Fringe Box



Cathedral’s Claim That Survival Depends on Housing Project is ‘Emotional Blackmail’

Published on: 17 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 17 Dec, 2016

Residents near Guildford Cathedral, opposed to a bid to build 134 home on the slopes of Stag Hill, on which the cathedral stands, are unconvinced by claims that the cathedral won’t survive without profits from the scheme.

A plan of where the homes are proposed to be built on land owned by Guildford Cathedral. Click to enlarge in a new window.

A revised planning application has been submitted to Guildford Borough Council (GBC) last week by developers Linden Homes while residents concerns continue. They have called the cathedral’s plea “emotional blackmail”.

A previous planning application is said to have indicated that a £15 million endowment could be created for the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Spirit if the development proceeds however, that figure has been disputed by Linden Homes.

Following the lodging of the revised plan, which proposes 81 private homes, 37 “affordable” homes and 16 homes for key workers, the cathedral has said the money it expects to gain from the project would secure its future for years to come.

The dean of the cathedral, Dianna Gwilliams, told the Surrey Advertiser that the development was: “… essential to the future of the cathedral. The cathedral is the centre of the town and a greatly loved building.We serve the whole of the diocese of Guildford and the cathedral helps so many people.”

However, local residents Adrian and Esther Parry, who are members of the Stag Hill Group fighting the plans, said this week: “We need to dispel this myth that the cathedral will cease if it does not achieve its £15 million target from building this development, this is emotional blackmail.

“The cathedral has other ways and means in which it can raise funds as it has demonstrated in previous fundraising. The Church of England has chosen not to step in and offer funding but it could equally choose to help out. The scaremongering propaganda is skewing the reality.”

They are also critical of the revised plan itself, saying that it “shows little change and no improvement on the overwhelming density”.

They added: “On the eastern side alone there are [as per the plan] 15 balconies, 108 Juliet balconies and 30 terraces causing privacy issues. Note: this proposed development is 50% denser than Scholars Walk and 119% denser than Ridgemount housing, so hardly sympathetic to the surrounding neighbourhood.”

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on Stag Hill, Guildford.

Referring to access routes to the homes if the plan gets the go-ahead, the objectors say: “How can directing all the traffic via Ridgmount, Guildford Park Road, etc, be more sensible then having a main entrance to this new development from the cathedral front approach onto an already built, fit for purpose cathedral roundabout?

“Why haven’t Surrey Highways or Surrey County Council Highways been asked which route would be best? Obviously the cathedral does not deem this part of its responsibility to implement this.

“A Grade II* building does not prevent them from building this road in a sympathetic way – another myth. It may not have been Sir Edward Maufe’s vision to have an extra access road off the front approach but I doubt it was Lord Onslow’s vision that his gifted land to the cathedral would be used to build 134 dwellings!

“In November approval was given to build 160 homes on the Guildford Park car park site, so that will see a substantial increase in traffic for this area without adding another 134 homes.

“We are fair and reasonable people and feel we are being given a raw deal. As it’s a cathedral and because they need the money, many of the moral codes of privacy when building are being overlooked.”

Guildford Borough Council is set to consider the revised plan in February and a site visit is also expected to take place.

Comments can be made objecting to, or supporting the application via the GBC website until December 28.

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Responses to Cathedral’s Claim That Survival Depends on Housing Project is ‘Emotional Blackmail’

  1. Richard Vary Reply

    December 17, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I completely agree with the objections. I am also amazed that the Dean keeps describing these buildings as “houses” or “homes”: if you look at the plans they are proposing 15 meter high blocks of flats.

    The land was given to the cathedral precisely to stop it being built on, so that the cathedral would be surrounded by a beautiful green landscape. If the cathedral no longer wants to be surrounded by green landscape, the Christian thing to do would be to give the land back to the donor, not take the gift, then turn around and build on it.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    December 17, 2016 at 9:40 am

    The chronic funding crisis in the Church of England has several fundamental causes. One is the de facto dis-establishment of the Church of England. Others are: the express encouragement of pluralism in religion, the replacement of much of religious mythology in the UK (not just Christian) with economic mythology and the failure of the church authorities to sell a message which is sufficiently relevant to enough people to get them to pay for Church infrastructure.

