Fringe Box



Guildford Council Set to Auction Properties to Help Balance the Books

Published on: 18 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 19 Mar, 2024

One of the GBC properties to be auctioned: the Olivo restaurant is a late Elizabethan timber-framed house, dating back to the early 1660s. It was previously the town’s dispensary and Guildford’s first medical centre, which opened in 1860.

By Martin Giles

Buildings in Castle Street and Quarry Street owned by Guildford Borough Council are to be auctioned on April 16. The sale follows a “review of assets” and comes as the council is struggling to balance its books over the next few years.

The corner site consists of a mix of tenanted and vacant properties. They include the restaurant currently occupied by the Olivo restaurant and vacant buildings, most recently used for offices and educational use. The restaurant business and lease will remain unaffected.

An aerial view of the Quarry Street/Castle Street properties to be auctioned in April.

A GBC spokesperson said: “The vacant properties offer potential for conversion for other uses, subject to the necessary consents being obtained. They offer investors and developers an exceptional opportunity to acquire properties in an attractive part of our town centre. Being close to the River Wey and the castle grounds, the area is of great historical interest.”

Cllr Richard Lucas

GBC’s Lead councillor for Finance and Property, Richard Lucas (Lib Dem, Ash Vale), said: “This is a rare opportunity to buy buildings full of character and historical significance in our town centre. We’re expecting a lot of interest from investors and developers.

“Our goal for auctioning these properties is to achieve best value in the interests of our residents.

“We regularly review our asset portfolio to make sure we’re making effective use of resources. The decision to sell these properties was taken as part of our routine review of assets. Income generated will help towards our financial recovery plan.”

The properties will be auctioned by Savills. More information about these properties can be seen here.

Cllr Philip Brooker

But opposition leader Philip Brooker (Con, Worplesdon) disagreed with the decision. He said: “The Conservative Group has made it clear that they are against the principle of selling off assets – owned by the people of Guildford, to pay for the failed policies of the current Lib Dem led council over the past five years.

“These assets were acquired over many years of Conservative competent financial management, and they generate a much-needed revenue, helping to keep council tax low. The loss of this income will ultimately add to the current LibDem council’s financial difficulties and force further cuts in services.

“Further, although the Lib Dems are keen on the rhetoric of transparency, in reality they are nothing of the kind. Their budget was based on a list of 70 assets they proposed to sell, compiled without any public consultation, and kept secret from opposition parties for that crucial vote. It seems that residents will only learn of which of their assets will be lost, when decisions have been taken.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

But Joss Bigmore, leader of the R4GV councillors at GBC, supported the council’s decision. He said: “I think it is entirely appropriate to review the council’s asset base and if properties are deemed surplus to our current operational needs, and do not provide a positive financial or social benefit, then we should look to release the funds to support the council’s ambitions in housing and regeneration.”

The Leader of the Labour group at GBC, James Walsh (Bellfields & Slyfield), said: “While Guildford is by no means the worst-hit council in terms of the financial crisis affecting local authorities, it does still need to fill a large gap in the budget to keep its head above water.

Cllr James Walsh

“The council owns many assets and some could and should be sold – we would prefer that it does this than cut essential services that our residents rely on instead.”

“That said, Labour will always look to get the best possible value for the public purse. This means making sure that any sales achieve the maximum value for the council and that a balance is struck between keeping assets that provide a regular and high rate of return and selling those that provide fewer and less valuable annual benefits.”

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Responses to Guildford Council Set to Auction Properties to Help Balance the Books

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    March 19, 2024 at 12:32 pm

    Very sad that GBC has now resorted to a fire sale of assets, but at least it is going to auction this time. When the community voted for the Lib Dems I doubt they realised just how poor they are at running councils, and especially Guildford. Depressing.

    Paul Spooner is a former Conservative leader of GBC.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      March 21, 2024 at 6:14 am

      The Lib Dems may be inept, but they have done nowhere as much damage to the borough as Paul Spooner (former Conservative leader of GBC) did with his disastrous Local Plan, from which only developers have had any benefit.

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