Fringe Box



Letter: Building Height Control in Guildford Remains Weak Under the Local Plan

Published on: 6 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 6 Jul, 2023

Latest reduction in building height of the tallest building in the St Edward proposal.

From: Alistair Smith

Chair of the Guildford Society

The Guildford Society comments on three points in the letter from Joss Bigmore: There Are Few Significant Changes to the North Street Scheme.

Bus Station

Although the southern bus station access is retained it will have lower traffic as buses from the north will use the new northern entrance. Many towns and cities successfully mix bus and pedestrian traffic, it is not clear why Guildford is so different. Pollution and noise will be reduced as alternative fuel buses replace the current fleet.

As ‘Shaping Guildford’s Future’ with its plans for a revision to the gyratory seems to be making limited progress, despite the next phase being approved by Guildford Borough Council last autumn, keeping flexibility for bus access until plans are forthcoming seems sensible.

Relationship between North Street and other developments

Not obvious from the developer’s North Street pictures is the relationship to the approved No 1 Onslow Street with its extra height and different colouration. In addition, there are plans to add extra floors to College House next to St Saviours Church. Barclays Bank in North Street is also subject to a planning application to raise its height. This forms the western side of the North Street entrance square.

The revised North Street Scheme needs to show how it relates to these planned developments – easy to accomplish with the GBC computer modelling system.

Heights and Scale

Joss Bigmore comments: “Subjective opinions on ugliness or height might make good campaign slogans, but unless backed up by policies, the council is powerless and the scheme complies with the strategic planning allocation put in place for the site in May 2019. This was also mostly free of limitations on height”

The Society agrees that the Local Plan Strategic Sites 2019 was very weak in this matter, with a Town Centre Policy S3 introduced at the request of the inspector at 48hrs notice, and virtually no public consultation. However, the council missed an opportunity to address the issue of heights and area densities properly in the Development Management Policies agreed by the 2019-2023 administration.

The height for North Street has been reduced to comply with what seems a de facto height of around 70-75m which seems to be acceptable to the council (see also the recent Guildford Park Road proposals), and one assumes drives site valuations. This height appears to be driven by the Solum approval.

There is much reliance on the Town Centre Views SPD which seeks to preserve views across the town. Equally important is the streetscape for pedestrians, impact of shadowing, views out of the town, noise etc. We contend this streetscape is not taken into account sufficiently when evaluating developments.

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