MORE THOUGHTS ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING
What a great idea - Affordable Housing! If you read the article below, there really hasn't been any since the Council sold off a major part of its Public Housing stock.
OK so let's have Housing which Key Workers & young families can afford and let's build it where other neighbourhoods aren't threatened by loss of valuable open space. Lots of vacant farmland out towards West Clandon & Horsley & Pirbright - let's build there. Why not persuade the University to do it's bit for the community and build houses on the land it owns? Why continually hammer the residents of Guildford by taking away every bit of available Green Space?
Let's look at our Allotment Site on the Aldershot Road.
It doesn't seem to matter to out-of-town Conservative Councillors that we've just had a Public Consultation where over 260 locals said NO to housing on this site. (See Library & Correspondence section for comments from Cllrs Wicks & Sutcliffe).
It doesn't seem to occur to them the political damage they are doing to their own party (eg the Shuttle Bus disaster, cancelling of funding for valuable Community Projects, waste of public money on Tree Sculptures etc). Conservative Councillors hold the majority on all Committes who make these decisions - they are the politicians who are responsible.
Have any of these guys actually been on to the Allotment Site - I don't think so. If they did, they would see what a nightmare of a development it would be for any builder.
The site is on a steep gradient, on heavy clay with no roadway access or nearby connection to any piped services. By the time the builders have inserted massive concrete piles to avoid subsidence, they will have most likely lost all chance of making a profit on the development. Then having done the piling, they will have altered the natural water table & water run-off so much that they will be hit by flooding claims from nearby households especially down the hill in Oakfields. And what about the water fill into the nearby reservoir?
Added to this, the devastation that development will bring to ancient woodland and the native flora & fauna (lots of threatened species here)PLUS a hostile local community, it's not an easy proposition for any developer.
And the only possibility for Roadway access is for a road to come out in Oakfields!
Planners have already discounted the possibility of a road coming out on to Woodside Road - it's on a dangerous bend.
You can't have a road by the old Merc Garage which comes out into Westway because that would mean several currently cultivated Allotment Plots would have to be built on (all politicians eg Cllrs Wicks, Powell & Sutcliffe - have said that no existing plots will be built on)
And should development start after all this, the Press will have a field day!
All in all, it makes a compelling case to leave this site as it is, as the people of Guildford want it to be.
If the out-of-townie Councillors are that keen on affordable housing, let them set a good example by promoting affordable developments in the areas where they actually live.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING & OVER-DEVELOPMENT
These are both serious issues which merit serious consideration and proper consultation with the people of Guildford - too serious to be left to the whims of national and local politicos and unelected Town Hall officials.
When moving to Guildford in the mid-80s, one of the great attractors was that Housing was much better value for Surrey money than in Kingston or Richmond, even Croydon. For £60k you could buy a 3-bed semi (any age) with a garden & garage - in Kingston you could get a 2-bed terrace with on-street parking or an uninhabitable pile in need of extensive C20th modernisation (eg hot water & heating) which would cost upwards of £30,000 just to do it up!. Even £60k in 1985/6 wasn't exactly what you might define as affordable.
Shortly after moving in, Council Houses were privatised and Council House tenants could buy their 3-bed properties with extensive gardens, parking, all well maintained by the Council for £19,000! And we remember the complaints that tenants thought that was expensive!
Has there actually ever been affordable Housing in Guildford - if by definition, that means in todays money, something less than £120,000? (4 x national average salary)
The former Council Houses in Park Barn (for example) - that is those which have been lived in by families and not bought for Student Lets, are on the market for nearly £200,000 - and it's still an old Council House! Once affordable, now beyond most average young married couples pockets.
Why do we now need to get steamed up about Affordable Housing - truth is, there's never really been any anyway, so why start now? Why destroy our localities and Open Spaces just because John Prescott (remember him?) originally said so and accordingly Guildford has to become a "Regional Hub"! (see Draft South East Plan for reams of explanation on this term)
Although it might be very nice to live near your parents & family, why not move to a lower cost Housing area full stop. Go to Aldershot, go to Ash/Ash Vale, go to Mytchett - all within 15/20 minutes drive of Guildford and housing costs are much much cheaper. The next time a politician says they feel sorry for youngsters and the lack of Housing choice in Guildford, tell them to hop it down the Aldershot Road to Hampshire.
Anyone who lives in North & North West Guildford will tell you we've had enough development - we've had innumerable infill & Garden Grabbing developments, we've had Cater Gardens, Stoughton Barracks, QEP, there's more on the way with the Headway, the old Stoughton Grange School site, the old T & R Generator site, etc etc. That's not counting the development in Burpham & Merrow in the last couple of decades.
We are already paying the price for over-development - appalling peak time traffic congestion and its' attendant pollution & parking problems, crumbled Third World style roads, the loss of our sense of Openness and a slow erosion of all the things that made Guildford an attractive and pleasant place to live and work. Who wants to be a Regional Hub - we say NOT US!
