methodology.


The housing requirement in the LPSS used the lower 2016-based household projections as its starting point rather than the higher 2014-based household projections. It is also worthwhile noting that the ONS projections were only the ‘starting point’ for calculating the housing requirement. This figure is uplifted to address economic and affordability factors. The demographic starting point at the LPSS examination (using the 2016 projections) was 313 dwellings per annum. The LPSS requirement of 562 represented a 79% uplift over the demographic starting point. For the time being government guidance continues to mandate the use of the 2014-based household projections with the Standard Method.


It is worth noting that neither Mole Valley (as part of their current examination process) nor Elmbridge (in their current Regulation 19 consultation) are challenging the validity of their housing need derived from the Standard Method. Instead, both are currently arguing that they are unable to sustainably accommodate this need. As it stands no Council has successfully managed to achieve a lower figure than the Standard Method. This was reaffirmed by leading barrister Mary Cook in her advice that she gave the Council to inform the decision on whether to undertake an early review.


There has been no other change in circumstances to enable us to reconsider, as we said we would, whether it would be advantageous to embark upon an early review of the plan. There is ongoing work being undertaken in relation to the evidence base however the conclusions of this are not yet known. We expect the updated transport evidence later this year and the new evidence to support our Town Centre ambitions in March next year subject to funding approval for phase 3 of Shaping Guildford’s Future by the Executive in September.  As endorsed by Full Council on 5 April 2022, there was a recommendation ‘that the Full Council be updated on the outcomes of the review of the transport evidence base currently underway and any other significant changes in circumstance that may impact on considerations regarding the timing of the Formal Review of the LPSS’.  This remains our position”.


In response to a supplementary question which sought details of the aspects of the local plan for which the Council was collecting evidence and the details gathered to date, the Leader confirmed that the transport evidence base was currently being worked on with Surrey County Council and National Highways, which was expected by the end of the year.  It was expected that other pieces of evidence would be funded in the next phase of the Town Centre Masterplan. 


(c)       Councillor Tony Rooth asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Joss Bigmore, the following question:


“May I ask the Leader of the Council to confirm whether he agrees that, in these times of uncertainty and financial pressure both for the council and Guildford Borough residents, the Council will:  


1.   communicate, inform, involve and consult the residents as extensively, regularly, and consistently as possible

2.       remind residents of which council (GBC, SCC) provides which services for them and for which proportion out of the council tax they pay (via general information from council tax bill) and information sent out latest by October 2022 to inform residents of our council’s services during the “cost of living crisis”

3.       encourage residents to take interest in how the council is run and the decisions the council takes on their behalf

4.       regularly inform residents of all forthcoming public council and committee meetings/agenda and extend to all committees, where appropriate the reports procedure adopted by the Planning committee     

5.       communicate and inform residents via the council’s own communications team and external media channels together with a link to the Council’s website”


The Leader’s response to the question was as follows:


“Thank you for your question, Cllr Rooth.


As you will know we have committed to values in the recently adopted Corporate Plan ensuring we listen to the views of residents and be open and accountable in our decision-making.  I am proud of the way that this Council communicates and cares for its residents in times of stress whether it was during the heatwave of last week, or through the Pandemic.  I have no doubt that this work will continue as our residents deal with the effects of the cost-of-living crisis.  Over the past year we issued 150 press releases and responded to 250 media enquiries.  We have nearly 30,000 followers across our four main corporate social media accounts posting 6,000 times over the past year, generating 9,200 comments of which 72% were positive.


The Council annually informs residents that it receives 9p out of every £1 of council tax and for that what services we provide.  We also provide regular service updates through a variety of comms channels.  In these times of financial stress, I am not sure it is a proper use of scarce resource to repeat information that will go out again in Q1 next year with the next round of Council Tax bills.  The information is also clearly available on our website for anyone to see at any time. (Council tax financial information 2022-23 - Guildford Borough Council)


It is up to all of us to try and engage residents in Local Government, I for one am frustrated at the general apathy I encounter, but your aims are laudable, and I will increase my efforts.


