Guildford council to ‘start again’ with Chantry Wood campsite

Late last night, the Lib Dems, who are the biggest party and run a minority administration at Guildford, issued a press release announcing that they are going to ‘start again’ with the Chantry Woods campsite. The full press release is here. Safe to say we’re delighted that the political leadership of the council have taken this step.

The whole process has never worked properly, though we suspect that has more to do with how it was set-up by the previous administration led by Cllr Paul Spooner and ex-Cllr Matt Furniss. Had officers simply been expected to work to an old plan that wasn’t really aimed at finding a solution, but rather ridding the council of an asset it no longer cared about? That’s more in line with what we thought. But either way this is good news.

We also need to pay credit to R4GV Cllr John Redpath, who has been relentless in his pursuit of this. We know that he’s personally pursued this issue with senior officers and the leadership.

We’re looking forward to working with our local councillors and Guildford BC to come up with a solution that retains camping on this fantastic and historic site.

Community assets such as Chantry Wood Campsite can and should be protected, and residents engaged with to find solutions that have consent, not merely ‘consulted‘ to provide cover for the disposal of an asset. If you want to speak with someone about protection for local services or community assets, go to the brilliant Locality. We did.

Council (re)opens Chantry consultation

Guildford Borough Council has reopened the process of consultation over the future of the Chantry Woods Campsite.

The Council has now established what is being presented as a second part of the process of consultation after having ‘consulted with campsite users over the Summer’. We don’t think there’s any point rehashing what went before, and would encourage those interested to have a scroll through some of the articles about the campaign we ran at the time.

Control of the council changed hands in May and is now under NOC (No Overall Control/Hung Council) – largely controlled by the Lib Dems, with local party R4GV playing a significant role in various committees.

If this process signals a fresh approach from this new council it is one we should all welcome as a chance to get the process done properly, honestly and openly – especially with the new pledge by all councillors to act transparently.

This part of the process will be managed by a group of external consultants, retained by GBC for stakeholder engagement of this type.

The survey is now online and we’d encourage everyone to complete it – whether you provided responses previously or not.

The consultation and stakeholder engagement will close on the 30th November, and will inform the forthcoming committee report that is scheduled for 24 March 2020, and signage will also be placed in Chantry Wood itself.

New: ‘Council u-turn on Chantry Woods Campsite’

We’re being told that as a result of tonight’s council executive meeting, Chantry Woods campsite will no longer be leased out to a private forest school. There will apparently be ‘no change for the next 12 months.’

There are two responses to this:

  1. This is down to all of you who collared their councillors and told them that you weren’t going to put up with the sell off of a much loved community asset that’s been open for over 50 years.
  2. We now need to hold the council’s feet to the fire. We have to acknowledge that they may have, finally, seen sense, and thank them for that. It genuinely isn’t easy to admit you’ve got it wrong, but that might just be happening here. Let’s see.

What we hope this shows is that when the community come together, they can be a very powerful counterbalance to our democratically elected politicians. But it’s now also vital that we are prepared to begin to work with members and officers to secure a long-term future for the site.

Watch this space!

#SaveChantry publishes ‘dismantling’ of new Guildford Council paper on Chantry Woods Campsite

As part of their ongoing campaign, #SaveChantry has published an analysis of the document, ‘CHANTRY WOOD CAMPSITE CONSULTATION REVIEW’, published by Guildford Borough Council (GBC) in advance of the council meeting to consider this issue on the 7th March 2019.

Guildford Borough Council has called a ‘Special Meeting, Executive
Thursday, 7th March, 2019 7.00 pm’, where it will make further attempts to close down growing opposition to its handling of the Chantry Woods Campsite. Full details can be found on the GBC website, with the meeting open to the public,and webcast.

The council has made numerous claims to have consulted properly, examined the case for a change to the site’s operation, and many other issues, yet this assessment uncovers that Holy Trinity Amenity Group – the residents association that covers the area wasn’t even approached to comment, and only found out about the plans by accident!

This is not the worst of it, and we encourage everyone to read the document (below).

You can read the document in full here: Response to GBC Chantry Paper 6th March_Final

About the review

The review was undertaken by local resident Catherine Fowler, a former business case specialist & consultant, who is involved in the #SaveChantry campaign.

The review looks at each contentious claim made by the council in the paper, or issue raised about the council’s claims, analyses it, and offers a verdict over whether the claim is either incorrect, misleading, incomplete, or unclear, or something else.

There are a great number of problems with this document, and we have attempted to make it as simple as possible to read for lay-people or those not familiar with such documents.

