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Letter: Without the Excessive Height the North Street Scheme Had Real Merit

Published on: 19 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 19 Jan, 2023

From: James Gross

In response to: Lib Dem Claims of Working with North Street Developers Shows a Divided Party, Says R4GV

The celebrated Danish architect and urbanist Jan Gehl is oft quoted as having stated that “buildings above six storeys no longer can be considered of human scale and instead contribute to the ‘skyscape’ rather than the street”.

The bottom line here, seems to be that GBC in their Local Plan determination of the North Street site capacity (undertaken some years prior as testified by former councillor Geoff Davis), had not done the correct homework in assessing how many storeys would be needed to accommodate circa 500 homes on this site. Nor was the damaging impact on local townscape and character considered.

Developers Berkeley/St Edwards will have done their site viability on the basis of the adopted plan and capacity figures, but the blame for the ensuing mess sits with the council and the earlier work underpinning apparent (but perhaps not accurately tested) site yield.

The reality is that within the visual envelope of the established townscape and character of Guildford, developments of greater than six storeys cannot be readily accommodated without causing harm.

This is a costly miscalculation for all involved. With development and construction costs rising well in excess of double figures and the Planning Inspectorate taking around 55 weeks to determine appeals, viability will be rapidly diminishing for the developer.

The government’s: Living with Beauty Report

Whatever the nature of the land deal, it’s only the land value that can flex to help reduce the scale back to acceptable proportions and see any increase in affordable housing.

If GBC have any skin left in the land ownership game, then it is by demonstrating patient capital and a commitment to the stewardship of good placemaking (as espoused in the government’s Living with beauty: report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission) where this needs to flex, allowing all parties to deliver something of genuine value to the town and our community.

All told the whole process has reflected badly on many parties. A real shame, as without the excessive height, the remainder of the scheme had real merit, and could have been (perhaps still could be?) a real asset to what is rapidly becoming an eyesore of a town centre and a failing retail destination.

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test One Response to Letter: Without the Excessive Height the North Street Scheme Had Real Merit

  1. Mike Forster Reply

    January 20, 2023 at 10:43 am

    As the article suggests lots of good things have come out of the refused proposals and a great deal of issues have, in the main, been overcome.

    I respectfully suggest that GBC must not allow the redevelopment of this area to falter yet again and if heed is taken of the excessive height and perhaps a more sensitive architectural style is put forward, properly reflecting the overall character of the town centre, then it would be overwhelmingly supported.

    Perhaps, on this occasion, the landowners have to lower their aspirations on value so as to benefit the town centre and the community as a whole to achieve a redevelopment that will be a credit to everyone concerned for years to come.

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