I am sorry to say that I find your two final points redundant, these communications exist, and many are statutory responsibilities, of course we need to continually monitor and improve the effectiveness of our comms and we must aspire to reach everyone in the Borough”.


The Leader was asked a supplementary question as to whether he would agree to posting information to residents through our normal media channels to set out the functions for which this Council and the County Council were responsible, and to reconsider whether he would agree that the Executive and all committees should adopt the practice of the Planning Committee of prior disclosure of slides, graphs, and presentations intended to be presented to meetings of those bodies.


In response, the Leader indicated that the agenda papers for all committees were published online ahead of every meeting.  In addition, we used social media in advance of meetings to highlight matters to be discussed at those meetings.


(d)       Councillor Tony Rooth asked the Lead Councillor for Regeneration, Councillor John Rigg, the following question:


    “Would the Lead Councillor for Regeneration please:


(a)    comment generally on the consultation to be provided by St Edward to view the latest designs for North Street regeneration and in particular for only a 3 week period in early August, the start of the summer holidays; and


(b)    request St Edward to provide details of their consultation on North Street Regeneration to date, what events they held, where, when, who was invited and who attended in order to gauge how and to what extent the public/residents have been consulted in addition to the usual “stakeholders”, consultants etc.”


The Lead Councillor’s response to the question was as follows:


Thank you for the question, Cllr Rooth


Guildford Borough Council can’t dictate to a developer ‘how and when’ they consult with the public.  In our Statement of Community Involvement, we recommend that during the pre-app stage a developer undertakes to ‘run exhibitions or public meetings with neighbours, community/amenity groups and appropriate consultation bodies’.  Details of these engagements will be set out in the applicants Statement of Engagement that is submitted with the Planning Application.


It is my opinion that the consultation carried out thus far by St Edward has been thorough, professional, and has resulted in many positive changes to the original scheme, most notably to upgrade the existing bus station rather than move it to a new location on Leapale Road.


St Edward has undertaken a two-stage consultation process to date, with a third briefing event planned for this week prior to the submission of their Planning Application.  The two-staged events have been online, due to the logistical issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, although this provided access to a wider audience, whilst a physical on-site presence is planned for August.


The consultation website, has had considerable information available for viewing over the course of their involvement in this site, including detailed drawings, plans, videos and other information, the website has enjoyed 10,000 visitors.


St Edward have dropped 10,000 leaflets within 0.5 mile of the site, produced three major Press Releases to the main industry, regional and local media providers.  The consultations were advertised on social media to reach over 124,000 people, whilst regular mail updates have been provided to over 500 people that subscribed through the website.   Videos following each consultation have been prepared, providing feedback and also outlining the next steps.


A summary of all the events and engagements is added below.


Stage 1 – December 2020






Closed workshop via Zoom

Guildford Vision Group

The Guildford Society

Experience Guildford

Guildford Residents Association




Webinar via Zoom – live presentation and subsequent live Q&A





Online consultation via presentation recording, web page content and feedback form




Direct invitation


Direct invitations were issued via email to community group representatives and Ward Councillors.


Flyer drop/


Promotional flyers were distributed by hand at Guildford train station during evening rush hour and posters displayed around Guildford town centre at key locations such as community and public buildings and supermarkets.


A5 leaflets that provided details of the public engagement session were also distributed to addresses within a 0.5-mile radius around the site (circa 5,000).


Social media event promotion


Two adverts on Facebook ran for seven days resulting in:

  • Reach of 14,814
  • Engagements: 236
  • Click-throughs to the website: 215


Press release



A press release ‘Engaging the community as planning starts for regeneration of North Street, Guildford’, was issued to local media outlets, prior to the events: Surrey Advertiser, Surrey Live, The Guildford Dragon, Farnham Herald, BBC Surrey.



