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

Published on: 6 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 7 Jul, 2022

From: Richard Mills

Chair of Guildford Town Centre Conservatives

See: North Street Planning Application to be Submitted Next Month

It is good news that the planning application for the North Street Development will be submitted this month. Residents will then be able to see beyond the gloss, hype and evasions and reach a view as to whether the development will actually help the town.

St Mary’s Wharf before and after the proposed revisions.

In one respect we should hope that the application follows the revised application for the Debenhams site, by conceding some continuing affordable housing in the Town Centre, as the Conservative and Labour chairs have urged.

In another respect, the Debenhams precedent should be avoided. It should not be sufficient for the North Street developers simply to follow the usual ploy of sacrificing one storey of an excessively high building as a sop to public opinion. A 12-storey building a mere 200 or 300 yards from the Town Bridge will be little better than the current 13-storey proposal.

Clearly there are now two issues on which as residents we must focus:

  • are we content to have a 13-storey tower and a concentration of blocks approaching 8 stories mark the moment Guildford slides irrevocably from a low-rise market town to another high-rise dormitory of London, a Woking on the Wey?
  • will the new ‘quarter’ help sustain a diverse community in Guildford Town Centre, or by its excessive provision of one-bedroom flats simply become another dormitory mainly serving commuters newly drawn to the town, swelling its population but doing nothing to meet local housing need?

It is perhaps unfair to expect a developer to grapple with these big issues. The R4GV-Liberal administration should, but is signally failing to do so. Their only consideration seems to be that, after 8 or 9 previous proposals have been found wanting or fallen for economic reasons, they must show themselves capable of getting a proposal over the line whatever the cost.

This ‘something must be done’ attitude is the worst possible approach to decision-making, but perhaps understandable as they struggle to show that they can in fact deliver policies.

Maybe, as a gesture of sympathy, we should donate our old “Just Do It” T-shirts for R4GV and Liberal councillors to wear when the proposal finally comes to Committee for a decision?

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