Fringe Box



Letter: Waitrose Approval – No Active Debate

Published on: 8 Nov, 2012
Updated on: 8 Nov, 2012

From John Rigg

Director of Guildford Vision Group

Tuesday night’s decision to approve the Waitrose application on the residential-zoned Bellerby Theatre site contradicts so many established planning maxims. But such would be the climbdown for GBC that it was passed without reference to the lost residential opportunity or the precedent it will set for planning consents in the town.

The lack of up-to-date supporting research for retail need, or for supermarkets as a Guildford priority, did not feature. As importantly, it no longer seems that more traffic congestion is a sufficient reason to reject a proposal. So we should all be aware of an application from Solum [railway station development] or any other applicant.

The real problem though, and one we should now focus on, is somehow aligning our politicians with a broader spread of views including residents and special or professional interest groups, rather than sustaining a process where I suspect one or two people decide on a quick fix for a site, and an unstoppable momentum is then generated.

The lack of any proper political opposition means less scrutiny of decision making. There was no active debate last night. We were left with the appointment of lots of traffic engineers to try and support the unsupportable as evidence of a thorough job!

We are coming to a really crucial period for Guildford, with a new Local Plan needed. Some truly great town-enhancing wins can be identified with an open mind, a willingness to engage and the use of the very best skills available to help identify available options.

I do so hope that the new Executive, and the council collectively, will embark on actively engaging with the community about what can be achieved. My fear is that, courtesy of the old guard, the new Waitrose is already 30 years out of date in its approach and style. So let’s see if we can start from the right place going forward, rather than making do with ‘easy’ solutions, such as selling town centre land for an ‘out-of-town’ format supermarket.

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Responses to Letter: Waitrose Approval – No Active Debate

  1. Julian D S Lyon Reply

    November 8, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Two common themes from the planning meeting. With the Onslow Park & Ride councillors showed helpfully, but I believe improperly, prompted by Cllr Keith Taylor, that they could lose £4m of funding if they did not rush the application through despite major traffic concerns.

    With the Waitrose application, councillors showed it was more important to secure capital receipts from Waitrose (despite major reservations about traffic) than to recognise the opportunity to regenerate this site for housing and the retail North Street site for Waitrose and John Lewis.

    Bad planning with bells on in my view, these projects would not have been approved if it were not the council (or their purchasers) applying for permission.

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