  • 144 Webinar attendees
  • 108 formal feedback forms
  • 202 signed up to the mailing list
  • Newsletter response issued in hard copy to 5,000 addresses
  • 412 views on feedback video


Stage 2 – April 2022






Face to face presentation and Q&A

Guildford Vision Group




Face to face presentation and Q&A

Experience Guildford


Presentation and Q&A via Zoom

Guildford Access Group




Face to face presentation and Q&A

The Guildford Society and Guildford Residents Association




Webinar via Zoom – live presentation and subsequent live Q&A





Online consultation via presentation recording, web page content and feedback form




Direct invitation


Direct invitations to the webinar were issued via email to community group representatives.




Two mailers were issued to North Street’s community database of 500+ contacts.


Flyer drop/


Promotional flyers were distributed by hand at Guildford train station during evening rush hour and posters displayed around Guildford town centre at key locations such as community and public buildings and supermarkets.


A5 leaflets that provided details of the public engagement session were also distributed to addresses within a 0.5-mile radius around the site (circa 5,000).


Social media event promotion


Four adverts on Facebook ran for twenty days resulting in:

·         Reach of 109,740

·         Engagements: 3,259

·         Click-throughs to the website: 3,087


Press release



A press release ‘Regenerating North Street, Guildford: Community invited to view latest designs’, was issued to local media outlets, prior to the events: Surrey Advertiser, Surrey Live, Farnham Herald, BBC Surrey.


Paid advertorial was placed in The Guildford Dragon.



·         187 Webinar attendees

·         53 formal feedback forms

·         Newsletter response issued in hard copy to 5,000 addresses

·         201 views on feedback video


Formal Stakeholder Meetings and Public Consultation Dates




16 December 2019

EIA Scoping Update

19 December 2019

Site Walkover

29 January 2020

Bus Station Meeting

19 February 2020

Design & Planning Meeting

26 February 2020

Meeting with Bus Operators, SCC and GBC

23 October 2020

Consultation Strategy Meeting

27 November 2020

Pre-application Meeting 1

10 December 2020

Retail Meeting

14 December 2020

Public Consultation Webinar 1

15 December 2020

Bus Strategy Meeting with GBC

14 January 2021

Pre-application Meeting 2

17 March 2021

Design Update Meeting

6 July 2021

Public Consultation Video Update

26 July 2021

Full Council Presentation

1 November 2021

Design Update Meeting

29 October 2021

Steering Group Meeting 1

16 December 2021

Steering Group Meeting 2

19 January 2022

2 February 2022

11 February 2022

21 February 2022

14 March 2022

15 March 2022

23 March 2022

12 April 2022

20 April 2022

25 April 2022

26 April 2022

3 May 2022

20 May 2022

23 May 2022

30 May 2022

23 June 2022

29 June 2022

18 July 2022

Steering Group Meeting 3

Highways and Modelling meeting with SCC

Pre-App meeting

Meeting with Bus Operators

Pre-App re Retail policy

Highways meeting with SCC

Design Review Panel

Pre-app on Energy and Sustainability

GBC members briefing

Public consultation

Pre-App on Scheme evolution

Highways and Bus meeting with SCC

Arup bus meeting with SCC

Highways and Bus meeting with SCC

Meeting with Tim Oliver and Matt Furniss

Pre-App on Scheme Design

Bus Station and Highways Scenarios with SCC

North Street Bus Station Scenarios with SCC and GBC


In response to supplementary questions which asked why only four groups were involved in the closed workshop on 10 December 2020 and whether it might be possible in future to invite a more diverse set of civic organisations; and for details of the numbers who attended the webinars and the feedback received from them, the Leader reiterated the first point in the written response that the Council could not dictate to a developer ‘how and when’ they consult with the public. The Leader felt that compared to other consultations this had been very good.  The Lead Councillor responded by expressing satisfaction with the quality of the consultation and denying that there was any intention to exclude particular groups from the workshop.  The Lead Councillor was confident that the developer would be happy to make a presentation to any interested groups.