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North Street Developer Cuts Tallest Building Height By One Storey

Published on: 6 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 16 Nov, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

The North Street developer of the 473 home Friary Quarter in North Street in Guildford has reduced the height of the tallest, 14-storey building by 2.2 metres, down to 13 storeys, and reduced the plant room after objections from Historic England and others.

The Friary Quarter model presented at the recent exhibition of the proposal for the North Street regeneration project shows buildings up to 14 storeys high plus a plant room storey.

The mixed reaction to the announcement by the developer, St Edward has ranged from enthusiastic endorsement by the R4GV leader for the £166 million investment in the town to accusations from Guildford Conservatives that the amendments were “welcome but marginal”.

See also: Opinion – Why Let Guildford Be Ruined By ‘Monstrous Mass And Height’ Buildings?

There are currently 51 supporters and 41 objections on the GBC planning portal to the application by the developer, St Edward. Most welcome the idea of the residential-led scheme in the derelict area of the town but many are unhappy with the scale and heights proposed.

Aerial view of the North Street Regeneration site

Wording on many of the supporters letters says the scheme would “transform a town centre derelict brownfield site into an area providing numerous community benefits without the need to develop farmland or on Green Belt land”.

But those who object are concerned at the height and mass of the proposed scheme. One objector said: “its sheer mass would be excessively dominant and would have a very negative impact” on the character of the town.

The developer, St Edward, a joint venture by M&G Real Estate and the Berkeley Group, say the tallest building will be lowered by the “equivalent of 1.5 residential storeys”. The 473 number of one, two, three and studio-bedroom homes would remain the same with one other building in the scheme increasing in height to make up the difference. [Updated; the article had previously said other buildings would be increased in height.]

Cllr Joss Bigmore was enthusiastic about the investment the developments were brining to the town.

Deputy council leader and leader for R4GV, Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for Guildford, we are attracting significant investment from high-quality developers which alongside the council’s own investment programme will transform our town after years of decline.

“I am proud that this has happened under R4GV’s watch. The town has been crying out for homes in sustainable locations, and a new bus station, whiilst the public realm around North Street has for too long been poor compared to the High Street and Tunsgate, this development delivers all those benefits.”

Guildford Society chair Alastair Smith welcomed the reductions in height but said the 10 to 13 storeys set a precedent in the town which others were already following. He said: “There needs to be an open debate about heights related to the density and number of dwellings in the town centre, not implementation by stealth.”

Sallie Barker, speaking for Guildford Conservatives, said: “The changes proposed by St Edward are welcome but marginal. It is essential that they now address the fundamental issues raised by the development proposals, the overall height and bulk of the development, the inadequate parking provision and their failure to contribute to addressing housing need in the borough.”

A spokesperson for the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) said they were generally in favour of town centre developments being “more sustainable and not increasing car use to the same degree as village and greenfield or greenbelt sites”. The spokesperson said the developer had listened to the concerns on height.

“GGG have been concerned at the dilapidated state of this area of the town for some years and are in favour of development,  but it must be the right development that takes into account the historic nature and character of Guildford, whilst embracing the future and utilising building methods and materials that take into consideration climate change.”

Sue Hackman would “welcome more creative ideas for reducing height”.

The Guildford Labour Party Sue Hackman liked the “way they’ve traded storeys in one building for another, and found a way to maintain the number of homes“. She said they remained “concerned that 13 storeys is still going cast a big shadow in the canyon between buildings, create a wind tunnel and look out of keeping with the typical heights in our ancient town centre.

“We would welcome more creative ideas for reducing height, and importantly, a better sense of what housing will be provided as this may determine how many homes can be accommodated in the building.”

Guildford Labour vice-chair Howard Smith questioned the finances behind the development. He said: “Personally I have concerns that the council sold a large portion of the site to St Edwards for a rumoured knockdown price of £3 million.

“We have asked, without response, if the council placed any conditions on the sale. We would also like to know if the council will be investing some of these funds in social homes on the site, and if not, why not?”

Bill Stokoe, chair of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) said: “I’m very supportive of this scheme and I believe the latest amendments represent another positive development on the journey to approval, which I hope will not be long delayed.

“The area has lain fallow for far too long. It’s been an eyesore for far too long. The town centre needs regeneration on this scale and I’m pleased it’s so people and pedestrian-friendly. GVG has long argued for wider pedestrianisation plus more town centre homes to help drive the centre’s economy, even more so in these uncertain times.”

We contacted Guildford Liberal Democrats for a comment.

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Responses to North Street Developer Cuts Tallest Building Height By One Storey

  1. William Lawrence Reply

    November 6, 2022 at 10:44 pm

    An inhuman disaster.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    November 7, 2022 at 10:03 am

    Well, that’s a big improvement… not!

  3. S Callanan Reply

    November 7, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    This is straight out of the Saint Mary’s Wharf playbook: submit a plan for unsuitable development while making pious noises about regeneration and much-needed housing. Then, when anyone with normal vision and a bit of taste says “No, hang on a minute, this just doesn’t fit in”, produce a plan to reduce the height a bit.

    How many versions of some development plans exist at the time the first is submitted?

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 7, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    The height of tall buildings close to the conservation area is of concern to many but I would also be interested to know whether the Surrey Fire & Rescue Service is content that the fire engines will have access around all these tall buildings.

    Access has to be wide enough for the engine’s outriggers. It seems from their model that some of these buildings are too closely located and the access around them seems cramped.

    The bus station proposal has seven main issues:

    – Longer route for buses from the south and west, having to pass through three extra sets of traffic lights;

    – Possible delays due to congestion at York Road roundabout;

    – Possible delays due to right turn into the bus station in Woodbridge/Leapale Road;

    – Reduced number of bus bays and inadequate layovers;

    – Inadequate or no facilities for bus users and drivers;

    – No provision for future expansion;

    – Missed opportunity to create a transport hub close to the railway station.

  5. M Durant Reply

    November 7, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    They cut the tallest buildings by one storey, how laughable.

    Are they all going to be expensive luxury flats like most of the buildings that have been added in Guildford in the last couple of years, I wonder who will afford them? A lot of people can’t afford basic items or their mortgages.

    We have had food shortages in the last couple of years in Guildford, does the area have enough resources for so many more people (water, electricity)?

    Several times I went to the supermarket and could not find normal products that are usually in stock. A couple of my friends in Guildford have been without electricity and water during the summer.

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