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Letter: Use Suitable Parts of the Town Centre for Housing Development

Published on: 12 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 12 Nov, 2013

Local Plan Letters imageFrom Gerald Bland

Director of Guildford Vision Group

Jim Allen in his comment on the article ‘Plan For ‘March on Millmead’ Following Horsley Meeting on Green Belt’ identified the following three options:

“1/ A ‘new town’ of 5000 homes. This proved unpalatable in the 1980s

2/ A scatter gun approach, with those who shout loudest, with the largest wallet and knowledge getting the least

3/ The sensible and rational way where no hamlet, village or urban area expands greater than any other. So if West Horsley has 3% of the housing stock of Guildford Borough they should have 3% of the expansion if Ash Green has 4% of housing stock they should have 4% expansion. This way each community gently has a manageable number of newcomers and the services and community life is not destroyed.”

I would add a fourth: to plant up the centre of Guildford with new housing.

The Wey corridor between Guildford station and Ladymead is an area of low density underused commercial buildings strangled by congestion. It has the potential to be a highly sustainable waterside residential quarter of up to 3500 units. Similar arguments can be put forward for the area between the Station and Millbrook car park including Debenhams and the Council offices in Millmead.

With the Council’s Executive announcing in September that it intends to masterplan the Friary extension site and surrounding areas before the new Local Plan is adopted there is a real opportunity to demonstrate that:

1) the town centre should not only be a shopping destination but a place in which people both live and work:and

2) there need be no incursion into the green belt due to the abundance of brownfield sites available for residential use over the plan period.

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test 9 Responses to Letter: Use Suitable Parts of the Town Centre for Housing Development

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    November 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    First class proposal.

    “But there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    I am glad to see that Gerald Bland of GVG has highlighted the potential for housing in Walnut Tree Close. This is what I commented on The Dragon back in July: Farewell To The ‘Yellow’ Office Buildings in Walnut Tree Close!

    “What a shame. Is this the best use for this beautiful area beside the river? Maybe Guildford Borough Council should have tried harder to persuade the builder to build houses and particularly affordable ones instead of more office buildings that are likely to remain unoccupied for a long time under the current economic situation.

    “Could GBC have bought this land under a CPO? Maybe those readers who are more knowledgeable about planning procedures could throw some light into this aspect?”

    Recent legislation in this regard is helpful: “The Government has published legislation to introduce new permitted development rights to enable offices to be converted to homes without the need for planning permission. Various changes to the list of permitted development rights will come into force in England on 30 May 2013.

    “The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has said that the change ‘gives a clear signal to owners, developers and local planning authorities that we want underused and outdated offices to be brought back to life, and provides an excellent opportunity to create much needed new homes’.”

    I also posted on my article, ‘A possible traffic solution’, on GVG’s website that can be found in the link below:

    http://tinyurl.com/guildford-renewed – where the last paragraph mentions Potential areas for housing: “There are areas on both banks of river Wey on the stretch alongside Walnut Tree Close taken up by light industrial buildings , DIY stores and sorting office etc. I have no idea of ownership of these areas but if GBC is inclined to provide affordable housing or even a mixture of affordable and other types of housing, these areas could be transformed into pleasant living quarters.” …..

  3. Susan Parker Reply

    November 14, 2013 at 9:11 am

    This area would be very suitable for small, affordable, houses. The definition of “affordable” varies widely between cheap than average rental accommodation and cheaper than average homes for purchase, but this area is suitable for both, and commercially priced housing too to make it worthwhile for the developer (more expensive than a greenfield site, but the fields are worth something to us all).

    Terraced houses with gardens are very suitable for families, and there could be maisonettes or small scale flats there too which are suitable for starter homes or older residents.

    The Victorian terraces further down the road towards the station and in the centre of Guildford are enormously popular and attractive. It would be possible to get a very good mix of residential accommodation in this area and would take the pressure of the green belt. It would also be much more sustainable (e.g. within walking distance to Guildford Station) than building on the green belt and creating huge numbers of houses spread across the countryside, all of which would need a separate car per adult (so say 2 cars per household) in order to function.

