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Again, Cathedral ‘Survival’ Plan in Doubt as Council Planners Recommend Refusal

Published on: 24 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 24 Mar, 2023

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford planners have recommended refusal of the controversial plan by the cathedral to build 124 houses on Stag Hill.

The December 2022 masterplan for the proposed 124 homes on the cathedral slopes.

The application will be decided by the Planning Committee next Wednesday, March 29 but refusal would be a blow to the cathedral’s plan to secure the future of Grade II* listed building.

The plans to cash in on the cathedral-owned land was said by the Dean, Dianna Gwillams to be the “minimum that is required to generate the required annual endowment” for the cathedral “to survive”.

See Controversial Housing Development Needed for Cathedral ‘to Survive’  Says Dean (December 2022)

Guildford Cathedral.

The development would have provided a £10 million endowment, estimated in 2017, to be used for running and maintaining the building.

This is the second time the cathedral has been thwarted in its plans to develop the sensitive site. The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, hit national headlines in 2017 when he said the cathedral faced “probable closure” after the application for 134 homes was rejected by the council.

At the time, many were skeptical about the claim and said other options for raising funds should be used such as charging an entrance fee for the estimated annual 90,000 visitors to the cathedral.

Guildford’s MPAngela Richardson said there were “fundamental issues” with the “scale and quantum” of proposed development.

The latest proposals have been heavily criticised by Guildford’s MP, Angela Richardson, Historic England and the War Memorials Trust, all calling for a rethink of the proposals.

The Canadian Vimy Foundation questioned the principle of building on the land saying it was a memorial to the 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who fought in Europe during the First World War, 66,000 of whom lost their lives.

The grounds for refusal include “harm [to] the setting of heritage assets” saying that the “scale and site layout has been predominantly dictated by the quantum of development”.

Perhaps surprisingly, the proposed 124 homes exceeding the local plan allocation of 100 was not cited as a reason to refuse the application.

A spokesperson for VIVID and Guildford Cathedral said: “The planning application by VIVID and Guildford Cathedral for new homes on Stag Hill is scheduled to be considered by the Planning Committee on March 29. Following that meeting, the delivery partners will consider next steps.”

The Friends of Stag Hill (FOSH), who have campaigned against the development, said: “We will comment after the [planning] meeting next Wednesday.”

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Responses to Again, Cathedral ‘Survival’ Plan in Doubt as Council Planners Recommend Refusal

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 25, 2023 at 11:10 am

    Guildford Cathedral’s ‘survival’ depends on the church making itself relevant to a sufficiently large number of people. In that sense the church is no different from a business. It needs customers.

    How to get customers? Supply something they want or need.

    If the cathedral’s only survival strategy is to “sell off the family silver” (Harold Macmillan’s expression), it will quickly run out of things to sell. Not a great strategy. Nor very ethical or holy.

    After all, isn’t the idea of religion to direct attention away from the expedient towards the timeless?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 25, 2023 at 9:54 pm

    In an increasingly secular society, where Christianity is espoused by a small minority, do we really need a cathedral? Just let it go, or turn it into a homeless shelter. Then leave Stag Hill alone.

    The memorial to the brave Canadians who gave their lives for our freedom deserves better.

  3. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 26, 2023 at 9:31 am

    Regrettably, the Church of England’s apparent decision to adopt “wokeism”, has naturally caused a drop in church attendance generally.

    Selling off the remaining assets is not the answer: the answer is to go back to traditional teaching.

    • Mark Bray-Parry Reply

      March 26, 2023 at 3:45 pm

      Church attendance has been declining steadily since 1980 across all denominations, falling by almost 4m! It should also be noted that the last census saw five million fewer people recording their religion as “Christianity” than in 2011, driven predominantly by a drop in religion amongst those under 30.

      Unless Mr Barnes seriously believes the Church of England has been “woke” since the 80s, perhaps his desperation to blame all failings on “wokeism” is blinding him to the ignorance of his comment. If anything, Mr Barnes should flip his view and blame it on the increased “wokeness” of younger sections of the population for declining church attendances. I suspect this is closer to the truth.

      • Stuart Barnes Reply

        March 27, 2023 at 10:08 am

        The answer to Mark Bray Parry’s question is, yes.

  4. Mike Truman Reply

    March 26, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Perhaps those now complaining about this development on the grounds that it desecrates a Canadian war memorial could indicate when they first became aware of that connection, and how regularly over the past years they have paid their respects there? The only significant acknowledgment of it would appear to be an inscribed stone set into the cathedral wall.

    An obvious practical solution would be for a more significant and meaningful memorial feature to be built in the cathedral grounds, perhaps part-financed by a payment from the developers. That assumes, obviously, that respect for Canadian war dead is the real concern of those raising it as an objection.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      March 31, 2023 at 10:06 am

      This comment makes two arguments:

      1) that the Cathedral grounds should be developed because the negative effects can be mitigated if the developers fund a “memorial feature” in the cathedral grounds;

      2) that the objections don’t count because many objectors did not know that the land was given in memory of Canadian soldiers who lost their lives defending freedom in WW1 and WW2.

      These sorts of arguments are commonly deployed by developers, especially the “mitigation argument”. Using this logic absolutely everything and anything is developable because any and all negative effects can be mitigated. On Three Farms Meadows [the former Wisley Airfield] the developer argues that the destruction of the habitat of the skylarks will be mitigated by installing nest boxes!

      So what’s the problem? The logic does not acknowledge that some things are sacred. A trust fund/bequest/sum of money/memorial plaque is not the measure of the loss of an open space/playing field/habitat/view.

      When the Church itself cannot see that some things are sacred – like the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of young soldiers or the setting of a place of worship – it calls into question its values.

  5. Dave Middleton Reply

    March 26, 2023 at 3:59 pm

    It galls me somewhat, to hear the Diocese of Guildford claim to be in dire financial straits and to be unable to afford to maintain the cathedral when the bishop resides in a country house that’s probably worth close to £2 million, if not more.

    Perhaps a re-adjustment to priorities is required?

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