By-election update: 47.2% swing in Guildford

colin crossIn Guildford, Colin Cross swept to victory with 63.4% of the vote for the Liberal Democrats (an increase of 49.1%) to gain a seat from the Conservatives. The Tory vote tumbled to come second with 25.7% (-45.3%), UKIP came third with 7.2% and Labour were last with 3.7%.

Cllr Cross who has been a local parish councillor for the last 25 years fought a vigorous campaign to protect Green Belt land from development. The local Conservative council plan to build 2,100 new homes on an old airfield but Guildford Liberal Democrats have raised concerns about the loss of Green Belt land, traffic gridlock and the lack of affordable homes. The Liberal Democrats went door knocking every day during the campaign so had a huge amount of recent voter ID by polling day. As a result they were able to build shuttleworths using only data from this year which combined with an intensive knock up on polling day helped to maximise the Liberal Democrat vote. The local team also used the campaign as an opportunity to train volunteers to use Connect.

The Liberal Democrats now hold every seat in Epping Hemnall ward (Epping Forest DC) after Kim Adams took a Conservative seat in with 43.3% of the vote. The Conservatives came second with 27.6% just ahead of UKIP on 24.2%. The Green Party came last with 4.9%. The local team also made sure to integrate Cllr Adams well into the existing team and to have a complimentary balance of literature and door knocking. The campaign focused on the Liberal Democrat’s record of action in the area particularly to tackle commuter parking issues and their opposition to an inappropriate Tory local development plan. The use of targeted literature and door knocking and effective use of Connect and Virtual phone Banks ensured a high turnout of Liberal Democrat voters.

Despite running a concerted campaign the Liberal Democrats were unfortunate in their bid to defend the marginal Frome North division of Somerset County Council. Damon Hooton secured 35% of the vote but the absence of a UKIP candidate saw the Conservative vote shoot up by 10.8% to win with 46.5%. Labour were third with 6.8% of the vote and the Greens and an Independent shared joint fourth place with 5.8%. Cllr Hooton has been a Mendip District Councillor for twelve years and ran a strong local campaign focused on protecting bus services and fighting Tory waste at County Hall. Liberal Democrat literature showed how Conservative decisions to spend £741,000 on consultants could have paid for 14,820 pothole repairs, 33 new teachers, 31 new police officers or 23 new social workers. The Frome team ensured the Liberal Democrat vote share remained stable by working exceptionally hard to collect Voter ID, producing good quality literature and making use of volunteers from across the region and country.

In North Devon, Jean Foster unfortunately drew the short straw to miss out on a place on South Molton Town Council despite winning as many votes as the elected independent councillor.

For all the detailed results see ALDC elections.

* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

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48 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 26th Sep '14 - 4:28pm

    Excellent news indeed. But how does this “The local Conservative council plan to build 2,100 new homes on an old airfield but Guildford Liberal Democrats have raised concerns about the loss of Green Belt land, traffic gridlock and the lack of affordable homes.” fit in with our policy to build 300,000 a year ?

  • I think I am right in saying that this is the first time that either the Liberal Democrats or the predecessor parties have ever won Lovelace or come close to so doing. This is a ward where the Tories would be disappointed to poll less than 70% at a general election. Wisley Airfield is brownfield land and has been vacant for more than 30 years. Its eventual development, presumably for housing or light industrial or a mixture of the two is inevitable.

    The two results from the West Country (both in seats with sitting MPs) are dreadful.

  • John Clough 26th Sep '14 - 5:44pm

    Nimbyism pure and simple. The ‘haves’ i.e. those already with homes, voting to exclude the ‘have nots.’ Is that something Liberal Democrats should be campaigning on at a local level when the party nationally has pledged to build 300,000 homes a year? Somne might call that selfishness.

  • George Potter
    What you have written here makes sense. It is sad that some people here cannot tell the difference between nimbyism and a genuine desire to plan properly.
    Of course those whose main concern is right wing economic nostrums are only too happy to let loose developers and profiteers to build where they like with the sole consideration of making a fast buck. Goodness knows why they consider themselves Liberal Democrats.
    Well done Guildford Liberal Democrats on winning this by-election.

  • George :
    So your party want the UK to have open border immigration with the EU. But you don’t want them settling in leafy Guilford ?
    Yes,… that’s classic NIMBY~ism.

  • Appears yesterday the Lib Dems actually out-polled the other parties overall, long time since they happened. We have the two parliamentray by elelctions coming up,nothing for us there except probable embarressment and misery. Still its nice to see a little acorn this week.

  • Max Wilkinson 26th Sep '14 - 7:57pm

    Our doublespeak on housing policy is depressing.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Sep '14 - 8:07pm

    Colin Cross looks like a winner and we need to listen to such people. I have voiced my opposition to building hundreds of thousands of homes per year before. Partly, because I have more trust in protecting the green belt as an environmental policy than I do green taxes, carbon trading and biodiversity offsetting.

    It also shows the danger of introducing a radical policy that LD conference likes, but the public doesn’t. Someone smart runs a focused campaign and gets you out.

  • John Tilley wrote:

    “Of course those whose main concern is right wing economic nostrums are only too happy to let loose developers and profiteers to build where they like with the sole consideration of making a fast buck.”

    John, I think you’ve taken hold of the wrong end of the stick here. Wisley Airfield is a brownfield site that has been derelict for more than three decades. It is not open countryside. Its aesthetic and amenity value is close to zero. As for infrastructure, it adjoins the A3 trunk road, and provision of additional school places can be funded by a Section 106 Agreement. Wisley Airfield is exactly the kind of place where we should be building houses.

    George will be too young to remember a genuinely deadly threat to the Green Belt in this micro-region, and that was the 1986 proposal to build 3,000 houses in Barnsthorne Wood, just north of East Horsley. This flowed directly from the then Tory government’s hint that it was about to relax the Green Belt. (The much better known “Elmbridge Mall” proposal – which you will certainly remember, John – came along around the same time.) Anyway, there was huge furore, with almost all local politicians resolutely against any encroachment on to the Surrey Green Belt. Apart from one East Horsley Tory councillor by the name of Lewis Short. He was a libertarian who believed that developers should be allowed to do exactly what they like.

    BTW, Lovelace is outside the Guildford Parliamentary constituency.

  • Exiled Scot:

    Frome North is indeed in Somerton and Frome, which has a sitting Lib Dem MP. South Molton is in North Devon, which also has a sitting Lib Dem MP. Lovelace is in the Mole Valley, not the Guildford, Parliamentary constituency. Mole Valley has never had a Lib Dem MP (nor is it ever likely to).

    We won two council seats in constituencies that are overwhelmingly Tory, and lost two in constituencies that we need to hold. Make of that what you will.

  • Igor Sagdejev 26th Sep '14 - 10:01pm

    @George Potter

    Actually, international students are not really immigrants. I can’t understand why they are incided into the immigrant head count here at all. They are supposed (mostly) to come and go, and, eg., in the States are on non-immigrant F-1 or J-1 visas.

  • George Potter “immigrants don’t do much to push up house prices”

    On the contrary – it’s the Saudi, Russian and Chinese oligarchs buying property here that knock over the first inflation art domino. That then ripples out from Mayfair to the suburbs And the commuter towns

  • In looking at by-elections results it is always important to recognise any change in the balance of candidates. Froome North saw no UKIP candidate this time and first time interventions by the Greens and an Independent who was a Lib Dem member until the start of the campaign. The release of UKIP votes helped a Tory who is a serving District Councillor in half the County Ward. The Green and Independent candidates will potentially syphon votes of the Lib Dems. That is exactly what happened. Also the circumstances of the by-election did not play well on some doorsteps which penalised the Lib Dems.

  • I find it telling that people are here are questioning the Guildford LibDem campaign, rather than questioning why the LibDem party policies on the environment and housing are so far out of tune with the electorate. I suspect the same is true of many other policies the central party holds close to it’s heart…

  • Just to save you looking up the relevant policy document George :
    [ Making Migration Work for Britain ]
    [ Lib Dem policy paper 116 ]
    Section : 1.3.1 Taking Students out of the Net Migration Target
    1.3.1.2 Irrespective of the future of any Net Migration Target, it makes no economic or social sense to limit the flow of international students to the UK. Liberal Democrats propose, therefore, that students should be taken out of any future net migration target
    So as you can see, your international students, don’t even count as immigrants,…. according to your own LD policy?

