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Letter: The Future of Guildford Lies in the High-tech Sector

Published on: 18 Jun, 2013
Updated on: 18 Jun, 2013

High Tech imageFrom Gordon Bridger

Hon Alderman

A new Guildford Local Plan will soon be issued for consultation. I have no idea what it will contain but can I urge the all too few who will read it to bear in mind the following questions:

1 Is the plan based upon a  comprehensive analysis of the Borough’s development needs?

2 Is there an economic strategy underlying the plan which recognises that the economy has shifted from retail (only 10% of gross value added (GVA)) to skilled services (33% GVA  in 2009 – probably more now)  and which are now largely outside the traditional town centre?

3 Does the plan recognise that the major problem facing us is traffic congestion and the greatest need more housing? (See UNIS report 2009). If so, what is proposed to mitigate transport problems and promote more housing?

4 Does the plan still depend  upon forecasts of town centre retail development of between 40,000 sq m  and 60,000 sq m? A recent national study by the prestigious Centre for Retail Research (Nottingham) forecasts a  decline of national retailing activity of 22% by 2018,  318,000 job losses and an increase in on line sales from 13% to 21%.  For the South East the reduction in retail activity is less bleak – only a 13% decline.  The report concludes that quality housing needs to be given priority in town centres in future. Are Guildford Borough Council planners aware of these forecasts?

Planning strategy has so far been base upon the mistaken assumption that retail development must be prioritised. This has been the policy, increased consumption, which has has created  Britain’s current economic problems and one that the coalition government is seeking to alter through structural changes, favouring productive high-tech export services.

Guildford can be, and should be, in the forefront of this development. We need to attract more highly skilled professionals to Guildford who should  generate four or more times GVA than shop assistants in the retail sector (which  has a high propensity to import labour and consumer goods).

We need to establish ourselves as the “Silicon Valley” of the south of England and not overwhelm the town centre with retail development, but create a limited mix of housing retail and  community facilities which exploit rather than undermine its historic core.

To simplify it, our future lies in promoting space scientists rather than shop assistants.

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