Our aim with this document is to bring a sense of transparency to the whole issue. It is our contention – as evidenced very clearly in this review – that the Council have not been transparent, and indeed have actively avoided being transparent. We invite you to make your own judgement, and draw your own conclusions.

We are still – as many others are – unclear as to why the leader of GBC, Councillor Paul Spooner and Managing Director, James Whiteman, have permitted much of this to happen, but it is clear that it is their responsibility to make good the mess and distrust around this issue that has been permitted to fester under their watch.

James Whiteman is responsible for operations, and the things his staff do; Cllr Spooner, for the democratic oversight an elected council is supposed to bring.

As a result, an individual involved in the campaign to #SaveChantry has submitted a formal letter of complaint to both Cllr Spooner and James Whiteman concerning the failure to consult properly, demanding that the consultation process be rerun transparently and with the active involvement of stakeholders. If necessary, this will be escalated to the Local Government Ombudsman.

#SaveChantry reveals more about attempted ‘cover up’ by Council leadership

The allegations by the #SaveChantry campaign against Guildford Borough Council (GBC) of a cover up over their decision to close Chantry Woods campsite has been further strengthened following the publishing of a series of communications by the council to members of the public.

The communications – emails and GBC web postings – confirming the site’s permanent closure back in January cast serious doubt on whether the site will ever, in fact, reopen, despite their recent reverse-ferret, claiming they were never going to actually close it.

Three documents have been unearthed, all of which prove that the Council line spun last week – that they never closed or intended to close the site – are in fact a big fat….well, you choose the word.

The first is a confirmation to a parent who booked the site (below). This email was sent out to all those who booked the site this year, and so is hardly unique.

Email

The second (below) is a screenshot of the Chantry Woods booking website on the 3rd March – some two months after the decision was made to close the site!

Screenshot 2019-03-06 at 11.14.45

And the final, damning evidence of this rather childish and Trumpian attempt to gaslight campaigners, and convince the public that they have, in fact, gone back in time and changed the past, is an actual news item on the GBC website confirming this.

It’s as though the three stooges – Spooner, Davis and Furniss – think that only they have electronic devices that can screenshot things! Or maybe they actually own a Tardis or some kind of time machine that we don’t know about!

Screenshot 2019-03-06 at 11.12.59

As a matter of fact, we’ve also run our thoughts by prominent local journalists who are equally confused about the council’s denials, and we’re inviting you, the good people of Guildford, to decide what you think about the people charged with looking after vital, popular local assets, especially with an election around the corner.

Republican presidential candidate Trump gestures and declares
Cllr Paul Spooner addressing residents (above)

In other news, one of the campaigners behind the #SaveChantry campaign has submitted a ‘Freedom of Information’ request to Guildford Borough Council.

This important step is aimed at making sure that the Council – who have throughout the process have been either reluctant, unable or inconsistent in providing information about their plans for the site – release anything deemed ‘strongly in the public interest’.

One of the concerns of the #SaveChantry campaign is that the Council will attempt to force through changes to the site – including any lease of facilities to a private company – before anyone notices, and too late to prevent this loss of a valuable site. Keep an eye on this site for more soon.

Is a Council retreat underway?

7f7bc9b0-b3fe-43ac-8923-80164bde371c.gif

Film of what is believed to be Cllrs Paul Spooner, Matt Furniss, Geoff Davis and David Bilbe, earlier.

We’ve just had this story flagged up to us from the online news site, The Guildford Dragon: https://www.guildford-dragon.com/2019/03/03/letter-provision-for-camping-should-be-included-in-any-agreement-on-the-chantries

It contains a quote from Cllr Geoff Davis, Councillor for Holy Trinity ward and adviser to the leader, Cllr Paul Spooner , where he says the following:

‘We are bringing this issue back to Executive this week to clarify given the “misunderstanding” that appears to be spreading by social media and by those linked to the Independent campaign.’

‘Those that watch the webcast on this item will see that provision for camping should be included in any agreement with an education provider but that seems to have been lost in translation, however we look forward to all those who have complained about perceived loss of camping provision do book and use the site in the coming months.’

So either our collective outcry forced Spooner, Furniss, Bilbe, Davis and Co to change their plans; or it took them two months to clarify their position, after having made it very clear, through their action or inaction, that camping was no longer going to be permitted on the site. We’ll leave that to you to decide, dear reader.

We’re taking this news with a barrel of salt, but we’re cautiously optimistic. We’re by no means letting up, and will be seeking some cast-iron guarantees around this pledge, because if there’s one thing many of us have learned so far, is that this lot’s word cannot be taken at face value.

Keep writing to your councillors!

Following a get together this afternoon, all of those involved in the campaign to save camping at the Chantry Woods Campsite, have asked all members of the public, community groups and others to keep contacting their councillors to tell them to reverse the decision to stop camping at the site.

