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Council Leader Tells Developers He Is Tired of ‘Stalinist Blocks’

Published on: 21 Nov, 2017
Updated on: 21 Nov, 2017

Council Leader Spooner speaking at the Built Environment Networking (BEN) conference.

Paul Spooner, leader of Guildford Borough Council, called for an improvement in the quality of designs being submitted to the council’s planning committee commenting that he was “frankly tired” of “Stalinist blocks”. He was speaking at Built Environment Networking (BEN) conference, held this month at the Mandolay Hotel.

According to a press release issued by the event organisers, Cllr Spooner said: “There are some great examples but it would be great to see some landmark award-winning design coming into Guildford.”

He also said the council hoped to receive an application in the first half of 2018 from fund manager M&G, for new bars, shops and restaurants on North Street, one of the town’s key retail frontages. “It’s getting to a point where we can move that forward.”

And giving what appeared to be the first public glimpse of how a redeveloped North Street might look he presented two slides, in sequence, within his presentation that seemed to give a clue.

The North Street regeneration area.

The first entitled “Extending the Town Centre” just outlined the development area but the second under the title “Bespoke Design” appeared to be an artists impression of a new North Street with some existing reference points visible.

A spokesperson for the council said after this article was first published that The second slide: “… is a 3D visualisation provided by the council’s development partners, M&G Real Estate, of what a redeveloped North Street might possibly look like in the future.

“However, this was created purely for illustrative purposes based on an early iteration of M&G’s thoughts for the site. It therefore has no formal status and should not be taken as being necessarily reflective of the final scheme appearance, form or scale.

“Detailed design and feasibility work is currently ongoing to seek to develop a deliverable regeneration scheme for North Street.”

The slides were sent to The Guildford Dragon in response to a request for a copy of the council leader’s speech.

Artists impression (click to enlarge).

Expressing confidence about Guildford town centre’s ability to weather the shift to greater online shopping, Spooner said he was: “convinced that Guildford will remain a significant retail destination even with the changes to retail.”

The final version of the district authority’s local plan, he added, was due to be approved at a full council meeting on 21st November.

Organisers said that the audience probably numbered around 100 and would have been made up of individuals working in all aspects of property and development.

Responding to a question from the audience, Cllr Tim Oliver a member of the county council’s cabinet said: “It’s going to be extremely ambitious. The green belt is a major problem in a lot of districts in Surrey: people don’t want to see green belt development. The district boroughs will not be able to comply with those sorts of numbers.

The government recently announced that it is planning to change the way it calculates how many new homes councils need to plan for in their local areas and the move is expected to increase housing targets in areas where the government wishes to encourage high growth, like Guildford despite its 89% green belt.

On the impact Brexit, Andrew Taylor, head of planning at Countryside Properties, told the event there was not a “particular slow down” in the housing market due to Brexit but that there was a cooling in demand for properties worth more than the £600,000 ceiling on homes that can be supported through the government’s Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme.

“Developers are looking at smaller units to make sure they are more affordable so we are delivering units that the market can afford,” he added.

Cllr Susan Parker

Commenting on the BEN press release Cllr Susan Parker of the Guildford Greenbelt Group said: “Guildford Borough Council is blinkered, and isn’t facing facts.

“There’s a lot of brownfield land in Guildford which could and should be used for housing, particularly smaller starter homes and homes for downsizing – which, especially in the current depressed market, are homes for which there’s a market.

“Instead, GBC wants to use much available brownfield land for retail development, even though retail is an ever-shrinking sector. Meanwhile, GBC  has included sites in the Local Plan that will have disastrous environmental consequences, with major development of larger homes on countryside and green belt.

“The ruling Conservative administration at Guildford Borough Council promised to protect the green belt. Instead, they again offer a Local Plan that has already caused huge public anger.

“Today (November 20, 2017) the Executive unanimously approved bringing the plan to full council tomorrow.  The council will vote on it then. Only GGG has called for reconsideration of the inadequate local plan.”

Bill Stokoe, GVG

Bill Stokoe, a spokesman for the Guildford Vision Group, said: “We welcome the leader’s comment re ‘Stalinist’ architecture. Sadly this argument did not form any substantial part of the GBC case at the recent Solum Appeal.

“The Council’s Design Panel were also of little help in this regard in their evidence. GVG supports development, especially on brownfield sites in the town centre, but placemaking must be front and centre, with architectural styles that respect Guildford’s setting and heritage. And then there’s infrastructure – enough said.”

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Responses to Council Leader Tells Developers He Is Tired of ‘Stalinist Blocks’

  1. Linda Cooper Reply

    November 21, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I have always thought Guildford to be a complete mess design-wise, especially around Friary court, the Debenhams building, the law courts etc.etc. Seem like anything was allowed. It’s such a shame when you have so many funky old buildings.

  2. Mike Murphy Reply

    November 21, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Cllr Spooner is certainly the person to go to if you want to see Stalinist methods in use. He is a very good example of someone who uses an iron fist to push through his disastrous plans.

    • John Fox Reply

      November 23, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Well said. But it could be the Siberian Front for Mr Murphy.

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