ALL CHANGE @ GAS
At a very poorly attended Extraordinary General Meeting on 22nd September, 3 new principal officers were installed. Only one nomination was received for each of the roles - Chair, Secretary & Treasurer.
It transpired that not all members had been written to. One member complained that she had been paying her membership fees to her Site Warden and queried what had happened to the money as she had never had any GAS correspondence or invites to any meetings (she wasn't the only one as it turned out!).
The outgoing Secretary, Jacqueline Hills, explained her resignation was result of having taken up a new post in Leicester. Arthur Kinge, when pressed, said he and his wife had resigned from GAS as Guldford Boro' Council has had not supported them over a problem with a tenant. Those of us connected with the Aldershot Road Site are in no doubt what that problem was.
Oher members present queried the lack of action over issues agreed at the 2007 AGM - none of which had been addressed to date.
There didn't seem to be too many (if any) outpourings of grief & distress over the departure of Ms Hills & the Kinges and the sense of the meeting was that GAS had done a very poor job on several sites in the Boro' but had been succesful in upsetting quite a few tenants across the GAS managed Allotment Sites.
Aldershot Road tenants won't forget the old GAS 3 in a hurry - we will remember the botched Asbestos removal, the destruction of volunteer-built pathways, the lack of concern and action over Site Security, their refusal to let toilet facilities get installed, the harrassing letters sent to disabled and elderly tenants threatening eviction etc etc.
To quote GAS from their last newsletter - "What a year it's been" - it certainly was!
We wish the incoming Officers all the best and hope they will improve things for Guildford's Allotment tenants.
ASBESTOS @ SLYFIELD UPDATE
We expressed our concerns to Anne Milton MP who wrote to Guildford Borough Council on the matter.
The reply received from the Environmental Health Office says that GBC's records "do not indicate that Allotments have been formally (sic) used for the disposal of asbestos or other toxic waste materials". Did he mean they were informally used for this purpose or was it really just bad grammar?
GBCs' reply is hardly any surprise as at the time the Asbestos was buried, there was minimal Health & Safety legislation in the UK and certainly very little (if any) in the way of regulation covering Asbestos Disposal/Removal. At the time of the burial there probably was no requirement to keep records anyway and no-one committed any offence or breached any regulations.
GBC may be off the hook but there are still Guildford residents around who were eye-witnesses to the Asbestos burial at Slyfield.
So if you're offered an Allotment on the Slyfield site, don't dig too deep!
PLANNING POLICY ON THE HOOF?
On Tuesday 31st July, BBC Southern Counties Radio featured Beverley & Lyn Mussells' eviction as one of their main stories.
In the second feature slot just after 08.00, Chris Bruce, Head of Parks at Guildford Boro' Council, was interviewed. During this interchange Mr Bruce stated that GBC's plan for the Allotment site was half Allotments, half housing.
Now where did THAT come from?
Our understanding was that the plans for Housing were centered on the part of the site not now cultivated which comprises of 39 former Plots.
The total site is 110 Statutory Allotment Plots so what Chris Bruce seems to be saying is that 55 plots are to built on.
This of course means that the Council have to grab back 15 of the 70 plots currently under cultivation.
Is this why the Mussells are to be evicted? Who else is next for the chop?
I think we should be told and have written to Chris Bruce asking for clarification - we await his reply.
ASBESTOS - the answer lies in the soil?
One of our members friends contacted Guildford Allotment Society to be put on the Allotment Waiting List.
Imagine his surprise when he was immediately offered a plot at Slyfield.
Imagine our surprise when Guildford Allotment Society told us at their 2007 AGM they couldn't get funding for a lease for the 39 former plots on our site at Aldershot Road, yet they have been able to get funding for 100 plots across town at Slyfield.
The Slyfield site was to have been a Brownfield Affordable Housing Development site but housing apparently is not going ahead due to Flood Plain & Drainage issues (we understand) and also (we hear) because of the Asbestos that is buried on site.
Yes this site was used to dump all the Asbestos when the Council-owned Pre-Fab houses were demolished.
So an Asbestos contaminated site is not good enough for Affordable Housing but is OK for Allotment Gardeners??!!!
Anne Milton MP is understandably concerned and has written to GBC's Environmental Health Dept asking for copies of Risk Assessments and reassurances about the safety of the site.
We await their reply with interest.
POST SCRIPT DEC 2008 - we never did get a satisfactory answer to where the Asbestos is. All we got was a load of whitewash & a**-covering wallpaper from GBC in their reply to our MP. Our guess is that it is right there where we were told it was - yet no-one wants to acknowledge its existence or the long-term problem it poses. What do our Councillors & Officers with responsibility for the Environment say about that?
Page Last Updated - 11/01/2009