Fringe Box



Letter: I Can’t Wait Forever for Waitrose

Published on: 2 Aug, 2013
Updated on: 3 Aug, 2013

Waitroselet1From Jan Todd

With regard to this development (full plans of which, I believe, are available online somewhere. I saw them on the Guildford Dragon some time ago) I did what I could, within the means available to me, to make my voice heard.

I went to the polls and voted for the local councillor of my choice. I gave Guildford Borough Council feedback on the Waitrose planning application through the appropriate channels and spoke to my local councillor about the plans for the Bellerby site. They were particularly attractive, I thought, as it would be a mixed development to include affordable housing.

Is it, therefore, fair that a small, unelected group of people, with the financial means to do so, should be able to push me aside because they don’t agree with the outcome of this democratic process?  The Guildford Vision Group would like us all to wait patiently before any further development of the town until a ‘Masterplan’ is in place for Guildford.

Surely their ‘vision’ is no different to  the vision everybody else has for Guildford: more open spaces, better use of the riverside, more small retail units. But how will the council ever progress anything if they are constantly challenged?

I’m not sure how many of the Vision Group members live adjacent to the Bellerby site or, if they do not, have visited it recently. It has become more and more run down and there are frequent episodes of anti-social behaviour. One elderly neighbour now takes a long detour into town to avoid it, and I myself am dreading the dark evenings as I return from work, when it is not a pleasant area to walk through.

How much longer do we have to put up with this situation? I read recently that a shop-holder in Leapale Road vacated his premises in the late-1980s to make way for the North Street Development. How long will it be before Waitrose get tired of waiting and give up on Guildford?

The group argues that a ‘sequential test’ should have been applied and that Waitrose should be located in the town centre. I confess that I assumed the Bellerby site was in the town centre. However, given that it appears that the ‘town centre’ is virtually limited to the High Street and North Street, I struggle to identify an appropriate property in either location.

Admittedly Waitrose stores are not all large, Marylebone High Street, Wimbledon High Street and Haslemere branches are all quite small (yes, dear reader, sadly, I do travel the length and breadth of the land to shop in a Waitrose store) and Morrisons are apparently opening a small branch in the Upper High Street (Hurrah! Perhaps I can at last boycott Sainsbury’s. The High Street branch is surely the most depressing supermarket in Surrey).

Perhaps, in the new North Street Development (in, what, another 20 years’ time?) there might be a site for Waitrose that the Vision Group will approve of.  But, as we all know, tempus fugit. I can’t hang around that long. Although, much as I am a fan of Waitrose, it will not be the lack of a decent supermarket that will drive me away from Guildford, it will be the fact that, in the words of council leader Stephen Mansbridge, ‘a small group of people can frustrate the wishes of the residents of our borough’. If only I could afford to live in Marylebone….

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: I Can’t Wait Forever for Waitrose

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    August 2, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Yes, many of us would like to see Waitrose return to the town but not in an area which is almost reaching gridlock.

    The present traffic problem is driving shoppers from central Guildford and so such car born traffic for provisions should be placed out of the town centre.

  2. Jan Todd Reply

    August 3, 2013 at 8:37 am

    We already have Sainsburys and Tesco out of town and you can drive to a Waitrose in Godalming. I don’t have a car, and like many other people who live where I do, I walk into town to do my shopping. And, actually, where I do my shopping isn’t really my main concern here.

    Perhaps too far hidden within my comment was a point about democracy and the future development of Guildford.

    Gerald Bland of the Guildford Vision Group is on record as saying “there are concerns that the council wants to just pass this planning application as soon as possible so it can pocket the £20m that it sold the land to Waitrose for”. Would GVG rather see the council spending our money on defending their legal challenges?

  3. Anthony Lyons Reply

    August 3, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Areas of discard like this site are driving shoppers way. I love the way people talk about wanting a Waitrose but in a different location. Where are these alternative sites that people talk of?

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    The main gripe of GVG as I see it that there are not enough affordable housing in Waitrose plan. They consider that the site should be fully developed for housing. So, where would Waitrose have gone without providing for car parking? Maybe they do not wish to open a smallish store in Guildford? Will it be worth their while as the rates are so high in the town centre? I cannot readily identify any suitable site within the town centre, sequential test or not.

    As for traffic congestion, Bernard Parke seems to have given up hope that it will ever be improved. I on the other hand believe that it is possible to modify and build new infrastructures, relocating the bus station on Mary Road car park site rather than clogging up the town centre with on-street bus bays amply aided by Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to create a reasonably flowing traffic through the town centre. We await Guildford and Surrey County Councils to come up with their solution following the public consultation on rethinking the gyratory.

    There are many sites along the river where affordable housing could be built. Maybe GVG would concentrate on those possibilities. An opportunity has been missed when more office buildings are being built on the old office site in Walnut Tree Close to replace those long unoccupied buildings to continue the same to what purpose only the developer knows.

    GVG should, in my view, regardless of whether the Council had followed the guidelines correctly or not, let the Waitrose plan go ahead because it seems majority in Guildford would like to see an end to the long wait for the development of this site after a similar long wait for the Friary Extension.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    August 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    I have not seen the plans for Waitrose, I leave the shopping to the missus, I just do the labouring and carry the bags from the shops but the one thing that bothers me extremely is that while the Guildford Vision Group is ploughing its own furrow GBC don’t even appear to have a tractor to cut the grass.

    Surely if one is ‘town planning’ one should in farming terms – start in January and work through the year. This Waitrose development seems to be a June job while January to May work has been forgotten. The mortar between the brick work of Guildford town centre planning seems to be lacking the cement required to make in comprehensible.

    In short, Waitrose may or may not be in the right place but there is an awful lot more that should have been done before this decision was made.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *