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Letter: Debenhams Worst Outcome Would be to Lose Control of Our Town

Published on: 15 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 15 Jan, 2022

St Mary’s Wharf as it would look from Millmead car park.

From: Gavin Morgan

Founder of Guildford Heritage Forum

In response to: Debenhams Worst Outcome Is Years Of Vacant Dereliction

I want to put an alternative perspective on Bill Stokoe’s letter.

I agree that this development in principle offers great opportunities for the town but that does not mean Guildford must accept whatever developers want.

The borough council should reject the current planning application on the grounds that it compromises the principles of the conservation area set up to protect the character of the area. Native Land should be invited to come back with a more acceptable proposal.

Guildford must decide what its vision for the town is. If it allows this oversize building to go ahead in a conservation area next to a Saxon church then every developer will argue for the same treatment across the town centre. Guildford will change. Those who curse the insensitive developments of the sixties may soon regard height as the new blight in our town.

There is a lot of talk about viability but there is no way, in my opinion, that eight to nine stories can be the minimum height required to deliver a profit. Solum achieved nine and ten stories at the station and Native Land seem to be playing the same game. They are in the business of maximising profit, after all.

So my view is that Guildford must, of course, embrace this opportunity, be willing to compromise and work positively with all developers. However, it should think not just about this development but the precedent it sets. It should not hand over the keys to the town and let developers decide its future shape.

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