Fringe Box



Planning Committee Rejects Cathedral Scheme, Almost Unanimously

Published on: 30 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 26 Oct, 2023

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

The “fundamental specialness” of Guildford and its cathedral have been preserved after plans to build 124 homes next to the historic site were refused.

Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Committee met on Wednesday, March 29, and heard a “really definitive” 25-minute officer’s report that outlined the scheme.

Updated: See comments below from VIVIV on behalf of VIVID and Guildford Cathedral.

Indicative CGI of how the scheme would have looked according to the developers. Image: VIVID Homes

The cathedral, along with developer Vivid Homes, wanted to demolish the existing staff housing and create 124 homes in a mix of flats and housing  – 54 of which would be affordable properties – on undeveloped woodland.

The cathedral said it was selling land surrounding its Grade II listed site to create an endowment fund to pay for maintenance costs but during the presentation the public heard this would only cover work for the next five years – and that together with a separate sale would only raise 23 per cent of the budgeted costs.

A plan view of the proposal for 124 homes on the cathedral slopes.

Officers at the council recommended refusing the plans for a host of reasons including its harm to the setting of heritage assets, “visual prominence of the apartment blocks” and the impact on the “green collar” forming part of the “landmark silhouette”.

The plans attracted 286 letters of objection raising issues such as over-development, a lack of details on a wider masterplan, and harm to the heritage assets.

Cllr Will Salmon

Cllr Will Salmon (Lib Dem, Onslow) said: “We’ve been looking at it this for a number of years and there’s definitely been some improvements made in the application over those years, particularly on issues like sustainability

“The percentage of affordable housing  is also admirable here.

“My overall feeling is it would have to be somewhere else. Fundamentally this is not the location for this scheme.

“My concern is the scale, the whole setting, it’s the openness and semi-wild spaces that you can really appreciate as part of the community, that’s the green collar that we see from all sorts of distances.

“That is the sense that I can certainly feel coming from the many representations.

“The parkland provides very special setting with different short and long views of the cathedral and it provides a sense of proportion which is really essential for a building as big as the cathedral and I think a lot of that would be lost with the high density scheme.

“Overall my feeling is very much that this is a heritage asset that must be protected.

Cllr Angela Gunning

Cllr Chris Blow

“I do worry that the over development here would actually risk the fundamental specialness of the cathedral.”

His concerns were echoed by both Cllrs Chris Blow (R4GV, Shalford) and Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke) among others as the chamber united almost unanimously in its opposition to the plans.

Cllr Marsha Moseley

The only exception was Cllr Marsha Moseley (Con, Ash Vale) who did not speak on the application but abstained from voting.

A spokesperson for the Friends of Stag Hill group which has been campaigning against the application, said: “We would like to thank the Guildford Borough Council planning officer for her care and attention to what must at times have been a difficult task and the committee for looking out for the interests of Guildford.

“Friends of Stag Hill will wait to see the cathedral’s reaction to this second refusal but would hope that the cathedral now pauses and realises the damaging nature of their proposals, both for the cathedral and the community.

“The community has now been fighting with the cathedral over the development plans for over seven years, and it is time to accept that developing the land is not an appropriate way to raise funds for the cathedral.

“They have put the local community through significant distress over the last 7.5 years.”

The Grade II-listed cathedral was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and work began at the site in 1936. This was interrupted by the Second World War and eventually finished through a fund-raising campaign.

The cathedral was consecrated on May 17, 1961.

Joyce Ferguson, group development director at VIVID comments on behalf of VIVID and Guildford Cathedral: “We are of course disappointed by the Planning Committee’s decision to refuse planning permission for much needed new homes on Stag Hill which would have included 46% affordable – above planning policy requirements.”

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

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Responses to Planning Committee Rejects Cathedral Scheme, Almost Unanimously

  1. Peter Watts Reply

    March 30, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    A great result for Guildford. I am however concerned that the cathedral fails to understand the distress it causes to the local community and I hope the Dean and others reflect long and hard about their roles in working amongst the people they are meant to serve.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    March 30, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    When will the council ever reject a major planning application in the villages?

    Double standards.

  3. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 30, 2023 at 2:14 pm

    All I can say is, well done the planning committee.

  4. Keith Parkins Reply

    March 30, 2023 at 9:21 pm

    It is not often I praise a planning committee but well done.

    Guildford Cathedral is out of touch with the local community and the environment.

  5. Harry Elson Reply

    March 31, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Wonderful news, a green space that we and future generations can enjoy forever.

  6. Jack Brown Reply

    March 31, 2023 at 4:54 pm

    Good news. The cathedral is not really interested in providing affordable housing on this site. It was included to increase the likelihood of success of the application and therefore getting its own building plans through.

    Thank goodness common sense prevailed. Like so much else in around Guildford, once it’s gone it’s gone,. Our green spaces will just continue to be encroached on bit by bit.

  7. H Trevor Jones Reply

    April 5, 2023 at 10:30 am

    I am disappointed because, with so many homeless people, we need the housing, and I didn’t think the new buildings on the lower reaches of Stag Hill would actually spoil any of the many good views to and from the cathedral and its grounds.

    The housing would also be within walking distance of the railway station and the town centre and so suitable for people not owning a car, although maybe there could have been a car-share system for occasional journeys when required.

    I hope that those who like the cathedral as it is will be donating money to help its funding being achieved by other means than selling land.

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