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Letter: More Robust Guidelines on Building Height Are Necessary to Speed Up Planning

Published on: 8 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 8 Jul, 2022

From: Joe Taylor

In response to: ‘Something Must Be Done’ Is the Worst Approach to Decision Making

I’ve seen frequent comparisons to Woking made whenever the St Marys Wharf and now North Street developments are discussed, but I feel there is a level of false equivalence that is employed by its detractors.

The residential tower blocks that make up part of Woking’s Victoria Square development, stand at 34 and 32 stories, almost three times the size of the tallest buildings in both developments.

Both North Street and St Marys Wharf developments are much closer in height to the Mount Court [by the Portsmouth Road] block of flats which stand at 10 stories tall and are situated at a much higher elevation. So let’s put this flawed argument of Guildford becoming a Woking clone to rest.

A better use of everyone’s energies would perhaps be reaching a consensus on the acceptable height of developments in and out of the historic quarter. More robust guidelines of height and affordable housing provision would help speed up the planning approval process and end the stagnation of Guildford’s town centre.

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test 4 Responses to Letter: More Robust Guidelines on Building Height Are Necessary to Speed Up Planning

  1. Daniel Hill Reply

    July 8, 2022 at 7:44 pm

    This seems like a very simple and obvious solution that would benefit everyone. I’m assuming there is no reason why GBC couldn’t create a planning policy with a maximum height in the GU1 town centre postcode.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 11, 2022 at 9:34 am

    As far as I am aware, Guildford Borough Council has no guidelines on height. Is there a Supplementary Planning Document in the pipeline?

    Conservation Areas in Guildford were designated in 1967. This was after Debenhams (originally called Plummers) building was constructed. So, this building is now within the Conservation Area and not in the Historic Area mentioned in error by some.

    GBC had not so long ago issued the document Development Management Policies for consultation. This document also sets out conditions for new buildings, demolition and alterations to buildings within the Conservation Area.

    The reasons for demolishing a building within a conservation area are that they are unsafe and are not economically viable for repairs or strengthening.

    What is the view of Guildford Borough Council on the demolition of this building? As far as I know, it is sound?

    It seems Native Land has been given permission to demolish this building even before they submitted their Planning Application. Otherwise why would they have spent resources to develop their ideas for a replacement project?

    The questions I would like to raise are traffic management and safety during demolition and construction on this site. It is very close to a major road. The A281 already badly suffers from congestion during peak hours and there is a busy pedestrian crossing close by. How would the traffic management and restrictions affect the flow and safety of pedestrians using the crossing while lorries and plants go in and out of the site?

    If proposed traffic restrictions were unacceptable and safety issues were not resolvable, how would development be possible?

  3. Richard Mills Reply

    July 11, 2022 at 10:43 am

    In one sense Joe Taylor is absolutely right: it would be misleading to imply any direct similarity in height between buildings in Woking and those now proposed for Guildford.

    But height is relative, and everything depends on context. What can be acceptable for Croydon, Reading and now Woking is hardly likely to be appropriate in a historic low-rise town centre with Guildford’s particular topography.

    Nor is this the moment to take a relaxed attitude to building height. We should not forget how quickly Woking has been transformed, with I suspect little opportunity for its residents to come to a considered view on the sort of town centre they wanted.

    Richard Mills is chair of Guildford Town Centre Conservatives

  4. M Durant Reply

    July 17, 2022 at 2:49 pm

    If they agree to a specific height then all the property developers would apply to the highest height allowed, so turning Guildford into Woking. It’s all about the money, the taller the building the more money property developers make.

    Two more shops shut recently in Guildford, the old post office is still shut. Could we make better use of existing facilities left empty? Maybe business rates are too high?

    I understand North Street and Debenhams need regenerating but could we have something stylish with character to set Guildford apart from other cities and towns, not just tall blocks?

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