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Letter: Whose Fault Is It That There is No Height Limit?

Published on: 22 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 21 Jan, 2023

Aerial view of the North Street Regeneration site

From: Ben Paton

In response to: It Is Worth Waiting to Get North Street Right

John Harrison’s letter presents the position fairly.

No one denies that North Street should be developed.

The complication with this particular site is that it is partly owned by the council.

That means that the Guildford Borough Council has “a dog in the fight”. This is all too apparent from Cllr John Rigg’s stance. He’s obviously anxious to get the deal that he negotiated through.

But did the council do enough to get the right or the best terms and conditions from the developer?

Most people don’t think so. The most obvious point is that most people think that there should be some council-imposed constraint on the heights of the buildings.

The council protests that there are no planning policies for building heights in the Local Plan.

Well, whose responsibility is that? Not the developer’s.

The reality is that the council had the power as the owner of all or part of the site to stipulate that height should be a condition. Ostensibly, it made no condition when it negotiated to sell its land.

Mr Harrison’s letter makes that point rather well.

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test 7 Responses to Letter: Whose Fault Is It That There is No Height Limit?

  1. H Trevor Jones Reply

    January 22, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    I don’t see a problem with heights as I can’t believe any tall building in the area will obscure any existing fine view over the town.

    The greater concern is surely the reduced size of and more restricted access to the bus station, with the bus operators saying it is likely to add travel time to many services using the bus station, at a time when we should be making public transport more attractive.

    Also, if more people are to be persuaded to use the bus, with more frequent services, it’s not the time to reduce the size of the bus station.

  2. Ian Stronge Reply

    January 22, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    In the mid-2010s Guildford wasn’t the only planning authority to abandon height restrictions and protected views in its Local Plan.

    Was this a response to government guidance or a result of ongoing liaison with developers?

    Or because local planners couldn’t see any other way to deliver government housing targets within the politically acceptable development sites available?

    Perhaps it was a varying mixture of all of these?

  3. Paul Spooner Reply

    January 22, 2023 at 6:03 pm

    There is a Guildford Town Centre Views SPD [supplementary planning document] that was commissioned by the previous administration and supported by the full [borough] council in 2019.

    It could not be approved prior to adoption of the Local Plan (April 2019) but the new administration completed its adoption. But is it being used by officers and developers?

    Paul Spooner is the leader of the Conservative Group at GBC and a borough councillor for Ash South & Tongham.

    • Wayne Smith Reply

      January 23, 2023 at 9:55 pm

      Wasn’t it the case that the Town Centre Views SPD [supplementary planning document] was rushed out as a knee-jerk reaction to the Solum “Great Wall of Guildford” development once approved by a Planning Inspector? It was trying to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      January 24, 2023 at 5:57 am

      The fault lies entirely with Cllr Paul Spooner and his Tory cabal. They heinously rushed through their despised Local Plan in the last dregs of their administration, for their own political ends, ignoring the risks to the borough.

      If they had allowed more time for the plan to be fixed and adopted, these issues, as so many others could have been addressed.

  4. Michel Harper Reply

    January 22, 2023 at 8:54 pm

    It’s amazing that in the context of a town centre regeneration and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, with the provision of housing, business opportunities, travel improvements, and social and hospitality improvements, some councillors at the twelfth hour decided to challenge the concept of height as a negative? This in an area that stands at the foot of a steep hill where the height changes every few feet. No one has come up with any logical or rational reason for the prejudiced objections.

    Why is height a problem? How high? Where? The top of the hill or the bottom of the hill? What’s wrong with tall buildings? What’s good about less tall buildings? Even the castle would have been a tall building on the top of a small hill in its day. Was that bad?

    The House of Fraser has a protected view from the Jellicoe roof garden at the top of their very tall building halfway up North Street. When one looks at the topography of Guildford you need different buildings to give interest and variety to the architecture of the town, not just drab little boxes.

    Tall buildings all over the world create positivity and relief from the boring repetition of uninteresting brick buildings. The majority of Guildford borough’s 150,000 population wants progress.

    The council does not propose to build anything not even to refurbish the bus station so why stop developers providing what the council can’t or won’t?

    Will someone give a reasoned explanation, not subjective personal opinion by those unqualified, to the people of Guildford about what the problem is with height and specifically what high limits should be imposed and where in our topography? That would be interesting.

  5. Lottie Harding Reply

    January 23, 2023 at 10:39 pm

    Nothing in the North Street proposal was anywhere near as bad height-wise as the “twin towers of Guildford”, ie Mount and Bishops Court, which are both around 10 stories and built near The Mount, poking up into the sky.

    The snobs of Guildford need to get over their height objections – that ship sailed way back in the 60s or 70s or whenever those towers were built.

    Isn’t it time some development happened in our town centre instead of having the eyesore of a dump the site currently is and has been for 20 years or more?

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