Despite the council’s attempts to muddy the water a few days ago, the site’s purpose as a place to camp has been stopped unilaterally, and those who booked it have been told that their bookings will no longer be valid.

There is also now a meeting this Thursday (7th) of the council executive at the council offices at Millmead, where ‘…feedback from will be considered’. If you’re interested in attending this meeting, email savechantrywoodscampsite@gmail.com

In line with their shoddy behaviour over this issue, it is our very real concern that the council will attempt to force through this change at this meeting, and we encourage all of you to keep up the pressure.

Adviser to Tory leader Cllr Paul Spooner, Cllr Geoff Davis, and colleague Cllr Matt Furniss, have been issuing a misleading statement claiming that the site ‘isn’t going to be closed’, but have omitted the fact that camping would not longer be permitted. We can only conclude that either they’ve made an error, in which case we’ll be delighted to issue an apology just as soon as they clarify that camping will continue to be permitted, or this is intentional, in which case we’ll leave you to decide on the behaviour of the people running Guildford Borough Council. There are the local elections in May after all.

Either way, keep writing, calling, and telling your neighbours to #savechantry

Council ‘dissembling’ over closure of Chantry Woods Campsite

Dissembling

verb (used with object), dis·sem·bled, dis·sem·bling.

to give false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of:to dissemble one’s incompetence in business.
to put on the appearance of; feign:to dissemble innocence.

verb (used without object), dis·sem·bled, dis·sem·bling.

to conceal one’s true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or act hypocritically.

Guildford Borough Council have begun issuing a statement from Countryside Manager Hendryk Jurk, which attempts to clear up ‘misunderstandings circulating’.

In it, he makes no mention whatsoever of the key problem with their plans: that families, children, community groups and tourists will no longer be permitted to use the site as a campsite, which is the whole point of the #savechantry campaign – and the efforts of all those who we’ve spoken with since launching earlier this week.

We can only assume that the council executive have either forgotten to include this in their clearing up of ‘misunderstandings’, or they’ve done it deliberately, in which case, they are clearly dissembling.

Our advice is: don’t be fooled. Keep up the campaign, and keep writing to your councillors. We’ve been approached by other groups who want to collaborate, and we’re always open to people who either have ideas, or want to get involved. Contact us via the webform, and find out more about what you can do.

 

Hendryk Jurk 28022019

News release: Community launches #SaveChantry campaign

26/02/2019

News Release

Community launches #SaveChantry campaign

Group of local Guildford residents tell council: you’re not handing our campsite to a private company.

A group of local residents has today launched a campaign to reverse Guildford Borough Council’s closure of the popular local campsite located in Chantry Woods.

“The council’s elected members have acted as though they’re shareholders running a private concern, divesting themselves of an unprofitable asset”

Alongside the actual closure of the site, the group and its supporters are also contesting the ‘consultation’ that the council carried out for a short period, closing on the 24th February. “This ‘consultation’ was a sham; it was purely and simply to consult on the transition from a public site to a private concern. Indeed, Councillor David Bilbe, the lead on this for the Council, has argued that to have a proper consultation process on the issue would create ‘resistance’ amongst locals. Well congratulations, David: here’s your resistance.”

The group and its supporters are determined to overturn the decision taken by the council executive, and are also prepared to lodge formal complaints against the decision itself, and the process surrounding it.

A spokesperson said, “The council’s elected members have acted as though they’re shareholders running a private concern, divesting themselves of an unprofitable asset, not as the leadership of a council who are stewards of assets and services on our behalf as citizens, taxpayers and the electorate. They have acted with  high-handed arrogance in closing the campsite without discussion – a popular venue for loads of local children, families and community groups. Their reasoning, alongside their figures, is shonky, riddled with inaccuracies, and not worth the paper they’re written on.”

The group is encouraging people to write to their local councillors and demand that the decision be reversed. You can visit their website or contact them via https://savechantrycampsite.home.blog

—-Ends—-

Instagram Page now up!

If you want to share you pictures of days – and nights – out, camping in Chantry Woods, be our guest, and head over to @savechantrycampsite on Instagram. The hashtag for all social channels (fb/twitter etc) is #savechantry

But make sure you also contact your local councillor to tell them what you think of the council’s closure of the site, and how you support it being reopened for the community.

If you’re a school, community group or organisation affected by this closure, contact us directly. We’ve had a lot of interest and support from local headteachers/schools and groups, and we want to make sure your voice is heard, and that councillors like leader Councillor Paul Spooner and the likes of Councillor David Bilbe actually listen to local people, instead of completely ignore them – you and us.

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