Fringe Box



Letter: Cllr Furniss Should Listen Instead of Telling Business Owners What They Need

Published on: 2 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 2 Aug, 2020

Tunsgate refurbishment underway. Photo Ben Darnton

From: Maddy Redpath

R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity

In response to: Tories Object After Council Calls Halt to Town Centre Upgrades

As a ward councillor for Holy Trinity, I have been heavily involved in discussions concerning this project about changes to Swan Lane, Chapel Street and Castle Street. I have been trying to ensure business and residents get what they want, not what the previous Conservative councillors thought they needed.

That the Guildford Conservative Association are suggesting this project is what businesses want and need at this difficult time I find laughable.

One wonders when was the last time they spoke to any of the business owners? I visit them in Holy Trinity ward weekly to discuss local issues, improvements to the town and I listen to their concerns. Particularly on Chapel Street, shop and restaurant owners were deeply concerned about the project, considering the shambles the Conservative administration made of the Tunsgate redevelopment which dragged on for more than three years.

The businesses in Tunsgate were hit very hard by the refurbishment and received scant compensation. Some, such as Knobs and Knockers and Long Tall Sally, had to close.

Customers were unable (or not willing) to walk through a building site to shop and eat. Business owners received no financial support from the council and, trust me, this has not been forgotten.

And what have we gained from the project? A prettier road? Maybe, according to some, but there are even more empty shops. The absolutely last thing the business owners need, after being closed for three months, are road closures with a digger outside their front window for a further six months.

All three Holy Trinity ward members have also been in contact with South Hill Resident Association which had grave concerns, as did I, that the new “improvements” would turn their road into a rat-run, risking the lives of pedestrians.

I suggest that Cllr Matt Furniss, the SCC lead for Highways and his colleagues should, for once, visit and speak to the people he claims we are “letting down” and actually listens to what they say instead of telling them what they need.

When he was a GBC councillor, he spent a lot of time telling people what they needed and he should be wary of repeating that mistake at the county council, or he might suffer a repeat defeat at next year’s elections.

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Responses to Letter: Cllr Furniss Should Listen Instead of Telling Business Owners What They Need

  1. John Redpath Reply

    August 2, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    I realise your readers will think me biased [John Redpath is Maddy Redpath’s father] but Maddy’s letter made some very sound points. Cllr Furniss may not be aware that both residents, restaurants and the retail trade have been concerned about the implications of the next phase of the public realm works, once bitten, one might say, after the Tunsgate debacle.

    In order to help pubs and restaurants maintain social distancing, required as a result of Covid-19, a streamlined licensing system has been put in place (no SCC involvement) in order to allow as many of these as possible to use outside spaces in order to serve their customers. I thought everyone in Guildford understood that this would benefit these businesses during trying times. It’s clearly not the right time to be digging up the roads.

    Guildford Borough Council is currently reviewing all major projects such as the public realm, Black Water Valley Hot Spots. The GBC Executive has yet to vote on which projects will be cut, which will be suspended and which will go ahead. So has Cllr Furniss had access to some inside information somehow, maybe at a private meeting? If so, should he have been so eager to use this privileged information in what is clearly a desperate attempt to make political gain? I think not.

    John Redpath is a R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity.

  2. Mike Forster Reply

    August 3, 2020 at 10:34 am

    At this time all efforts should be focused on improving the opportunity for business and not committing expenditure to gentrification projects that have issues for local traders.

    It is another good reason why we should not support proposals to take away decision making from the local community, ie creating a unitary authority which is simply a political move to enable the Conservative-controlled SCC to gain more influence.

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