  • Paul Pettinger 27th Sep '14 - 1:18am

    I think you should withdraw your comment John T.

  • Sesenco 26th Sep ’14 – 9:48pm

    Sesenco, I know the Wisley airfield site. In fact I had a look around it last summer. It is a brownfield site but ihaving not been I use for thirty years and given its location it is very different from an inner city brownfield site. The proximity to the A3 is a disadvantage in my view; that section of the A3 experiences very heavy traffic flows. Anyone who has visited RHS Wisley on the other side will know about the impact of drivers joining the A3 at that point. I’m not sure if you are suggesting this would be a suitable access/egress for the cars from hundreds of homes in the morning and evening rush hour?
    I am old enough to remember when that stretch of the A3 was an ordinary A road. The road widening, the building of the M25 have in themselves totally changed the character of the area . I have to admit that my memories of the Elmbridge Mall are a bit hazy. But I am aware that over the years the whole area of Green Belt in this part of Surrey has been nibbled away. This continues and Chessington green belt is currently under threat of plan for hundreds of homes.
    George Potter in his comment was not expressing outright opposition to any development . In fact what he said seemed very measured to me.
    It is obvious from the by-election result what voters in the area think,

  • Paul,Pettinger
    Can you explain why?

  • There is a real problem across the country with councils attempting to pigeon-hole housing where possible in order to meet central targets. To me, many put the housing numbers down on possible plots and assume the infrastructure was ready to cope. It took bravery in council to explain areas of high housing demand are also areas where roads are at capacity, sewage and drinking water supplies need maintaining and doctors surgeries are closing. I do believe there will always be people who resent losing their plot of greenspace they moved for. However, there are even more who resent councils who to them are in hock with speculative property developers who proposes to build them high and flog off substandard property often to the chagrin of the local heritage. Lib dem policy needs to address the local dimension rather than attempt to outbid the other parties in terms of housebuilding.

  • Max Wilkinson 27th Sep '14 - 9:29am

    You sound rather paranoid, SFK. Do you really suppose councils are taking backhanders from property developers?

    The real issue is providing enough homes for future generations. By failing to do this, and actively campaigning against homes wherever they are proposed, we are impoverishing our children.

    We’re building around 100k homes per year, while demand created by new households runs around 250k. This is simply unsustainable, nor is our party’s position of supporting housebuilding at national level and opposing it locally.

    Building homes won’t always be a popular political choice, but there will come a tipping point at which the housing crisis becomes an issue that needs to be dealt with head on by politicians. When that time comes, I hope we are on the right side of the argument. Tough choices must be made.

  • A Social Liberal 27th Sep '14 - 10:52am

    George Potter said

    “The local Conservative council plan to build 2,100 new homes on an old airfield but Guildford Liberal Democrats have raised concerns about the loss of Green Belt land, traffic gridlock and the lack of affordable homes”

    I understand this is Wisley Airfield? Wisley Airfield with its 17 hectares of runway intact and its aircraft hardstandings in situ – indeed, where the only work needed to bring it back into operation is to rebuild its superstructure. Wisley Airfield which is scant yards from the M25, barely a mile from the outskirts of Woking and not much more from the outskirts of Leatherhead etc. Wisley airfield which is further away from the only greenbelt building proposals in the local plan (West Horsley) than it is from Guildford (although I accept I may be incorrect here, given that I have not examined the Local Plan in depth). Wisley Airfield, where if placed anywhere else in the country would be considered brownfield site.

    As for traffic gridlock – there is a junction onto the A3 just yards away from the airfield, and no less than five different roads going from it or travelling around it.

    I’m sorry George, but this is indeed NIMBYism. You can’t even get away with the affordable homes argument, given that the council can, if it so wishes, enforce a section 106 decision on any planning permission with a stipulation that the affordable housing gets built first to circumvent builders pretending that they can’t afford to build them after they have finished the more profitable stuff.

  • This is exactly why the Lib Dems will do so badly. Different messages in different parts of the country, different messages in local and national office.

    Are you in faviour of building 300,000 new homes to tackle the countries housing shortage, or do you support the rights of existing property owners to stop housing developments because it will create more traffic for them. Can’t have it both ways.

