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‘Get Involved’ Shop Opens To Garner More Views On the Local Plan

Published on: 9 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 12 Oct, 2013
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Cllr Juneja being interviewed by local media at today’s launch of the council’s ‘Get involved…’ shop at 25 Swan Lane

The council today (October 8) opened a shop at 25 Swan Lane to act as a drop in centre for those living and working in the borough to find out more about the Local Plan and give their views.

At 10 am sharp, the Mayor, Cllr Diana Lockyer-Nibbs formally opened the premises, previously a stationers, in front of an audience comprising councillors, council officers , local media and several curious members of the public, perhaps primarily attracted by the free and classy cup cakes on offer, supplied by local cake makers Butter & Cream.

The shop is just one part of the council’s consultation exercise described at a weekend event in North Street, as ‘wider, deeper, and longer’ than any similar consultation held before.

Visitors will have the opportunity to ask questions of council officers and councillors, as well as directly referencing the weighty documents or information presented on touch screen tablets.

Cllr Monika Juneja, (Con, Burpham), lead councillor for planning and governance, said: “We decided on a ‘shop’ approach because we wanted a way in which we could come out into the community. Although we are doing a number of consultation events, for instance we have got workshops and pop ups around the borough,  as well as our website, Twitter and Facebook, I felt that there was real need to come out into the community and where better than here in busy Swan Lane, where people are walking past all the time, so that they can simply walk in and ask their key questions?

“I can’t tell you the cost at the moment, I will get back to you on that, but it is within our budget for this consultation and it is an essential element of the overall exercise. This is the first time we have done something like this. This is the time to allow people, young and old, to just come and speak to us. I really wanted the Local Plan to get out there to the community and what better way is there to do it?

“The two consultation events to date have gone really well. The people in Ash wanted to talk about the brown-field sites they have available, and I absolutely understand that. It was good because we adapted that part of the consultation to deal with those residents and their concerns. At the Rotunda [at the bottom of North Street] we caught a lot of the numerous shoppers there. We were kindly helped by Jamie’s restaurant who provided soup and other refreshments, and there was a band. It was a really good kick-start.

Classy cakes, from Butter & Cream, on offer to help persuade passing shoppers that taking part in the consultation can be a rewarding experience.

Classy cakes, from Butter & Cream, on offer to help persuade passing shoppers that taking part in the consultation can be a rewarding experience.

“Visitors to the shop can expect an inviting layout and atmosphere. There will be two members of our team, at least one of whom will be a member of the policy team, so visitors can ask questions. Lead councillors will also be around. I certainly will be here frequently to engage with the community.

“Those who come will be able to read all the documents here, there are touch screen iPads with information, the questionnaires are here too, so feedback and views can be obtained in a quick and efficient way. We want to know, for instance, what they and their families want to see developed in Guildford over the next five years, what would make them want to stay here?

“It is key that we speak to the younger generation too, including school children. They are the ones, the boomerang generation living at home, who cannot necessarily afford to get on the housing ladder. We need to understand their needs.

“I do understand the concern that some of the lengthy documents we have published appear daunting and that some people won’t have time to read them. We are constrained in their format by government guidance to a large extent and that is why we have developed the questionnaire to focus the minds of the visitors on the key questions.

“People already know what is missing in the town. They already know if their children can’t afford houses or if they can’t get to school easily because of busy roads, that the doctor’s surgery is too far away. People already know that. What we are trying to tap into is the views of the many articulate people that live here who know what they are happy with and what they are unhappy with. They understand the impact of further development on their communities and surrounding areas.”

Inside the shop is equipped with faciluties including touch screen tablets to help members of the public learn more about Guildford's Local Plan.

Inside, the shop is equipped with facilities including touch screen tablets to help members of the public learn more about Guildford’s Local Plan.

One of the councillors present to witness the launch was Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas). She said: “The speedy opening of the shop in Swan Lane shows the commitment we have to making this the most far-reaching consultation we have ever undertaken. This busy link between North Street and the High Street is the perfect spot to catch peoples’ eye, even if there won’t be free cakes every day.”

“The Local Plan team worked hard to make the shop look good and will be a great location for explaining the intricacies of the plan and the process.”

Another councillor on hand was Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke). She said: “The occasion was excellent: GBC [Guildford Borough Council] has installed a classy environment for the public to browse and contribute their comments on the Local Plan. The cup cakes were a neat idea. I hope they all went and we received as many comments in return.”

Swan Lane Group 480

The new shop with, in front (left to right), council leader Stephen Mansbridge, the Mayor, Cllr Diana Lockyer-Nibbs, head of planning, Carol Humphrey and Cllr Monika Juneja

A council spokesperson said: “The ‘Get involved…’ shop at 25 Swan Lane, will be open initially  as a drop-in consultation place for the current Local Plan issues and options consultation until 29 November. It will be open daily from 10am-4.30pm, with late night closing at 8pm on Thursday and early closing at 4pm on Sunday.

“After 29 November, the unit will be the focus for other council activities and consultations.” It is understood that this will include public consultation on the expected North Street development project.

See also: Council Says Consultation on Local Plan is ‘Wider, Deeper, Longer’ Than Any Before

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