Fringe Box



Letter: I am Pessimistic Too

Published on: 13 Apr, 2015
Updated on: 13 Apr, 2015

PessimismFrom Dominique Kelly

I totally agree with Martin Giles’ article, “Why I am Pessimistic for Guildford“.  Having recently moved into the area in the last three years, I have started to go to Guildford more and more.  What I notice:

1. The town itself is moving towards an identikit town centre, same shops, same designs, same old Waitrose, Aldi, M&S, Sainsbury’s etc.  Dull, dull, dull with lots of empty shops – not vibrant at all.

2. Recent buildings have been appalling, adding nothing to the visual fabric of Guildford.  I agree that the proposed Waitrose building is dull as ditch water. Guildford and Waitrose should have been forced to do something better than this for the town.

3. Guildford as a growth hub is insane. It can grow, redevelop and develop but I have no faith in the current “trajectory” driven by Guildford Borough Council (GBC), or that its leader and the unelected Enterprise M3 will produce anything but a plan which will push economic growth at the expense of everything else. The university is also included in this triad of expansionist bodies.

4. It is clear that Conservative councillors talk about Guildford as a whole but recently, when talking about issues affecting their wards, they have adopted a NIMBY stance on development – “not here but over there please”. The Liberal Democrats are silent so it is only the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) which seems to have the borough, as a whole, at heart.

Given they were only formed as a political party just before Christmas it’s not surprising they can’t quite field candidates in all wards.  They are for growth and development but not the insane levels proposed by the Conservative controlled GBC council.  The public did not vote or even get consulted on the strategy of Guildford becoming a “Growth Hub”.

I think Guildford has the intellectual capacity as a borough to do something special.  However, the current Conservative council seem to feel they sit on the lofty moral and intellectual high ground and see the rest of us as meddling kids who should pay taxes but not question.  It is indeed time for a change and not along traditional lines.

5. Traffic, cannot be solved by building more to pay for the existing issues.

6. The station proposals – I think it is depressing that the GBC planners allowed such a poor proposal to be even floated to the public – it is indeed worrying for the future.

7. North Street – I know what this will end up like, just like any other place in the country.

The test of great design is it longevity. It should also blend in with, and add to, its setting.  Think about the advice given on Grand Designs or The Restoration Man. But I fear that this is beyond what will be delivered by the developers as I see no evidence at all that the GBC planning department have this in mind. They certainly don’t seem to be working on the side of the residents but more for the developers so they  can get away with what they want to do.

8. There is no vision for Guildford; what should it feel like, look like, smell like, sound like.  What should it be for, and for who.  What shouldn’t it be?  Without a vision you can’t have a plan – well you can but it will deliver chaos.

I too worry and that is why we need to change the agenda and away from growth and one to development and re-development for our current and reasonable future needs.

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Responses to Letter: I am Pessimistic Too

  1. Pete Knight Reply

    April 13, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    In response to Dominique Kelly’s rather depressing letter you only have to travel to appreciate how nice Guildford actually is. The town is anything but a clone. In fact the High Street and the fact that it is listed has prevented the retailers adopting the same format as in other towns. There are many boutiques and independents in the side streets.

    In terms of empty shops where are they? The only empty shops I can think of are in Tunsgate which we all know will be re-developed and outside Morrisons in the upper High Street. As an overall percentage this must amount to less than 5 per cent.

    Not vibrant? What an odd thing to say. As reported in the Telegraph recently “retailers and coffee shops have reported roaring trade in Guildford, while John Lewis has identified the town as a location where it would desperately like to open a department store”.

    In terms of buildings it’s all a matter of taste – I actually think the community centre Waitrose have built is very attractive and the store will mimic this architecture. Perhaps it’s a generation thing – new buildings will not appeal to all regardless.

    Finally the station proposals – “I think it is depressing that the GBC planners allowed such a poor proposal to be even floated to the public – it is indeed worrying for the future”. I wasn’t aware planners could restrict proposals – they can suggest improvements at pre-application meetings but as I understand it Solum submitted their plans fairly cold.

    If Ms Kelly feels as she does about Guildford – perhaps she should give other centres, like Woking, a miss.

  2. Dominique Kelly Reply

    April 14, 2015 at 9:24 am

    I’m talking about Guildford town in general versus the High Street. I’m thinking of the future, Guildford centre as a whole will become a clone of other places.

    With regards to the “indies”, I suggest Mr Knight speaks to Adrienne Marlow who’s parents, I believe, are losing their place in the Tunsgate development as international chains move in on opening.

    There has been a typically inadequate response to concerns from the GBC Council leader on twitter.

    Great design is not generational, it spans generations. It is indeed about taste, good and bad.

  3. Caroline Reeves Reply

    April 14, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Dominique Kelley has obviously missed the publication last year of the Town Centre vision.

    This document was met with widespread approval by the town centre residents in my own ward, and others that I spoke to. It is, as the name implies, a vision, and the work being undertaken now is to turn the vision into realistic and developable proposals.

    It’s very depressing that over the years the majority of comments in the media on any development are negative, but they are a very small percentage of those who live here.

    I hope that all the people who like living in the town and are interested in supporting positive moves to improve life for everyone are too busy actually being out and about and enjoying Guildford to bother with being negative.

    As I walk through the town centre several times a day I am very aware of the ‘black spots’ in terms of buildings, empty sites and congestion and I am very keen that we produce the absolute best for the new town centre development.

    Not a single drawing has been published yet because there are none, other major issues have to be addressed first in order to produce a viable scheme, and yet we still have people telling us how awful it’s going to be.

    The Solum scheme is not a done deal, and nor are any of the other sites in and around the borough, despite the rumours being circulated.

    So thanks to Pete Knight for his words of encouragement, and I look forward to hearing views when we, the council, do publish the first steps towards the North Street scheme.

    Caroline Reeves is a Lib Dem councillor for Friary and St Nicolas ward.

  4. Terry Stevenson Reply

    April 15, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    The political party that can provide me with the time machine will get my vote.

    Then I’ll be able to drive my flock off the Hog’s Back, and sell my wool on the golden banks of the River Wey.

    And then some idiot will invent the railways, and with it, commuting, and bingo – we’ll be back a square one.

    There was I thinking I could live in my rose-tinted bubble in perpetuity, without the possibility of change for good (and occasionally bad), whilst becoming better off all the time, obviously.

  5. Dominique Kelly Reply

    April 22, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    An interesting piece and well thought through. However, I’d like to emphasise a couple of points so readers understand the actual trajectory the leader of the Conservative controlled council and his Executive have consistently put forward. This is reflected in the sites and number of houses currently earmarked for housing in Guildford Borough Council (GBC) documents.

    I believe most residents oppose the proposals to build over 600 houses per annum, the vast majority on the green belt.

    This proposal is from a party who promised to protect the green belt. GBC Conservatives blame central Conservative government – does anybody spot the common thread?

    An Oxford Conservative councillor is promoting the greenbelt development/devastation of Wisley and Ockham.

    Start to get the picture?

    And the only bit of green belt being proposed to be added to the borough is in Cllr Mansbridge’s (GBC and local Conservative leader) own ward of Ash South & Tongham.

  6. Jeremy Pattison Reply

    May 3, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    You are right to say “same old stores”. Sainsbury’s opened on 6th November 1906 and M&S has been here long enough to be burnt out by the Luftwaffe. Are they indications of a drift towards becoming a clone town when they’ve been here longer than most of us?

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