  4. Joy Watkins Reply

    November 17, 2013 at 11:43 am

    How often have I driven down Walnut Tree Close and despaired that the river is hidden? I am absolutely thrilled to read I’m not alone in my dismay.

    Commercial properties do not need river views but families and, in fact, anyone who would love to look out and watch the seasons and nature would properly appreciate them. Guildford could be a superb place because of its God given amenities: access to London, beautiful views and historical interest and, not least, our river.

    Someone must know if it’s possible to buy the current commercial units on the riverside.

    Finally, I am convinced that there would be a much lower risk of vandalism with domestic buildings and I can’t think of anyone not wanting that.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    November 18, 2013 at 9:39 am

    It is interesting that no one commented on the ratio approach. As for affordable housing and river views, oh what a sheltered life some people lead. I have never come across ‘cheap housing with river views’ as the views always command a premium. Hotel rooms with views are always charged at a higher rate than those with no view. Identical houses in the same estate are valued differently dependent on the views they have.

    So yes to housing on the Walnut Tree Park site, no problem, but don’t believe they will be low cost.

    As for the demolition of work space at this location, I understand we are struggling to find such sites. That is why GBC want to expand Slyfield and have applied for government money to build a road across a flood plain, against all common sense.

    What is going on? It does not compute. Is there a masterplan not being displayed to the public until it is a fait accompli?

  6. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Percentage wise, an increase in housing in theory sounds OK but the reality is whether such sites are available in these areas. If they were, then that would be ideal. It is normally easier to build new infrastructure rather than extending them on the same sites – such as schools, doctors’ surgery and shops etc. Jim Allen’s idea should be explored but maybe there will be a greater need to build on totally new areas nonetheless.

    Indeed properties with better vistas command higher prices and that is why developments need to have a mix of properties to enable the number of affordable houses built along with more expensive ones. Walnut Tree Close areas would not be any different. The kind of occupancy currently in the area is far from its best possible use and the area should be converted into living quarters. The business premises that occupy these areas need to be relocated out of town as largely cars, vans and delivery vehicles access these.

    So the question is where should these new business parks be located? Ideally they should be close to trunk roads and A roads with good local road connections. Dual carriageway roads are the A3 and the A31. The junction of these two roads needs to be improved and in the process it may be possible to find areas that would perhaps be suitable for business parks that do not require infrastructures as those needed for housing and traffic noise would be a factor as well.

    GBC might well be considering such ideas but if not, may I suggest that they do. Of course they need to get Surrey County Council and the Highways Agency on board in order to achieve improvements like this that benefit all.

  7. Helga Patrick Reply

    November 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    The letter only addresses satisfying the demand for apartment style living.

    What we also need is small houses with 2 to 3 bedrooms and gardens. These cannot be built along the Wey corridor as there isn’t enough space.

    What we need to do is release the land near the University of Surrey and the Gosden Hill site in Burpham. Both could see new stations built as part of S106 costs and Highways contributions.

    I do however agree that we should not build commercial premises in Walnut Tree Close. It seems such a waste.

  8. Gerald Bland Reply

    November 19, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    With the published residential (Solum) proposals for the station, Stag Hill (by the Cathedral) and the Hog’s Back (near the University), as well as the residential aspirations for other nearby sites owned by GBC,it would be foolhardy not to look at these sites and Walnut Tree Close holistically in a masterplan to be prepared by best of class consultants.

    All, if developed, must be made to contribute to the affordable housing and infrastructure upgrade Guildford so desperately needs.

    A Local Plan that looks at each site in isolation will drive investment to other towns and exacerbate all the problems Guildford has so conspicuously failed to address.

  9. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I wholly agree with Gerald Bland. It is what I said back in September last year in these columns: Guildford Planning, An Holistic Approach Is Required:

    “I agree with Auriol Earle [see letter ‘Plans Must Consider Guildford As A Whole Not Just A Town Centre!’]. The vision should include not just the town centre but the areas outside of it as well. The plan needs to be well integrated and therefore needs co-operation of all developers and the councils…”

    I referred to 15 Items that require to be considered together to improve traffic and access to the town centre. The link below describes these: http://tinyurl.com/qbcfx4w

    The website that contains suggested improvements has been updated with a number of sketches and details since then.

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