    Total NIMBYism.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for NIMBYism in British politics, but it’s inconsistent with your national message. If you’re going to support the rights of this community to block development simply because they don’t want it then you have to do it for all others. Doing that is incompatible with plans for 300,000 new homes.

  • Tony Dawson 27th Sep '14 - 1:28pm

    The Local Plan arguments being aired here are common to areas like Sefton MBC with a Labour Council pushing through thousands of three bedroom homes on easy-to-build-and-make-massive-profits sites instead of utilising the opportunity to require building of many one and two bedroom flats in areas close to town centres and over/around railway stations, which is where the real demand is. Many of these homes should be built in cities and large towns but the government doesn’t seem prepared to make these places (which have often cleared out huge areas which now lie in useless desolation) take their proper share of new housing or give them the powers to make sure it really happens. Everything is being left to some ludicrous private sector trickle-down model which will nowhere near ever meet the present demand issues, let alone those of the near future.

    Meanwhile, LDV/ALDC does not headline election losses in target seats despite apparently good local campaigns.

  • Tony Dawson 27th Sep ’14 – 1:28pm
    The Local Plan arguments being aired here are common to areas like Sefton MBC with a Labour Council pushing through thousands of three bedroom homes on easy-to-build-and-make-massive-profits sites instead of utilising the opportunity to require building of many one and two bedroom flats in areas close to town centres and over/around railway stations, which is where the real demand is. Many of these homes should be built in cities and large towns

    Tony, you are quite right. It is not a choice between building new homes or not. It is quite possible to meet a national target of building 300,000 homes in cities and towns, where the infrastructure already exists. But we need to build the type of homes that are needed, where they are needed.
    Proper planning is required rather and local communities should not be bullied in accepting what you describe as “easy-to-build-and-make-massive-profits sites”.
    Some of the comments here about Wisley Airfield have surprised me and I wonder if I am missing something. Maybe people are just in shock about a Liberal Democrat winning a byelection with a massive share of the vote on a highish turnout. Not something that happens much with Clegg as leader.

  • A Social Liberal 27th Sep ’14 – 10:52am

    You ask a lot of rhetorical questions about the location of Wisley Airfield. But exactly what point are you trying to make?

    You make reference to Leatherhead and Woking. What is your point ? You are surely not suggesting that there is no need to worry about infrastructure at Wisley Airfield because on a map these towns look close. Have you every driven from Wisley to either of these places? How long did it take you?

    I am genuinely puzzled about a number of comments here. If there is a lot of background of which I am unaware please enlighten me. Nothing that George Potter has written here is in any way unreasonable.

  • George:
    I’m sorry but all of your arguments have a smell of ‘Yes,.. let’s open borders to low paid EU immigration’,… but,… just don’t send the ‘poor ones’, here to leafy Guildford.?
    The crazy out of control open borders (decade), that Labour have since apologised for, has devastated the cohesion of many older ex-industrial northern towns. And Lib Dem policy seems to be ~ *So what, who cares?*.
    Liberal Democrats manifestly have zero concern for the infrastructure needs of the north which has been overwhelmed by too much immigration, just as long as you just don’t compromise the infrastructure *near me*, by building affordable homes for the low paid EU immigrants in the likes of Guildford? It’s this kind of transparent doublespeak, that is forcing voters away from the duplicitous actions of the established parties. It just won’t wash anymore.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Sep '14 - 6:15pm

    There are brownfield sites and brownfield sites. If this was a brownfield site immediately adjacent to an existing large urban area then perhaps there might be a better case for building houses on it – provided that the necessary supporting infrastructure could also be built.

    Old airfields tended to be placed well away from urban areas – I assume this is an old wartime airfield. So putting a residential development on it implies a whole lot more car traffic in the area to get on to the already choc-full M25 (and John Tilley states above that traffic levels on the A3 are pretty high) or to get to the nearest rail station (which appears to be Effingham Junction on the line between Guildford and Waterloo).

    There is also the issue of the traffic queue in the sky – the Ockham stack for aircraft awaiting a landing slot at Heathrow. George – how much impact might this have in terms of aircraft noise and pollution?

    There’s a nice little stream flowing westerly between the airfield and Ockham village, flowing into the River Wey. What’s the flood risk there?

