Fringe Box



Letter: Can Guildford Take An Extra 60% of Retail Space?

Published on: 16 Aug, 2012
Updated on: 16 Aug, 2012

From Gordon Bridger

Hon Alderman

The economic problems which we in Britain, and indeed many “western” countries currently face, have arisen from years of excessive expenditure on consumer goods . This expenditure has to some extent been possible thanks to investments from petro dollar countries (c. 80%) and China (c. 20%).

This, in turn, has led to an over expansion in Britain of public services and a massive increase in expenditures on consumer retail goods.

Our Coalition Government is rightly seeking to divert resources into the export private sector with the intention of reducing our massive trade deficit. This means supporting, as much as we can, our knowledge and scientific based export services.

We are fortunate in Guildford as these services are our most important sector (according to the excellent UNIS Guildford Economic Study of 2009). Including manufacturing they account for some 40% of Gross Value Added to the Guildford economy. Public Administration accounts for another 22%, and Retail, Distribution, Hotels and Restaurants only 15%. Construction, Transport and Other account for most of the rest.

With the above data and policy in mind it would be reasonable to expect the Guildford Borough Council to devote most of its efforts to assisting these employment creating high value added export earning services. Alas this is far from the case. All its emphasis is currently being placed on massive retail development.

In the Guildford Borough Council’s ‘North Street Development Brief’ (which roughly equates to the Friary development area) it is proposing something like 62,000 sq m of further retail development. This includes the unused 25,000 sq m allowed under the “Westfield” planning permission. Depending on which data one uses it could represent an additional 60%, or even 100%, of retail floor space for Guildford town centre (Sainsbury in the town centre is only 1,000sm).

Even if the more modest figure of 60% is used the amount of the increase is amazing. It is based on a retail study by the Council’s expert consultants. The study was produced some years ago and underestimates the impact of internet shopping and the effect of recession.

The Development Brief also fails to take into account the traffic implications despite the fact that its economic study clearly states that traffic congestion was the factor “making the Borough bad for business”. It also ignores the problem of the bus station location, and the need for more housing.

This North Street Development Brief appears to have been produced by retail consultants rather than planners. If implemented it would be disastrous for an already overcrowded town centre and ruin many of our existing enterprises.

It is difficult to account for such a major strategic and planning blunder.

Hopefully, the GBC Planning Committee will insist on its reconsideration when it appears before them.

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  1. Guildford Dragon NEWS

    August 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm

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