    The dominance of economics as an explanation for everything is clearly demonstrated when the Church of England itself resorts to economic arguments.

    The idea that the survival of a cathedral depends on the development of a housing estate in its shadow is one of the most ridiculous ideas they could marshal. The Church is merely using a copycat argument learned from the University of Surrey. If the future of the Church of England depends on money alone then its destiny is predetermined.

    It would do better to promote Truth, Goodness and Beauty and to set an example rather than ape the tactics of promoters of development schemes.

  3. Pete Brayne Reply

    December 17, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    We desperately need more homes built and we need more ‘life’ on the cathedral hill.

  4. Sally Parrott Reply

    December 18, 2016 at 8:23 am

    The Bishop of Guildford lives in a very large and beautiful old house, Willow Grange, at Jacob’s Well. The house and grounds must cost a fortune to maintain, and Willow Grange would be worth a great deal of money if sold, to allow the cathedral to continue without property development.

    One or two of the existing houses near the cathedral should surely be sufficient for the needs of a bishop who embraced a simple life. I know many functions take place at Willow Grange, but some of these could surely be accommodated in the cathedral precincts. Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”. — Luke 6.20.

    And to Mr Brayne I would say that Guildford is already a sea of houses, mostly too expensive for local people, and the trees on Stag Hill do provide ‘life’ to the eyes and lungs of local people.

  5. Naomi Harris Reply

    December 18, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    It is disturbing that the viability study, which sets out the financial justification for the cathedral’s scheme, is being kept secret. Despite the arguments from the supporters about “life” on the hill, and spreading the message of the cathedral, this is about money.

    The impact on local residents will be devastating – please look at the documents on the planning website showing the view of the cathedral from the Hog’s Back. These show a wall of high level properties towering over the local residents, removing all privacy from the existing community.

    If any other landowner applied for consent to build even one such intrusive property on their land, this would be refused, even if the landowner argued that they needed the money. Why should the cathedral be any different, especially when the Church of England is the second richest landowner in the UK?

    I completely agree that the Dean is relying on emotional blackmail. The attitude of the cathedral to the local residents, with whom it has refused to engage, is a clear indication that the cathedral puts money ahead of the interests of the local community, and makes a mockery of the cathedral’s claims to be acting for any altruistic motives.

  6. Colin Goble Reply

    December 19, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    So the dean says “The cathedral is the centre of the town and a greatly loved building.” I, for one, could not disagree more. It is well out of the centre of town, and is one of the ugliest buildings I can imagine. Personally, I wish they’d tear it down. It’s a disaster.

  7. Tony Ellis Reply

    December 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    The Church of England owns huge swathes of parts of London.

    If they are short of money surely now is the time for them to cash in on the rocketing price of land in London to fund whatever it is they need.

  8. Olive Edwards Reply

    December 27, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Guildford Cathedral is not the only cathedral in the country that needs maintenance over the coming years. Many other older and larger cathedrals have equally pressing, and in many case more pressing needs for funding but manage to satisfy that need by raising money in more imaginative and less intrusive ways than selling land off for high density housing.

    To suggest that the cathedral’s future depends solely on development of Stag Hill is clearly a gross exaggeration, particularly as a large proportion of the endowment seems to be being spent on rather generously proportioned accommodation for cathedral staff.

    Planning applications should be judged on objective criteria relating to housing density, effect on the local infrastructure and community as well as conforming to the Local Plan and housing policy.

    The dean’s pronouncements suggest a disregard for such niceties and assume that the development should be approved solely on the grounds of the cathedral’s apparent need for funding. I use the term ‘apparent’ as the financial details and cost projections are shrouded in secrecy, as a previous comment points out.

    In a statement given by the dean to the Surrey Advertiser, she said: “We have had meetings with senior councillors and senior officers and I am confident that the plans are the very best they can be for what we have to deliver. For that, I am confident but nothing is predetermined.” Let us hope the dean is right and that truly nothing has been agreed that would prejudice any subsequent decision made by the planning committee?

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