Fringe Box



Letter: North Street – What Is Going On in Guildford Planning?

Published on: 26 Nov, 2019
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2019

The North Street site.

From Bill Stokoe

Chairman of Guildford Vision Group

We have now learnt that Berkeley Homes has jump-started the North Street planning process by requesting a “scoping opinion” from the council relating to the future Environmental Impact Assessment that will be required when a full application is made.

That North Street development is underway is great news. The site has lain fallow for far too long. GVG has discussed the site with Berkeley Homes regularly over the past few years and is generally supportive of the latter’s consultation process.

But the scandal is that Guildford Borough Council Planning Department is yet to produce a design brief for the site. No proposals have yet been published.

Thus it is the developer who is making the running, asking for an opinion in relation to up to 850 homes. That almost certainly means well more than 10 storeys, the unfortunate precedent set by the approved Solum development at the railway station.

This is way beyond the expectations for the North Street site set out in the new, unloved Local Plan.

To compound the scandal, we have yet to hear of any real progress with a brief for a town centre master-planner. The full council passed the motion in July for a town centre masterplan to be produced and a master-planner to be engaged.

What is going on? Why the delay? Is the council, key councillors and officers, hoping the masterplan initiative will somehow fade away?

It does point the finger at the Planning Department and those charged with the regeneration of our town:

  • are the officers getting the right direction from councillors?
  • are councillors adequately monitoring how officers prioritise their work when it comes to the vital needs of the town centre?
  • is the Planning Department adequately staffed?

Last week, another application was lodged for the Casino quarter. This is a key site in the centre of town. Yet where is the guiding brief for this development as well?

Both these developments should be assessed against an overarching town centre masterplan, supported by effective planning policies hanging off the Local Plan. The council is clearly playing catch-up; witness the recent rushed Views SPD.

Unless the council gets its act together, sadly we are going to remain on the back foot when it comes to making our town centre fit for purpose.

This is especially so in respect of crucial infrastructure such as the road layout, buses and, not least, sewers. Together, Solum and North Street are looking at more than 1,200 homes. And this is before the impact of the 14,000 new homes in prospect around the fringes of our town.

Surely the time has come for determined leadership for the town centre?

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Responses to Letter: North Street – What Is Going On in Guildford Planning?

  1. Sue Warner Reply

    November 26, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Both developments are too big and not in keeping with the historic nature of the town. Yes have flats in where they propose but certainly no higher than the surrounding buildings.

    Nobody has considered the infrastructure either. Guildford is already clogged and the minute anything happens on the Guildford and Godalming bypass everything gridlocks in the town.

    Do the people who make these decisions live here and have to negotiate the issues every day? I think not. We do not want to be like Woking with ugly monstrosities in the middle of our town.

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