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Letter: Growth of Guildford’s Technology & Professional Services Are Also Important

Published on: 27 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 27 Feb, 2013

Growth LetterFrom Gordon Bridger, Hon Alderman

I am glad that the Guildford Dragon NEWS has raised this important issue about economic growth and how to achieve it. I would like to pick up Council Leader Stephen Mansbridge on one point of his thoughtful interview. In discussing economic growth he only mentions retail and tourist development, yet these two activities apply to only about 12 or 13% of the Borough’s town centre GVA (Gross Value Added).

It is technology and professional services which are our economic future and they account for around 33% of GVA.

The present plans for retail development, maybe 40,000, or even 60,000 sq metres will do little or nothing to add to our GVA. Retail development on this scale will just create even more traffic congestion, which will discourage customers and undermine the already fragile economy of the High Street. On this scale it could damage the economic viability of the town centre.

In order to encourage highly skilled professional enterprises we need more key worker housing, otherwise its scarcity will put off economic development. The provision of more suitable housing could be part funded by allowing much more quality housing for elderly asset rich people in the town centre.

Our economic future is outside an already overcrowded town centre around the Surrey Research Park and University into some 10 hectares of poor quality Green Belt land.

More restricted expansion of town centre retail should seek to complement the scale and attractive historic character of the High Street and be integrated with a badly needed, and highly profitable residential development (as in the planning application made by Westfields, which was approved). A mixed pedestrian residential and retail area could be economically more successful and add to the attraction of the area.

The economic problems we face in Britain are mirrored in Guildford. We need to prioritise productive services which are export driven, rather than create yet more shopping facilities. These employ low skilled largely foreign, though productive, labour, and encourage imports.

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