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Letter: Debenhams – What’s Your View?

Published on: 5 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 5 Dec, 2021

Image showing the comparative heights of the existing Debenhams building and its proposed successor “St Mary’s Wharf”.

From: Gavin Morgan

I was amazed that 207 people objected to the plans for a floodlit sports ground at Urnfield but that only 13 have commented on the plans for the Debenhams replacement.

It is very easy to comment and I hope more people do so before the December 10 closing date whether they are for or against. This will help the council planners, in what is a very important decision for the town.

Solum forced the first eight-story building through despite a unanimous rejection by the full borough council meeting by appealing to the government inspector.

At the time Bill Stokes from the Guildford Vision Group said: “Opportunistic developers will seize on the Solum precedent…to bring forward more dominating ten-storey and higher developments in the middle of the town”.

We should expect Native Land to request as much as they can but I fear we may be sleepwalking into a future we all regret. So we should express our views.

The Native Land scheme has merits but I have objected. It is too high, too massive. Solum set a precedent for eight-storey buildings on edge of the town centre. Native Land could set a new precedent by introducing them to the historic heart.

The problem is this: what one developer gets away with, others will expect.

Debenhams is within a conservation area, an area set up to protect the character of the town. In fact, the whole town centre is a conservation area so whatever permission Native Land squeezes out of the town other developers will also demand. And if they don’t get it they can appeal to others.

For me, this is not just a decision about Debenhams but about the character of the town centre for years to come and crucially who decides how it changes – the people of Guildford through their council or developers through the appeal process.

See Debenhams planning application (21/P/02232) here.

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test 2 Responses to Letter: Debenhams – What’s Your View?

  1. Howard Fisher Reply

    December 6, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    Perhaps the reason so few people are objecting is that they don’t realise quite how this huge bulk will dominate the road into Guildford. I think that the impression given from the developers’ pictures does not show quite how big it will actually be (look at the ground floor – it looks rather shorter than the current equivalent).

    I took a picture there last week and have drawn a wire frame estimate of the proposed building twice as high – https://photos.app.goo.gl/FZDsqiUJbz264TGW9 Take a look at that and then head off to object on the planning site: https://www2.guildford.gov.uk/publicaccess/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=_GUILD_DCAPR_197182&activeTab=summary

  2. David Smith Reply

    December 6, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    I speak to a lot of people about this development and most are in favour and even excited.

    For me, I’d rather see a scheme a couple of stories higher than what is ideal than look at an empty department store for the next twenty years. Derelict sites like North Street and Guildford Plaza are of greater visual harm to any conservation area.

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