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Letter: Wider Implications of the St Mary’s Wharf Proposal

Published on: 23 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 23 Jan, 2022

St Mary’s Wharf as it would look from Millmead car park.

From: Richard Mills

vice-chair (Policy), Guildford Town Centre Conservatives
See also: Town Split Over St Mary’s Wharf As Historic England Accuses Developer of “Flawed” Conclusions

Discussion of the St Mary’s Wharf scheme has focused mainly on factors such as inadequate parking provision and the absence of any contribution to affordable housing, and whether a building of such height, bulk and blandness is appropriate in the beautiful historic core of the town.

As the planning process moves towards a decision three wider considerations should come to the fore.

The first may seem simply a matter of procedural detail but is critical. As Bill Stokoe, chair of Guildford Vision Group, aptly expressed it in your columns [see: Debenhams Worst Outcome Is Years Of Vacant Dereliction] : “controversy regarding this development simply highlights again the council’s sad lack of adequate development management policies and development briefs to guide developers appropriately in situations such as this”.

Spot on! Preparation of a planning brief is normally considered an essential basis for the development of any major site. That the present Council failed to prepare or consult on a brief for what is the most sensitive development site in the town in the last 50 years almost beggars belief.

The second consideration is timing. This proposal will set a precedent in terms of the acceptable height and bulk of new development in the Town Centre.

As local amenity groups and the Guildford Conservative Association have argued in opposing the proposal, it comes at a time when there are a significant number of major sites awaiting development for which this case will set a precedent. Guildford will not suffer the fate of Woking overnight but it will be on a slippery slope.

The final consideration is seldom articulated but deeply influential. It is the myth – arguably the foundational myth of the Residents for Guildford and Villages Group – that if higher and bulkier development is allowed in the Town Centre it will reduce development pressures on our villages.

This cannot be right. Such developments in the town are overwhelmingly for single people and couples wanting easy access to commuting networks. Developments in our rural communities are generally for families wanting gardens and space. There is no linkage.

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test 5 Responses to Letter: Wider Implications of the St Mary’s Wharf Proposal

  1. David Roberts Reply

    January 23, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    Only by protecting the countryside will developers be forced to look more seriously at the (for them, more expensive) alternative of regenerating our run-down town.

    Why Guildford Conservatives, who think they are in tune with the free market, continue to deny this central truth is a mystery. The Tory Local Plan pushes maximum development out onto green fields with no existing infrastructure, destroying biodiversity and worsening climate change, while most house buyers want the conveniences: buses, schools, shops, surgeries, jobs – of urban or suburban living.

    The crazily small “gardens and space” offered by the dense, new dormitory ghettos being erected in our villages offer no offsetting benefit to families, as Mr Mills will see if he glances at the footprint of the hundreds of new houses going up in the Horsleys. Public need is being sacrificed to developer greed.

  2. H Trevor Jones Reply

    January 24, 2022 at 9:17 am

    What nice views does it obstruct? With Guildford’s hills lying either side of the river, it surely won’t be high enough to obstruct views across the town from any of the hills.

    As regards car-parking, well residents of such a nice convenient town-centre location shouldn’t need cars. Perhaps have a communal car club or carpool for those special occasions when you think you do need a car, although I (as a single person) have lived my whole successful life of over 70 years without ever learning to drive.

  3. David Wragg Reply

    January 24, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    Brilliant! I agree entirely. Guildford must not become what some have described as “Woking-on-Wey”. The borough council should have policies that set a maximum height, for example, and perhaps a maximum population density.

  4. Susi Felton Reply

    January 24, 2022 at 5:39 pm

    Trevor Jones writes that he has never learned to drive. Well good for him. However some of us less fit do need our cars and public transport and car clubs are not always the answer.

    Regarding the Debenhams site, I think the building is too high but otherwise, it blends well with the rest of the road.

  5. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    January 25, 2022 at 1:43 pm

    The DMP policies are out for consultation. May I suggest as many as possible respond to the Regulation 19 consultation?

    Ramsey Nagaty is the leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group at GBC.

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