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Guildford Forum Launched – ‘I Don’t Want a Talking Shop’ Says MP

Published on: 13 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 15 Jul, 2021

The new Guildford Forum launched by MP Angela Richardson and chaired by Peter Gordon.

Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson said that she wanted the new Guildford Forum, launched on Thursday (July 8), to be more than just a talking shop.

At the 7pm start, 24 were logged in to the Zoom meeting but this rose to just over 40 at some stages. Participants, most of whom seem to have been invited, had to have passwords to join in.

The meeting was initially introduced by presenter Peter Gordon who acted as chair. Then Ms Richardson said she intended to say very little, “I’m here to listen to all of you, and I will be taking notes with old fashioned pen and paper.

“One of the things that I’ve learned in the 18, nearly 19 months I’ve been a Member of Parliament, is that I get things resolved more quickly when I get more people in the same room talking together.”

She said that she was hoping to come up with a list of action points, “…because I don’t want this to be a talking shop… it’s really important that if there are things that need addressing that we’re able to start putting things in place.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

“I’m really delighted that we’ve got people from so many different areas of Guildford, all passionate and excited about making sure that Guildford is going to be great.”

Among those present were: GBC leader Joss Bigmore, Lib Dem councillors Julia McShane and George Potter, re-elected Conservative group leader Cllr Paul Spooner and Green Party spokesperson Mark Bray-Parry.

Amanda Masters of Experience Guildford represented Guildford’s retail sector and Joanne Read, director of the Yvonne Arnaud, and Nick Wyschna, Guildford Fringe, represented the Arts.

Amanda Masters

There were also representatives of the Univesity of Surrey the Guildford Society, Guildford Vision Group, the cycling group GBUG and Big Mouth Guildford, aka Stuart Alexander.

There was intentionally no set agenda and various topics were raised. Debate started with speakers raising post-Covid recovery in the arts, leisure and business sectors. It was observed that many are desperate to get back to “normal” but that the retail sector would continue to evolve, with change accelerated by the pandemic.

Cllr Julia McShane

Julia McShane said that the meeting felt, to that point, like an “economy forum” and she reminded those presents of the deprivation in parts of Guildford. The less advantaged needed to be included. A suggestion supported and echoed by Cllr McShane’s Lib Dem colleague George Potter.

The importance of the agricultural sector to the borough was raised by Joe Thompson and the desire to relaunch the County Show and Mark Bray Parry of the Green Party spoke of the importance of climate change awareness.

GBC’s leader Joss Bigmore (R4GV) said that a lot of good could come from the forum. Guildford is very fortunate to have an engaged population with some strong opinions because so many people are so passionate about our town and making it a success.

Raising the issue of planning he said: “We need to get more people living and working in the town centre, for environmental reasons and the health of the High Street. Everyone wants office space in the town centre, further out not so much.

“Guildford is not particularly dense in the town centre and increasing the density will be controversial, but I think we need to; then people will not need cars. Guildford is choked by traffic, so the more people can walk to work, walk to the station and use public transport, the better.”

Nikki Ackerley

Nikki Ackerley, representing the Guildford Vision Group, expressed frustration with the slow rate of change in Guildford. She said: “Everybody’s on the same page, we all want it, why, why can’t we all just agree rather than have to pay lip service to some of the legal requirements

“Sometimes we should just get in a room and say, is there consensus in Guildford for change? If so, let’s go ahead and stop worrying about the Nimbys who don’t want to grow, who don’t like change, who are resistant to anything happening in their town, [attitudes] that keeps it just as stifled as it has been for so long now.”

Despite the intent, the meeting appeared to conclude with a lengthy summary of the contributions rather than a list of action points. Ms Richardson said: “I’ve got about eight pages of notes, and I think I want to start off by saying, just how positive the contributions are tonight.”

Among the points she highlighted were: “People are saying that Guildford has lost its mojo, you know, that is something when I was first elected, a lot of people were saying: ‘Oh, you know Guilford. It really needs to step up its game, look at what’s happening at Woking.’

“The borough council in isolation, can’t achieve everything that it wants to do and the county council in isolation can’t achieve everything it wants to do.”

Referring to Joss Bigmore, Ms Richardson said: “As usual, really, really wonderful to hear how engaged and passionate you are about Guildford. Great leadership at the council. It’s good to emphasise the fact that we can only do this if we work together. And I think there is a real appetite to do that.”

The Conservative MP stressed the need for, “big joined-up thinking that we need to do on planning. We do look at planning in a very siloed way. I know some people say that it’s a Local Plan. But I think if everyone keeps talking to each other. That’s really important. We don’t want to be turning people away, we’ve got to be able to make a space for them.”

Peter Gordon looked forward to a time when the Guildford Forum could be a physical public meeting but recognised that it might have quite a different feel with different topics raised.



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Responses to Guildford Forum Launched – ‘I Don’t Want a Talking Shop’ Says MP

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    July 14, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    It was disappointing that the select few in the know were invited but the meeting was not made publicly available to all. It was known that a meeting was going to occur, but no one bothered to actually publish the time or how to join. Now six days on, we hear the elite and chosen few in ‘the deep know’ were invited and had a “good meeting”.

    Very disappointing indeed, the public is only told after the fact. I wonder how many Dragon readers would have joined in if they had been informed?

    Editor’s note: We have been informed that the meeting was advertised at a stall in the High Street and on a Facebook page. Those that saw the publicity and registered were, it is believed, able to join in. The Dragon News was not invited but made a request to join which was quickly granted.

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