Fringe Box



New Twist In Waitrose Site Saga After Judge’s Ruling

Published on: 31 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 31 Jul, 2013

The saga over the proposed Waitrose store in Guildford town centre continues.

The Bellerby theatre site where the council have granted Waitrose permission to build a supermarket

The former Bellerby Theatre site where a Waitrose supermarket and affordable housing has been earmarked.

Although the High Court has now dismissed an application for a judicial review from the Guildford Vision Group’s (GVG) to quash planning permission to develop the former Bellerby Theatre site, the pressure group has appealed against the decision.

It means the long-awaited decision will not be made until the autumn.

Guildford Borough Council welcomed the High Court’s decision in which a judge rejected GVG’s challenge on all three grounds without a hearing and ordered GVG to pay the legal costs of the council and Waitrose.

Cllr James Palmer, Lead Councillor for Town Centre Planning and Infrastructure, said: “I am pleased that the learned judge endorsed the council’s decision to grant permission. This was the democratic decision of elected councillors and we recognise the need for more food shopping in the town centre. We shall continue to defend our position now that GVG, regrettably, has not accepted the court’s judgment and instead has appealed against it”.

The leader of the Guildford Borough Council, Stephen Mansbridge, added: “Our town, the county town of Surrey, has patiently waited for a Waitrose to open for more than 20 years. I remain disappointed that a small group of people can frustrate the wishes of the residents of our borough who just want to be able to shop in a new Waitrose supermarket.

“We are short of affordable housing and the last objections to this development are preventing affordable homes from being built in the town centre. Democracy is about elections and representation and it is not about a small corporate entity espousing expertise and demanding control through actual and threatened litigation, when good dialogue and partnership can achieve so much more.

“We await a decision from the court in due course. However, the appeal is unlikely to be heard until November –  imposing a further delay of three to four months.”

A spokesman for the Guildford Vision Group said: “There were originally three grounds for the judicial review. GVG has demonstrated that the planning process was flawed in two areas as Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has corrected them as a result of our judicial review application. The case continues on the third ground.

“We have asked for an oral hearing, to which we are entitled, which will probably take place in October when the arguments can be presented to permit a full review to take place in due course.

”The spokesman added that GVC considers that a foodstore with large surface car park on the council-owned Bellerby site is the wrong use for this housing land on the council’s own policies and that a national planning test, designed to put retail uses such as this into the town centre scheme, was misapplied.

He further added: “Setting aside the country’s priority of more houses, including affordable homes, there are better ways to accommodate food shopping in the town centre, not least on the North Street site which the council are keen to develop.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), said: “I am disappointed that we are, once again, left waiting for a decision on the Bellerby Theatre site.

“Having heard that a High Court judge had dismissed the GVG request for a judicial review on all three counts without a hearing, and awarded costs against the GVG, I was hopeful that work might start to bring some life back into the area.

“The problems around the empty site continue to increase and the residents of Haydon Place are suffering on a daily basis. I have already been contacted by residents who want to know why an unelected pressure group can exert so much influence, and who is bank rolling them – a challenge to a judicial review is an expensive route to take.”

What do you think? Have your say by leaving a comment in the box below.

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Responses to New Twist In Waitrose Site Saga After Judge’s Ruling

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 31, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    It was as long as over twenty years ago that there was determined effort to relive the Town centre of traffic congestion.

    The major stores of Sainsburys and Tesco were moved from the town centre for these major stores were mainly frequented by the car born shopper stocking up supplies for the next week.

    This kind of shopper was regarded in a different way from the casual shopper and to accommodate their needs a considerable amount of Council Tax Payers’ money was spent on the park and ride system.

    Since then traffic (a great deal of it through traffic) has increased considerably. Despite this the policy seems to be tending to bring back this trade into central Guildford.

    Yes, most of us would welcome Waitrose but surely not into the heart of Guildford. A town centre which struggles each day to avoid almost gridlock.

  2. Torkil Fredborg Reply

    July 31, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Seems like a very clear ruling and a losing battle for GVG. As a local resident very much affected by this development – or the lack thereof – I would like to know who the GVG really represents and who is funding them. Maybe the Dragon could enlighten us?

  3. Phil Mitchell Reply

    August 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    It’s a shame this site is being left in a state of dereliction. But having looked at a couple of the “artists renditions” is it just me that thinks this huge chunk of concrete and glass looks more like a young offenders institution than a shop and some houses?