    Isn’t there also a plan for a waste management facility on this airfield? What’s the situation about that?

    I understood one of the problems about housing in this country was the generally lower housing density in towns and cities than in comparable urban areas in other European countries. Shouldn’t we be doing more to address that? And if we must build on green belt land use land where more environmentally friendly transport is available than wasting fuel queueing to get on to the A3 or M25.

  • ” I’ll also add that many of the roads around Wisley are rated as unsuitable for HGVs”
    Pongs,… of yet more excuses George ?
    Some years ago a plan was submitted to provide an out of town commercial retail project. My local authority insisted that as part of the planning approval, that the construction company should provide new roadway infrastructure around it, plus all traffic light management and local connections, plus a new leisure centre. They jumped at it. Where there’s a *corporate cash* will, there’s a way.?
    Trust me,..If you put a thousand houses on that old disused airfield, the construction company will gladly pay to turn your narrow ‘horse and buggy tracks’, into a 3 lane highway.
    No more excuses. Your country needs you. Get those affordable homes built !

  • @John Dunn: “I’m sorry but all of your arguments have a smell of ‘Yes,.. let’s open borders to low paid EU immigration’,… but,… just don’t send the ‘poor ones’, here to leafy Guildford.?
    The crazy out of control open borders (decade), that Labour have since apologised for, has devastated the cohesion of many older ex-industrial northern towns. And Lib Dem policy seems to be ~ *So what, who cares?*.
    Liberal Democrats manifestly have zero concern for the infrastructure needs of the north which has been overwhelmed by too much immigration, just as long as you just don’t compromise the infrastructure *near me*, by building affordable homes for the low paid EU immigrants in the likes of Guildford? It’s this kind of transparent doublespeak, that is forcing voters away from the duplicitous actions of the established parties. It just won’t wash anymore.”

    I think you’ve got it in one there. Lib Dems campaign for different things in different parts of the country, now they’re in national government they’re being found out. The Scottish Elections where they lost every constituency on the mainland is a good example of what happens when the public find out a party isn’t what they thought they were.

  • I took the opportunity this lunchtime to have a look at Wisley Airfield, as I have never actually been there before.

    Although large chunks of the site are used for agriculture, the ancient field boundaries have been obliterated, and there are huge areas of hardstanding, some of which is in very poor condition. One suspects that the hardstanding will never be removed unless the site is developed. On the Wisley Common side, there is a wildflower meadow, which is of nature conservation as well as amenity value, and there are a few intake houses that could be protected from any development by good landscaping. On the Ockham side, it is very clear where the Airfield ends and the ancient landscape begins. Ockham has been kept within its old village envelope, and I would find any substantial development beyond the Airfield’s southern perimeter wholly unacceptable. Clearly, only the Airfield itself is suitable for development. Not Wisley Common, not Ockham.

    The present access (on to the A3) is clearly quite unsuitable. However, there is a clover-leaf junction close by, and an access from the roundabout might be feasible. A secondary access on to Ockham Lane (at the east end) might also be feasible, though there would be very strong local objections (I imagine). I am not overly concerned by possible traffic volumes. Of the total traffic throughput on the A3, anything generated by the development of the Airfield would be a very small part. People parking at the side of the A3 to attend the car boot sale at the edge of Clandon Park on Sunday mornings I find far more menacing. The A3 is rather like the A1 in Bedfordshire. It looks like a motorway, but it isn’t.

    I would favour a mixed commercial and residential development, rather like King’s Hill in Kent. A Section 106 Agreement could secure social housing and school provision.

  • “The Scottish Elections where they lost every constituency on the mainland is a good example of what happens when the public find out a party isn’t what they thought they were.”

    That is absolutely right. The Lib Dems have been the party that people who dislike all the others vote for as a protest. But there was never any real raison d’etre.

    If you are of the left you might as well vote Labour. No-one on the right is going to vote for such a pro immigration, pro multiculturalism party.

    Now there is a real, grass roots movement that has a positive vision, (getting our country back) but which also hoovers up the protest votes which was all that the Lib Dems stood for, and the Lib Dem vote has melted like spring snow. .

