Fringe Box



Letter: North Street Approval is Good News for Guildford

Published on: 12 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 12 Oct, 2023

From: John Rigg

former R4GV borough councillor

See: Guildford North Street Plans With 471 New Homes Approved 13 Votes to 2

The 13 to 2 to vote in favour of North Street scheme is great news for Guildford and should have been the outcome in January when it was turned down because of block votes by the Lib Dems and Tories seeking the NIMBY vote ahead of the May local election.

The North Street site has been derelict for decades.  R4GV’s view was we either build on green belt or we develop brownfield sites, like North Street, desperately needed to provide homes and revive our town centre.

I understood some of the objections but there were two initial obstacles in bringing forward the project which R4GV inherited: the first an over-allocation of space on the site in the Conservative’s 2019 Local Plan. Developers are entitled to rely on this Local Plan which produced a scheme and massing of 735 homes which we reduced to 473 units although still not popular.

Secondly, the council should have initially consulted on a development brief for the site and the developers might have then produced something more palatable subsequently.

In any event, the history of this site with nine previous failed schemes is in part a result of the prevailing negative attitude towards development in Guildford where objectors live in homes built by developers but don’t really want this outcome for others.

R4GV are pro-change, pro-renewal, and pro-Guildford so we stood our ground on both votes. The other parties having looked for electoral advantage from the NIMBY vote in May and now elected did a U-turn last night supporting the latest marginally changed application.

Voters should now reassess who played with a straight bat and who did not with the dire result of the election exchanging a highly competent R4GV-run council for a Lib Dem one facing a vote of no confidence this week.

One positive is at least North Street can now progress some might say free of amateur planning politicians which ultimately costs society millions for uncertain benefit.

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Responses to Letter: North Street Approval is Good News for Guildford

  1. jim allen Reply

    October 12, 2023 at 3:54 pm

    I do so wish people would STOP using the word NIMBY – they simply do not know just how insulting the origins of the word. I will Explain Consortium developments was a group of Housebuilders who in the 1980’s unilaterally decided without public consultation to build five new villages in ‘random’ green spots in the countryside around London.
    The one I was involved in was at Bramshill Planation Near Eversley which my father planted in the late 1940’s
    the site had no gas water electricity or roads to the site (similar to the other four sites) The removal of the over a million plantation trees was desecration of a forest some 20 plus years from maturity and cropping.

    It was used by the then minister Nicholas Ridley to insult people who realised even then those sites chosen were more important as breathing space between towns outside the Green Belt than for housing people who were actually not locals (the local housing numbers were being met).

    So folks as one of the first to be called a NIMBY by a Barrister in a planning appeal which we (Sane Planning in the South East) won after 15 weeks.

    Please remember, It is and was a serious insult to Rational thinking Right minded people who can see past political rhetoric, lack of infrastructure and rash developers plans which will provide ‘the least’ for the most profit in housing terms.

  2. John Sinclair Reply

    October 12, 2023 at 4:37 pm

    Dreadful plan, and just an embarrassing level of “affordability”. Them main argument in favour was “it’s been a dump for 30 years, we have to do something”.

    A low bar was set and they failed to clear it. It was exactly this level of hopeless, utterly incompetent management that’s got Guildford into its current state. Nothing has changed with this appalling nonsense plan.

  3. Keith Parkins Reply

    October 12, 2023 at 8:26 pm

    R4GV the developer’s best friend.

    This ugly eyesore development will destroy Guildford.

  4. David Bilbe Reply

    October 13, 2023 at 10:22 am

    I find the arrogance of Mr Rigg’s letter disturbing. It seems to be based on a resentment at him not being elected in May and a complete disregard for democracy.

    In my view the major projects portfolio (of which there were several) which he was responsible for in the last administration was typified by delay on signing contracts, increased cost and a lack of assumed responsibility. He defended the sale of Liongate at a reduced cost when all indicators were that it could have achieved a higher price. That was his “professional” view. To call voters Nimbys and point at amateur planning politicians really show a childish contempt and not a somewhat typical rudeness.

    The previous North Street application was poised for appeal. The developer addressed the road access and egress from the bus station, reduced height of the blocks by two storeys and change the design to look a little less utilitarian and more attractive.

    The affordable percentage has risen to 10 per cent despite an economic assessment challenge to the viability of the project with zero per cent affordable houses. There is no doubt in my mind that had this been refused then an appeal would have been successful. He did not manage despite his “experience” and years of working as a Director of Savills to get any of those concessions from the developer in January.

    This development is not perfect. It was a difficult decision based on law and policy which Mr Rigg seems oblivious to. The only political gain had it been approved in January would be for him and his party to say how wonderful they were for securing approval so please vote for me. The voters did not and I suspect that the sentiments were deeper than the North Street development. Insulting voters and accusing them of being Nimbys is hardly a way of winning public confidence.

    We should also remember that Mr Rigg was, and others in his party were, in an alliance with the Lib Dems for four years and carry significant responsibility for the creation of the current mess we now have in Guildford. It was not a highly competent R4GV-run council. It was an alliance shared with the Lib Dems with alternate leaders and exclusion of other parties from Executive responsibilities.

    David Bilbe is a Conservative borough councillor for Normandy

  5. Ross Connell Reply

    November 6, 2023 at 11:52 am

    How surprising that a former Savills employee supports this planning approval.

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