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£3m Allocated for Next Stage of ‘Shaping Guildford’s Future’ Masterplan

Published on: 25 Sep, 2022
Updated on: 26 Sep, 2022

The title page of the presentation given to the Executive Committee meeting on Thursday (September 22).

By Martin Giles

The Executive of Guildford Borough Council has agreed to move to the next stage of “Shaping Guildford’s Future” (SGF) the name given to its masterplan programme.

A report presented to councillors on Thursday 22 September endorsed Stage 2 and approved the £3 million funding necessary to enable delivery of Stage 3 of the programme. This will produce “an informed Concept Masterplan validated by infrastructure strategies”.

Artist impression of the post redevelopment view from Friary Street looking west. Image from council presentation.

According to the council’s press release: “This latest work has been shaped by an extensive community stakeholder engagement campaign.”

“Shaping Guildford’s Future will, over a period of time, transform the area along the riverside. The river, the town’s most significant natural asset will be the focus for its regeneration.”

See also: Recommendation for Guildford to Consider Congestion Charging

“The programme has major benefits for Guildford’s community, businesses and environment. It will develop a proactive regeneration strategy. This will address the economic challenges and physical constraints facing the town. This includes the retail downturn and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Councillors who spoke in the debate all commended the work done by the programme team.

A graphic summary of residents’ responses to date

But two councillors George Potter (Lib Dem, Burpham) and Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) questioned the extent of the public consultation to date.

Cllr George Potter

Cllr Potter said: “…the consultation has never put any key, fundamental questions to the public… it does seem to me as if some very key decisions have been made by a very small number of people right at the outset…”

Responding, Council Leader Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) said: “Nothing has been decided. This is still potential.

“There will be a full reg 18 and reg 19 consultation that will go out to the public and ask them what they think about these proposals just like any other adopted plumbing policy.”

Cllr Tony Rooth

Cllr Tony Rooth said: “I echo George Potter’s comments on this and the importance of involvement of councillors and also the public, our residents, in the decision-making process.”

He also complained that councillors had been given 400 pages of documentation to digest in the week before the meeting and some councillors with full-time jobs would not have had the time to do so.

Regarding consultation, he said: “There were four webinars of one hour each with less than 100 attendees at each of those. There was a television telephone survey of only 391 residents and no further entries on the SGF website since March.

“We need to have proper consultation and involvement of councillors and the public.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

After the meeting, Cllr Bigmore said: “The work completed by our specialist team, puts us in a strong position to deliver on our priorities. These are to build affordable new homes, create jobs and achieve our climate change goals to reach net zero emissions by 2030.

“We’ve listened to people’s views. We share their ambition to develop a town centre fit for the future. That’s a town centre with sustainable living, high-quality public spaces, leisure and cultural facilities. All easy to get to by walking or cycling.

“To recover from past decline, it’s vital we continue our journey. If we don’t, we will fall even further behind our competitor towns in Surrey.”

Cllr John Rigg

Lead councillor for Regeneration, Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), said: “I am very pleased to reach this milestone and grateful for the detailed work delivered by the project team. This reveals the opportunities and options we have to make the best of our town.

“The ideas are truly inspirational. Much of the work is essential if we are to address the problems and transform the riverside.  Our ambition is to make the town centre a place where people want to be again.

“Moving to Stage 3 in the programme will allow us to:

  • deliver our masterplan for a better town
  • advance a flooding solution with the Environment Agency
  • progress a deliverable solution to overcome the existing transportation constraints
  • place the authority in a good position to be able to bid for grant funding

“There are challenges to address, but with a plan and energy they can be overcome.

The Richmond waterfront, presented as an example of what can be achieved.

“This is an opportunity to make a difference. To make a better town, to embrace the riverside and provide for future generations”.

More information including a copy of the Executive Report is available on the Shaping Guildford website. Click here to see the full presentation attached to the council report (scroll down).

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