Fringe Box



Letter: Next stop… Nightmare on North Street

Published on: 26 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2022

From Richard Mills

Chair, Guildford Town Centre Conservatives

One of the few redeeming features of the meeting at which the St Mary’s Wharf plans were approved was the skilful conduct of the meeting by the Liberal Democrat Chair of the Committee.

So it was entirely in keeping that it was she who (in comments to officers recorded in the few minutes between closing the meeting and the end of recording) most aptly expressed the outcome: “God help us, what a bloody awful building.”

But clarity on the outcome should not be allowed to obscure the procedural mess by which it came about. Why was this Committee Meeting taking place at all?

One of the few things on which supporters and opponents of the project seemed to agree was the strategic importance of the issue, because of the site’s location and national heritage significance and the precedent the decision will set for the future development of the town.

Surely issues of strategic significance are by common assent to be decided by the full council?

It is unlikely that any more significant decision will be made by this Council in its four-year tenure. It is certainly the one for which it will be remembered.

So a simple question arises: by what neglect, mismanagement or devious contrivance could the decision finish up in the hands of a small committee rather than the full Council?

Whatever the answer the way ahead is now clear. The faltering tumbril that is R4GV is back on the road to the most dramatic transformation of the town for 200 years without the support, as your newspaper rightly observed, of any effective consultation with residents.

Next stop….. Nightmare on North Street.

Editor’s comment: this letter was received after the publication of Debenhams Plan – the Whole Character of Our Town is at Stake

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Responses to Letter: Next stop… Nightmare on North Street

  1. Gavin Morgan Reply

    November 28, 2022 at 7:20 pm

    I would be interested to know whether Mr Mills has a point or not. Surely planning decisions are governed by planning guidelines. At every planning meeting I have attended the chair has made this point. The personal opinions of the full council cannot be used to determine planning applications. If the full council wanted to voice its opinion it should have done so when the town first heard of this scheme. Then would have been the time to negotiate with the developer.

    Editor’s response: We understand that a councillor can propose that an application is referred to full council at the start of a planning committee meeting. Then the vote would have to be won. However it is not thought it has been done in the last decade, at least.

  2. Aubrey Leahy Reply

    November 29, 2022 at 11:12 am

    The plan looks like it was designed by a first-week or first-day student of naff mish-mashery.

    Where is the imagination? The desire to be different? To stand out? Something along the lines of the Guggenheim Bilbao or a 21st-century version of the Guildhall. Something that people 100 years from now will be able to take a quick glance at an image of and say “Ah yes. Guildford,” as opposed to, “Where? Could be anywhere.”

  3. George Potter Reply

    December 1, 2022 at 9:02 am

    Referring a planning application to full council is certainly possible, albeit unusual. So if this is what the Conservatives wanted then one of their councillors could have formally proposed to do so at the start of the planning committee meeting.

    However, what actually happened was, as reported, two Conservative councillors failed to attend the meeting, and the third didn’t say a word during the meeting and abstained at the end of it.

    Rather than levelling accusations against the administration at GBC, perhaps Guildford Conservatives should start by asking hard questions of their own councillors?

    George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

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