  • George – thanks for your informed commentary on this. As a localish Lib Dem (a short drive North of you in Woking) I was aware of the debate but not the details; very informative. Scott

  • Sesenco – Thank you for taking the time and troule to visit the site and providing an informed comment, which I must say seems to reflect the reality of the site unlike some of the wilder assertions of comments from somen others in this thread .

    This part of your comment goes to the heart of the matter —
    “,,,,,I would find any substantial development beyond the Airfield’s southern perimeter wholly unacceptable. Clearly, only the Airfield itself is suitable for development. Not Wisley Common, not Ockham.”

    I cannot speak for George Potter but I assume this fits with his point –” Specifically, while Wisley airfield is 17 hectares, the proposed development is for 69 hectares. And that is a very, very big difference.”

    You go on to say — “The present access (on to the A3) is clearly quite unsuitable. However, there is a clover-leaf junction close by, and an access from the roundabout might be feasible. “.
    I agree about the present access to the A3 but if the clover leaf junction you are talking about is the one by Ripley you may not be aware that the road to Ockham which joins this junction was under two feet of water in January. This January was exceptional for flooding but areas between Ockham and Cobham are regularly under water every winter.

    I very much agree with you about the car boot sale at the edge of Clandon Park on Sunday mornings which is certainly menacing.

    Nonconformistradical 27th Sep ’14 – 6:15pm
    Also makes a number of reasonable points, in particular he asks about flood risk. George Potter may want to tell us what the local plan says about that. But from my knowedge of Wisley, Ocham and Ripley flooding is an annual reality on the low lying land in this area.

  • Sesenco, I have just responded to your excellent last comment. Goodness knows what I has said to incur the wrath of the automatic censor but I hope my response will appear before too long.

  • Liberal Neil 28th Sep '14 - 10:01am

    I’m with George Potter and John Tilley on this one.

    I’d particularly take issue with Sesnco’s comment: “As for infrastructure, it adjoins the A3 trunk road, and provision of additional school places can be funded by a Section 106 Agreement. ” This is a fine theory, the problem is it doesn’t usually happen in practice.

    My experience in recent years is that Section 106 agreements rarely fund the extra infrastructure needed to properly support new developments. Councils are often left with a choice between cash for roads, schools, health, leisure and/or public transport provision, but rarely all of them. If Councils push too hard the developers will push to appeal and the Council risks getting even less.

    One of the reasons there is so much opposition to the rate of development is because local residents have lost faith that planning system will deliver the infrastructure.

    The other important factor is that the proportion of affordable homes is also reducing rapidly. Our Local Plan (from Lib Dem days) has a current target of 40% affordable, but the now Conservative Council is proposing reducing that the 35% in the new plan and rarely achieves that in reality when it grants permission.

    So the argument that the rate of building is to provide more affordable homes for the local people who need them also fails to convince anyone.

    In my area the local district council is proposing that 20,560 new houses should be built in the next 15 years – a 41% increase across the district. We are opposing the 1,700 on Green Belt sites, leaving only a modest 39% increase. the biggest of these is next to the A34, but it is next to a two way junction that already needs to be a four way junction, even before the new houses. Yes the County Council has said very clearly that a development of that size will only provide enough funds to either provide the school places needed or fund the junction, but not both.

    This is all apart from the fact that trying build that number of houses in 15 years is all but impossible. It’s five times the rate of building over the last 15 years.

  • Stevan Rose 28th Sep '14 - 7:02pm

    What seriously great news. Congratulations to all involved!

    Now if we can just translate those figures into General Election stats prepare for a Lib Dem majority Government next year. 😊

  • “As a result they were able to build shuttleworths using only data from this year which combined with an intensive knock up on polling day helped to maximise the Liberal Democrat vote.” What fresh new jargon hell is this?

  • Simon Banks 2nd Oct '14 - 9:23am

    The north has been overwhelmed by too much immigration, John Dunn? Really? You must be referring to the children and grandchildren of Black and Asian immigrants. Or possibly the influx of people from the South of England with different accents and cultures at the time of the Industrial Revolution? Immigration is the reason why Northern infrastructure is inadequate? Wow – I thought it was inadequate spending and the previous government’s obsession with “growth areas”. The areas where one can honestly speak of anything being “overwhelmed” by immigration are places like Peterborough and Wisbech, not Newcastle or Liverpool.

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