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Cathedral Leaders Accused Of ‘Breach Of Trust’ As Objections Mount Against Stag Hill Development

Published on: 29 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 29 Mar, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

Objections to the controversial 124 home development on the slopes beneath Guildford Cathedral have mounted with Guildford’s MP, Angela Richardson, Historic England and the War Memorials Trust all calling for a rethink of the proposals.

And the issue has taken an international turn with an article in the Canadian Calgary Herald. It quotes local objectors who believe the scheme would desecrate land donated to the cathedral by the former Canadian prime minister, Lord Bennett, to commemorate “the association between Canada and the Diocese of Guildford in two World Wars”.

Memorial stone on the cathedral to Canadians who fought in two World Wars (see the War Memorials Trust website).

Matt O’Grady, chief operating officer for the cathedral, said the Charity Commission knew about the gift of the land by Lord Bennett. He said: “After a thorough assessment the Commission approved schemes allowing the Cathedral to sell the relevant land – allocated in Guildford’s Local Plan – for development.

“The sale of land to [developer] VIVID for new homes will safeguard the long-term future of the [Cathedral] building, providing for long-term repair, maintenance, and improvement.”

FOSH commissioned an illustrative view of the development. They said: “The picture shows a summer view, which obviously will be a lot worse in the winter. We are not surprised Heritage England have concerns”.

A local action group, Friends of Stag Hill (FOSH), who have long campaigned against the development, remained unconvinced. A spokesperson for FOSH said: “We consider it embarrassing that the cathedral (and VIVID) seeks to profit from land it requested so that it could be protected.”

There are other concerns drawing the attention of those who object to the scheme.

Guildford MP Angela Richardson said there were “fundamental issues” with the proposed development at the Cathedral.

MP Angela Richardson said there were “fundamental issues” with the “scale and quantum” of development being proposed which is out of proportion to the Local Plan allocation. She criticised the proposed access to the site saying it should be via the cathedral’s main drive.

She said the plans were not “respectful of the setting, character and heritage of the surrounding area” and “fall some way short” of what is needed at the important site.

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Zoe Franklin and the Lib Dem Onslow ward councillors, Jon Askew and David Goodwin, savaged the application saying it was “a breach of trust” by the cathedral leadership to build on the land associated with the Canadian war sacrifice. They said the “mistakes” from an earlier plan, rejected by GBC in 2017, have not been avoided with the new proposals which were “worse than before”.

Zoe Franklin called it a “breach of trust” by the Cathedral’s leadership.

“There is an insufficient allocation of affordable housing, and the housing provided for cathedral staff is completely separated from the rest of the community.

“The staff will enjoy safe access via the main cathedral entrance road whilst the rest of the development’s traffic is funnelled into the small back streets that currently form a key part of the Sustainable Movement Corridor (SMC) that links the town centre, the University and the Surrey Research Park.  This routing will increase traffic on the SMC and cause a real setback to the push for green transport around Guildford.”

There has also been concern expressed by the decision to install gas boilers rather than heat pumps based on the comparative cost of gas and electricity. This was called “shameful” in an objection letter from Extinction Rebellion.

A view of Guildford Cathedral seen from The Mount.

Mike Shepherd, group development & new business director at VIVID, said: “We’ve identified smaller homes, in particular 1- and 2-beds, are needed the most. That’s why we’ve included a few apartment buildings whilst keeping the overall footprint and density of the development lower than the previous application.

“The proposed architectural design will help to mitigate the height of the new buildings through the use of varied roof styles, such as flat roofs, to ensure the buildings are in keeping with the character of the surrounding area. We’ve also created a 30m separation distance between the boundary of existing dwellings to the south and the nearest proposed apartment building.

“The development proposes improved connections from the site to the town centre through upgraded pedestrian and cycle paths, reduced localised flooding from surface water run-off and landscaped open spaces for the community to enjoy.

“Carbon emissions from our buildings will be around a third lower than the minimum standards required for new homes by the Building Regulations, exceeding Guildford Borough Council’s requirement.”

See also Cathedral Declines To Comment On Challenge To Cathedral’s Housing Development and Bishop Throws Doubt On Cathedral’s Future Following Planning Rejection  

The National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada has been invited to comment.

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test 2 Responses to Cathedral Leaders Accused Of ‘Breach Of Trust’ As Objections Mount Against Stag Hill Development

  1. E Parry Reply

    March 29, 2022 at 12:41 pm

    If you wish to express your view please e-mail planningenquiries@guildford.gov.uk stating planning app no. 21/P/02333 It is not too late.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 31, 2022 at 6:59 am

    Isn’t the job of the church to minister to the needs of its flock? Where does the embrace of mammon by property development come in?

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