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North Street Decision Reactions

Published on: 12 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 15 Jan, 2023

The Guildford Dragon NEWS invited responses to the decision by the planning committee of GBC to reject the North Street proposal from St Edwards.

Latest: See the added comment from Amanda Masters, CEO of Experience Guildford, below.

A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said: “There was broad agreement by the Planning Committee that regeneration of this derelict site was welcome and that the proposal included a number of good quality and highly welcome aspects, such as being highly sustainable and providing a new medical centre and well-designed public spaces.

“However, it was also clear that the committee members had strong reservations around the lack of affordable housing, the reduced size of the bus station, and the impact the height of the scheme would have on the character of the town.

“We do hope – and would encourage – St Edwards to respond to this decision by continuing with their conversations with the council and by coming back with an amended scheme which addresses the concerns raised by the committee and the public. We do not want to see this site standing empty.

“We would also like to point out that we strictly follow the probity in planning rules and absolutely do not whip, or attempt to influence, our planning committee members to follow a party line. Every Liberal Democrat member of the committee always makes their own, individual decision based on planning rules and the evidence in front of them.

The above statement was not included in the original version of this article. We apologise for our oversight. Ed.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Joss Bigmore the leader of Residents for Guildford & Villages said: “Last night’s Planning Committee was devastating for all those that want to see Guildford thrive.

“The developer will either exit the town or commit the council to a costly appeal process the latter will almost definitely lose. We have already wasted nearly £500k of taxpayers’ money on failed appeals this year due to the poor judgement of the Lib Dems mistakenly voting down schemes. That is 4 per cent of the annual income from council tax – our money. It is shameful.

“Whilst we can expect political games from the Conservatives, embarrassed by the achievements of R4GV, it is tragic that the Liberal Democrats have behaved like this.

“So where from here?  Hopefully the developer appeals, the council lose and it doesn’t cost too much money.

“Worst case, like the previous eight failed schemes over the past 30 years, the developer
walks away because Guildford Borough Council is too difficult to deal with, and we are left with a derelict site for another 30 years, thanks to the tribalism of national political parties putting party first.”

Sallie Barker

But the Guildford Conservatives supported the decision. Sallie Barker, Chair of Guildford Conservatives, said: “Guildford Conservatives welcome the sensible decision made by the Planning Committee last night on the current proposed development.

“We have always supported the regeneration of the site at North Street, however, we cannot accept development for development’s sake in our special town.

“We believe that substantial improvements need to be made before the current North Street proposal would be in a position we could support

“Local residents are backing our plan to revise the proposals at North Street, to ensure any future development is accommodating to its surroundings and represents a complimentary addition to our historic town.

“Following this decision, we hope that the R4GV-Lib Dem Council will take this opportunity to press for positive changes to the proposed development in the interests of Guildford residents, and we look forward to seeing any further proposals.

“The North Street Regeneration will shape the future of our town centre for decades to come, so it isvital that the final result is the right result.”

Cllr Catherine Young

Clandon & Horsley borough councillor Katherine Young, speaking for the Guildford Greenbelt Group was very unhappy: “There are more than 400 new homes approved around The Horsleys – allocated sites, windfall, infiling, you name it, it’s being built right now. There are no extra school places, no extension to the medical centre or extra pharmacy provision, no extra parking at the Railway Station, and our local roads have been completely destroyed by HGV movements.

“Yet before the committee last night was a scheme that would transform a mostly derelict site, with new homes and retail, cafes and pedestrianisation, as well as a much-needed refurbished bus station.

“There were outcries about density and height, yet it is ok to double or triple the density on allocated sites in our rural areas, and accept heights way above the local character no matter the harm to our rural setting.

“I could go on, but I’m so disturbed by the politics at play here with national parties calling the shots as to where development should or shouldn’t go. If they want a derelict Town Centre and a ruined countryside then so be it, let’s hope voters can see through all this when it comes to the elections in May.”

Amanda Mullarkey

The chair of the umbrella organisation the Guildford Residents Association, Amanda Mullarkey, took a different view: “The decision is a  massive relief and a sign of hope.

“We are grateful to all councillors who decided the application would be too harmful to go ahead its current form.  We are also grateful to our MP and to the Secretary of State for intervening to remind us all what a big step it would have been to turn Guildford into a high-rise town with a dysfunctional bus station had the vote gone the other way.

“We hope it will be possible to work with St Edwards and the borough council to revise the scheme so it is more in keeping with the character of Guildford.  We also hope councillors will press for the urgent introduction of a Heights Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for Guildford.  Brighton has one, London has one.  Why not Guildford?

We think it is time for our councillors to push back against officer resistance and provide guidance on heights that developers need to avoid abortive effort on tower block schemes.

Alistair Smith

And the chair of the Guildford Society also agreed with the decision: “The Society objected to the scheme despite recognising that the scheme has many good elements, which hopefully can be rescued for the future, but these were overwhelmed by issues related to density, height, mass and other matters.

“This application, together with the consented St Mary’s Wharf scheme [for the redevelopment of Debenham’s] , highlights the lack of an overall strategy for the town and supporting policies.

“The ‘Shaping Guilford’s Future’ programme can be the vehicle to provide clarity for developments in the Town.  It will be interesting to measure the various party’s commitment to seeing this programme through to conclusion at the Local Elections.

Robin Horsley

Robin Horsley, who recently started a campaign to complain about the lack of public consultation on the scheme said: “No doubt, this is a shattering disappointment to many who put a lot of work into the development project.

However, perhaps the reason that a scheme for that site has failed on nine different occasions in the last 30 years is because the people of the area were not all consulted and therefore when the time came, no scheme was viable.”

Amanda Masters

Amanda Masters of Experience Guildford reflected the disappointment of the business community she represents: “The plans were largely welcomed by the business community. Many view that area of town as run-down and unwelcoming. Any change would be for the better.

“There was renewed optimism that, finally, something was going to be done. This setback has disappointed many of the business community who have been waiting for a long time to see an improvement in the North Street area.”

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test One Response to North Street Decision Reactions

  1. John Murray Reply

    January 13, 2023 at 10:38 am

    In essence, this was a scheme consisting of over-development based on high-rise blocks. It would have been the beginning of the end of Guildford as an historic and picturesque town and put it on the road to becoming similar to New Malden. The rest was just noise.

    One councillor who spoke mocked the attitude of those who want the town to retain its essential character, forgetting that this is why people choose to live here.

    The Lib Dems can be criticised for changing their position but at least they were prepared to take account of the concerns of the residents, which is more than can be said for the “we know best” attitude of R4GV. Yes,something needs to be done and yes the developers may well walk away but doing something can be worse than doing nothing and this proposal was such a case.

    As Amanda Mullarkey observes: “This decision is a massive relief.” We all have cause to be grateful.

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