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North Street Developer Confirms Appeal ‘Imminent’, New Proposals to be Unveiled

Published on: 16 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 18 Jun, 2023

By Emily Cody-Stemp local democracy reporter

and Hugh Coakley

Developers will “imminently”appeal against the refusal of plans for 473 new homes and the regeneration of Guildford’s North Street. In parallel, a new planning application will be submitted by developer, St Edward for the area which has previously been called the “poor relation” to the county town’s “cobbled” high street.

Aerial view of the North Street Regeneration site

A planning application for the new homes, changes to the bus station and the pedestrianisation of North Street was refused by councillors in a knife-edge vote in January 2023, against planning officer recommendations, amid concerns about the amount of affordable housing offered, the height of the buildings and the impact on the character of the town.

Cllr Julia McShane

Council leader Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough) said the borough council had been working with St Edward to “explore a way forward” and that new plans for North Street had been presented to all councillors.

She encouraged residents to attend the developer’s online webinar on June 28. She said there would be a wider consultation run by the council, with details to be finalised.

Conservative group leader at GBC, Philip Brooker (Cons, Worplesdon) said he was disappointed the developer had decided to appeal.

Cllr Philip Brooker

He said the planning committee vote “was taken by duly elected councillors representing the views of the local people. During the recent election campaign, the views on the doorstep were overwhelmingly against the scheme which included tower residential blocks of up to 13 storeys.

“We welcome some of the proposals in the revised scheme which considers some of the concerns made by the committee in January, but we still believe that this revised scheme with 11 storeys is out of character with the surrounding areas and suggest that a scheme more in keeping with the last Conservative administration’s proposal would be more appropriate.

“We urge as many of the public as possible to participate in the public webinar to make their views known.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

R4GV lead Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Merrow) said: “I am really pleased that St Edward haven’t thrown in the towel and are looking to constructively work to deliver a scheme on this site. I am hoping that the public realm improvements are not compromised for the sake of a few more ‘affordable’ units that will still not be affordable to many residents.

“Personally I would prefer to see a more traditional design for the larger tower but I don’t see how a significant reduction in height is possible without severely compromising the planning gains of the scheme. With the Lib Dems already consenting nine storeys at 1 Onslow Street without even referring to Planning Committee, I don’t see how this scheme can be any lower than that so will probably end up being 10/11 stories.”

Ramsey Nagaty, GGG leader.

Chair of GGG, former councillor Ramsey Nagaty called for a “wider and thorough real consultation and not a tick box exercise”. He said: “GGG would prefer a max of seven stories which could be achieved by moving the bus station or building over it.

“To comply with SCC Highways objection there should be a return to entrance of the bus station from North Street and exit through Leapale Road which will reduce the amount of pedestrianisation of North Street. It is to be hoped that the GGG suggestion of facilities at the new bus station for drivers and passengers is taken up.

“The big concern is the viability and whether this will enable more affordable homes to be provided, which GGG and I am sure the other parties would all desire.”

Secretary of State Michael Gove had intervened ahead of the meeting, saying he wanted the final say on the decision if councillors had decided to approve the plans, but in the end it was the chair of tyhe GBC Planning Committee who had the deciding vote.

A CGI by St Edward of the pedestrianised North Street.

It is not the only large appeal GBC is facing, with the developers of a planned new town on the former Wisley Airfield also lodging an appeal with central government for non-determination of that application.

Council leader McShane confirmed a request would be made to the authority’s Executive for more money to deal with both appeals.

A St Edward spokesperson said: “Following the refusal of the planning application in January 2023 for the proposed regeneration of North Street, developer St Edward has confirmed its intention to appeal this decision with the Planning Inspectorate imminently.

“St Edward submitted a planning application to GBC in July last year for 473 new homes, the pedestrianisation of North Street, refurbishment of the bus station, and space for cultural and leisure uses, to complement the high street offering rather than compete with it.

“In addition, since the refusal, St Edward has continued to actively engage with key stakeholders, local residents and statutory authorities to understand the changes required to overcome the reasons for refusal. Following this positive engagement and alongside the appeal process, a revised planning application will be submitted that addresses these reasons, which will be heard at committee in autumn 2023.”

Other than discussions with the council, The Dragon is not aware of any consultation since the refused application in January, stated in the developer’s statement above. St Edward did not respond to our queries on consultation since January.

The Dragon invited the Guildford Labour Party to comment.

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