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As We Review 2012 We Say Happy New Year Guildford!

Published on: 31 Dec, 2012
Updated on: 31 Dec, 2012

It’s time to take a look back at 2012, while wishing all our readers the very best for 2013. As many of our regular readers will know, The Guildford Dragon NEWS was launched in March 2012. Since then we have had a busy time covering a good deal of what has been making the news in Guildford.

A look back at 2012 as the old ear passes into the new...

A look back at 2012 as the old ear passes into the new…

2012 will surely go down as a very special year and one that will be remembered and talked about for many years to come.

There were so many highlights, and so here is a run down of the some of the news we have reported on this on-line news website.

Soon after the website had gone officially live in late March there was the rush of motorists to petrol stations filling up as a result of the government’s advice to top up over fears of a strike by tanker drivers.

In April we reported that the controversial plan for a metal sculpture in the shape of a bonfire and about Guildford’s Vicrorian Bonfire Night riots had been turned down by Guildford Borough Council. There was also the threat of a hosepipe ban!

The spring flowers in the Castle Grounds looked fabulous and we published a picture gallery and asked people’s opinions on the displays. Everyone thought they were superb – well done to the borough council’s parks department.

News emerged that the historic Guildhall clock had had an electric auto-wind system installed, but there were teething trouble as it’s time keeping was somewhat awry. An exhibition on plans for the new Waitrose store drew large numbers.

We ran a feature that revealed a quarter of Guildford High Street’s shops were exclusively selling women’s fashions.

In May we reported on comments that the road surface on The Mount was the “worst in Guildford”.

The street party held in Beckingham Road and Weston Road that was hosted by St Francis' Church.

The street party held in Beckingham Road and Weston Road that was hosted by St Francis’ Church.

By the middle of May flags had gone up in the High Street ahead of the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations in June. And what a month June was. The weather may have been awful (like much of our summer), but it didn’t stop people emjoying the jubilee celebrations here and throughout the UK and beyond.

The last weekend of June saw a successful community day in Westborough and Park Barn. As part of it, this website’s Martin Giles and David Rose led a guided history walk from the Park Barn Centre over to the woods near the Surrey Sports Park talking about the medieval royal hunting lodge and park that was once there.

Torchbearers Ellie Messham and Austin Playfoot in Stoke Park.

Torchbearers Ellie Messham and Austin Playfoot in Stoke Park.

‘Town Is Gripped By Olympic Torch Relay’ was our headline on July 21. and so it was with thousands lining the streets to see the Olympic flame carried through Guildford to a family fun event in Stoke Park superbly organised by the borough council.

And then it was time for the Olympic Games themselves and local girl Issie Radley wrote about taking part in the opening ceremony.

Towards the end of August when students’ GCSE results were announced, we ran a picture feature taken at local scchools showing some of the proud and excited pupils.


Tour of Britain winner Jonathan Tiernan-Locke salutes the crowds in Guildford High Street.

Sunday, September 16, saw the final stage and finish of the 2012 Tour of Britain cycle race in Guildford. Again crowds lined the roads in the villages on the outskirts of Guildford while the High Street itself was heaving with people. There was a truly fantastic atmosphere and we got some great photos of the action, in the town centre and around the villages as well.

Later in September it was announced that the firm behind GuilFest had ceased trading. We interviewed the man behind it Tony Scott.

It was also the end of the Forresters pub in Charlotteville, as planning permission was given to partly demolish the building and turn it into homes.

In October we reported on and took photos as Holy Trinity School celebrated its 200th anniversary, while the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre was given grade II building listing.

Brian, a homeless man in Guildford this week

Brian, a homeless man in Guildford in October.

Homelessness in Guildford: we ran an opinion piece titled The Life of Brain, focusing on one young man without a home. Also in October we reported on the pupils from Guildford County School who were caught up in the events following a hurricane in the USA.

In November, and in conjunction with our contacts and friends in Guildford, Western Australia, we asked if anyone could add information to the appeal from Down Under as to the whereabouts of the bones of Admiral Sir James Stirling (originally interred in the grave yard at St John’s Church, Stoke Road). Stirling was the first governor of Western Australia and is still quite a hero in those parts.