    It’s only the fact that it is next to Guildford’s Nuclear Bunker, aka the telephone exchange, that I think anyone would dream of allowing this in its present form. Have I missed out on some green space proposals? It seems out of all proportion and makes the view from Salvatores hair salon look like a large city intersection.

    It’s worth noting too, that the picture is incorrectly captioned. Shown is the site of the demolished sheltered housing. The Bellerby site, with a couple of architecturally interesting and soon-to-be-lost industrial buildings is still intact.

    Anyone with a long enough memory will recall the site pictured used to be a row of cottages similar in style to those of Hayden Place, leading to a few small industrial units and next to a bakery adjacent to the pub “The Live And Let Live”. Now, of course, a car park.

    I look forward to being able to view the full plans online.

  4. Torkil Fredborg Reply

    August 3, 2013 at 11:22 am

    In response to Phil Mitchell – anybody is obviously entitled to their own view of the design, but let’s not forget that these plans went through a full public consultation last year, where many of us provided comments and some changes to the proposals were made as a result.

    I believe the plans and comments are still available on the GBC planning website.

  5. David Ogilvie Reply

    August 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    The Bellerby site is currently zoned for housing for which there is a real need in Guildford.

    Waitrose would be much better located in the North Street Friary Phase 2 development that is zoned for commercial use and where there is scope for proper service access.

    If Waitrose proceeds on the Bellerby site we loose the trees on York Road, we lose the much used underpass, we gain traffic congestion, a large area of tarmac, articulated lorries in College Road, an alien oversize building and proposals for housing in the Green Belt.

    See latest Council evidence base document “Green belt & Countryside Study”

  6. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    As far as I can make out from various documents available on the internet, the Bellerby site was originally intended to have around 75 houses built on it but this plan of 2007 lapsed in 2010. I assume there was no interest from the developers at the time due economic turmoil. GBC then changed the use of this site to mixed retail and housing and hence we have now Waitrose proposal that includes a modest number of housing.

    Recently published information by GBC on parcels of building plots in the town centre and elsewhere and the target numbers of housing that could be built by 2031 seem quite comprehensive. The loss of a small number of housing on Bellerby site should have not any significant effect on the provision for number of potential houses.

    Yes, maybe Waitrose could be located within the North Street development but then it cannot be a full-size store. Rent and rates are a lot higher in the core centre and therefore it would not perhaps make commercial sense for Waitrose. Waitrose would want, I guess, shoppers in large numbers who shop weekly and transport their shopping by cars. Shoppers would readily come to know when to shop and thus avoid peak hour traffic.

    Closure of the underpass is SCC’s proposal, not Waitrose’s. It could be retained by extending it with new steps only and the at-grade crossing working in tandem for those who cannot manage the steps. With only left turn into and left turn out of Waitrose site, York Road needn’t be widened to the extent as currently planned and a lot of trees then could be saved.

    Articulated lorries from Waitrose site should be provided with a route back to Onslow Street in conjunction with redesigned multiple bus stops and waiting area integrated with the Friary Extention. Such integrated planning requires cooperation of all parties to consider how best Guildford could be improved as a whole.

    Those readers who have seen my website would already be aware of comprehensive proposals for the gyratory, relocation of the bus station and modified bus routes, railway station forecourt development and a direct pedestrian route from the railway station to Onslow Street/Friary. Solutions are there and only if there is a desire to examine these instead of talking about the problems all the time, we may get a satisfactory outcome.

  7. Pete Knight Reply

    August 9, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Just because something was once allocated for residential does not mean it’s allocation cannot change. We need to be a bit more dynamic here and accept Guildford needs to change. As a result, plans and policies should be flexible to take this into account.

    Guildford Plaza site is a typical example, now residential is being explored. The new offices at Woodbridge Road are on a site once designated as housing. The historic allocation is not an acceptable reason to challenge our elected council members.

    How is the Waitrose proposal alien compared to the telephone exchange building and the adjacent Printing House Square? What nonsense.

    A Waitrose in the town centre will not change the additional traffic. If anything it will add to it, as at least the Bellerby site restricts the size of the store to be smaller than Godalming.

    I hope the judge tires of the Guildford Vision Group as the rest of Guildford are starting to.

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