Fringe Box



Letter: The Village: £1.2 Million Already Wasted, How Much More?

Published on: 24 Nov, 2017
Updated on: 24 Nov, 2017

From Michael Brown

Why has Guildford Borough Council already wasted £1,222,715 of council taxpayers’ money on the Village?

The Village in Guildford town centre between Commercial Road and Woodbridge Road, pictured earlier this year.

The Village was apparently launched as a pop-up village, mainly as small retail outlets for last Christmas. This project was originally estimated to cost £329,000, to be set up with our cash to be paid back within two years.

The Pop Up Village failed after a few weeks and the council’s Executive then decided to convert it to an event-led venue open since June.

£1,222,715 of public money has now been spent, never to be recovered. Details are in the report to the overview and scrutiny committee on November 14. I suggest readers take a look on the council’s website for committee meetings / agendas.

I went to the Village last weekend to see what Guildford residents have got for our money. Not much.

A few visitors were wandering around stalls which sell mainly food. Some were on the ice rink, which is much smaller and costs more than the ice rink at the Spectrum leisure centre.

The council report claims the Village “has now turned the corner and become a superb events led venue”. Nonsense. It is a wasteland, a waste of space and money, so why was it started in the first place?

The Executive plans to close the Village on Christmas Eve and then reopen on Good Friday, March 30,  another three months as a wasteland with no tenants or activities, so just more money wasted.

The plan is then to stay open until next Christmas. The price for us to pay for this continuing folly is another £200,000 and more.

Thank goodness, the Executive has been asked to prepare an exit strategy. The sooner, the better.

But how much more will we have to pay out of our pockets to close this “white elephant”?

Localism from our communities could play an important role here, to stop the council throwing more of our good hard-earned money after bad.


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Responses to Letter: The Village: £1.2 Million Already Wasted, How Much More?

  1. Mary Smith Reply

    November 27, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    I visited The Village for the first time at Friday lunchtime, then again on Saturday afternoon because I could hardly believe that there were so few people there the previous day.

    I have to say The Village is a very sad and depressing place. Hardly any visitors walkiing through the site and even fewer buying anything from the food and other outlets.

    I took pity on the poor, frozen stallholders and bought a takeaway sandwich – quite tasty but nothing special I’m afraid.

    There were some children skating on a small ice rink but little else – certainly nothing like the number of people shown in your photograph.

    The council obviously got things horribly wrong by investing £1,200,000 of our money so far.

    Let’s hope they now see sense and change the land to a better and much less costly use.

  2. A Atkinson Reply

    November 27, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    As I keep on saying, from a professional perspective, on many fronts, this was doomed for failure. The test of this council is can they fail fast? It will be a touch stone of their “leadership” as to how they handle this.

    Imagine this on The Apprentice, who will be in the boardroom? Nothing wrong with trying, but if this carries on any longer the last word from Sugar would be “you’re fired”

    The people I feel sorry for are the stall holders who have been led down the path on this one, handing over £ which was on the basis of fantasy expectations and us tax payers wasting £1.2m+ on this. Wonder if this site is in the Brownfield register for development?!

  3. Allen Johnson Reply

    November 28, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    I too had cause to “happen” upon the Village last Thursday. The place was empty. Containers are not shops, they are containers. Putting shelves of produce within reduces the space even more and excludes the need for shoppers to shop without bumping into to one another.

    It is clear that nobody in Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has either knowledge or experience of such ventures. Its failure in the first instance was clear evidence that it did not work. So why would it work a second time if it failed in the first?

    It would have been money better spent had GBC done the relevant research to understand why it failed. For example, what is the competition and where is it?

    The competition is The Friary, White Lion Walk, North Street, High Street and the roads off, all well established and all within 200 metres. What most will have forgotten is that before the “container park” there was housing.

    I hope the exit strategy is suitably brief in both detail and duration. If GBC has yet to summon its collective thoughts for an exit strategy I offer my own: shut it now.

  4. A Atkinson Reply

    November 28, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    I agree with Mr Johnson’s comment and apart from his comment regarding competition as “The Friary, White Lion Walk, North Street, High Street and the roads off…”, he seems to have knocked the nail on the head.

    The competition is Shoreditch Boxpark and/or Pop Brixton. If one looks at these, as I said the council should some time ago, there are two hopes of the Village in Guildford competing. Bob Hope and no hope.

    Fail fast.

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