Long awaited road repairs in Park Barn were started by the county council. Our website and its reporting on the condition of the roads earlier in the year was cited as being helpful in finally seeing the work undertaken.

We took some early morning photos of a light dusting of snow in early December that made a change from all the rain we have had. However, later on in the month we reported on the flooded water meadows and the controls in place by the Environment Agency in conjunction with the National Trust in preventing the town being flooded.

Bungalow in Fairlands Road.

Bungalow in Fairlands Road.

Christmas events were covered including Carols on the Green at Stoughton, the panto at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, the Wintershall Nativity play and a picture round up of householders’ festive lights on the outside of their homes.

Of course, there have been many stories featuring Guildford Borough Council (GBC). Here is a round-up of stories relating to our local authority. Everyone would probably agree that Guildford needs certain changes. In 2012 traffic congestion continued to strangle the town at times and a messy North Street moved further backwards aesthetically and functionally as it has over the last century. Moreover some of our best assets, the town’s historic character and riverside setting, have not been properly exploited. How the town tackled these issues remained the major challenge and the responsibility rested mainly with the council.

In April, within weeks of our start up, we heard word of the suspension of Jim Miles, a strategic director at Guildford Borough Council. The council would say nothing and then, extraordinarily, threatened legal action over our reports before discovering that, contrary to their claims, we had written to the chief executive asking for confirmation of facts we had gleaned. Two of those who signed the threatening letter had the grace and good judgement to withdraw support for the letter. It was not GBC’s finest hour.

Meanwhile, discontent over town planning continued and rumbled on through the summer. There was concern in several groups, most noticeably The Guildford Society and the new Guildford Vision Group that plans were being railroaded without sufficient public engagement.

This culminated in a legal challenge to the intended approval of two key planning documents at a council executive meeting in September. In an embarrassing climb down the documents were withdrawn from the agenda and following further legal advice have effectively been shelved.

Within weeks of the debacle the council leadership was challenged. Tony Rooth (Con, Pilgrims) resigned to be replaced by Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Tongham & Ash South) who said that he was determined to live up to the council’s proclaimed core value of openness and transparency.

November saw the final demise of the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra. It may live perhaps with the same name but it is to be outsourced and its concerts no longer organised by the council directly. Supporters of the orchestra put up a stout defence during numerous council meetings. Most worryingly for local democracy was a claim that the real decision on the orchestra was taken behind closed doors perhaps two years ago coupled with difficulty in obtaining undisputed data on subsidy levels compared with other similar events.

Another plan to allow a Waitrose supermarket and nearly 20 housing units to be constructed in the run down area between North Street and York Road was also objected to by the Guildford Vision Group and others. However, there were also many neighbouring residents in favour of the scheme even if they had serrations over certain aspects, in particular the closure of the York Road subway. In November the borough council voted overwhelmingly to give permission to the scheme and, we hear, that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, has also given his approval.

Publisher Martin Giles and main contributor David Rose would like to thank all the other people who have contributed articles to this website in 2012. In no particular order thanks go to: Gill Perkins, Claire Dee, Flora Windibank, Izzie Radley, Maria Rayner, Richard Cant (Richard’s Wey), Robert Craig (Riff Raff Diary), Mary Ellen Foley, Malcolm Fincham (Birdwatcher’s Diary), Barbaras Dundas (Western Australia) and for contributions to the Through Time history pages – Bernard Parke, Stan Newman, John Janaway and Charles Brooking. A special thank you also to our MP Anne Milton and the many councillors who have supported and helped us. Local democracy needs an informed electorate and your help is invaluable. We are sure there are others worthy of mention too, please forgive any omissions.

And finally, thanks to all those who have added replies to stories and written letters, and of course to everyone else who has read articles and stories. A very happy new year to you all.

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Responses to As We Review 2012 We Say Happy New Year Guildford!

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    December 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Keep up the Good Work in 2013.

    We as Guildfordians need you as much as we need our own Town Council !

  2. Caroline Reeves Reply

    January 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Housing numbers on the Bellerby site:
    45 flats (mix of 1 and 2 bed), 3 x 3 bed town houses with integral garages.

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