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North Street Scheme to Go to Appeal – Developer Commits to Compliance with Post-Grenfell Rules

Published on: 2 May, 2023
Updated on: 22 May, 2023

A developer’s impression of how the scheme would look. Image St Edward.

By Hugh Coakley

See updated statement from St Edward director below.

The controversial North Street redevelopment scheme, refused by Guildford Borough Council in January, is to go to appeal.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS asked the developer whether they were amending their plans to comply with new laws being introduced six years after the Grenfell Tower disaster. The new legislation will require high buildings to have two stairwells.

But Jack Nicholson, land and development director for St Edward also announced news of its intention to appeal. He said: “St Edward’s appeal against the Planning Committee’s decision to refuse the planning application for North Street is underway, and the plans have been amended to include second staircases where required to comply with the emerging Building Safety Act.

He further clarified that any further application would be compliant: “If St Edward decided to resubmit a revised planning application alongside the appeal, these plans would also be amended to include a second staircase where required.”

And later added: “St Edward instructed their legal and planning team back in February to commence the appeal proceedings, including updating the plans to comply with emerging Building Safety Act legislation and preparing the detailed Statement of Case, which is due to be issued to the Planning Inspectorate next month.”

The Dragon reported in February that a well-placed source had said that it was understood a decision to appeal had been made but at the time St Edward declined to confirm their decision.

See also: Developer Refuses to Confirm Decision to Appeal North Street Planning Refusal

The announcement by St Edwards came following the latest social media video by Robin Horsley, who has been relentlessly campaigning against the independent party, Residents for Guildford and Villages (R4GV).  In the video he is telling people to vote “for anyone other than R4GV”, dramatically warning of a Grenfell Tower type disaster if the North Street development isn’t stopped.

See also: The Dragon Says: No Party Can Promise To Stop North Street Development

Horsley accuses the party which has, for the last four years, shared power with the Lib Dems at GBC, of planning to rush through the North Street development to avoid new fire regulations which will require dual staircases in tall buildings over 30 metres tall.


Screenshot from the Robin Horsley social media video dated around May 1 2023.

he two-minute video shows Grenfell Towers burning with people screaming and crying in the background.

But with today’s announcement St Edward appears to have scotched that fear by saying second staircases will be included as required.

Reactions (obtained before St Edward’s announcement that they intend to appeal)

Dennis Paul in 2015

Former Conservative councillor, Dennis Paul, who once stood against Paul Spooner in a Conservative leadership election and lost his seat in 2019, called it a disgrace for “Conservatives to be promoting and sharing an election spoiler like this”.

He said it was “…scraping the barrel conflating the Grenfell tragedy with North Street planning” adding that it was an “insult to the Grenfell survivors to capitalise on their tragic loss for political gain”.

Cllr John Rigg

John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity) called the Horsley video “fake news continued”.

He said: “The claim that this scheme will “destroy the appeal of our town” is nonsense. What is the appeal of a run-down bus station, derelict sites, empty car parks and car-dominated North Street? This scheme would bring pedestrianisation, safe streets, new green spaces, over 100 new trees, a modern bus station, affordable housing and a diverse mix of leisure uses at ground floor to breathe life into this derelict part of town.

“The prospect of a further 30 years of dereliction is not, in my view, an attractive or sensible proposition for our town. To avoid that, vote R4GV on Thursday.”

Worplesdon county councillor Keith Witham.

But the Conservative candidate for Normandy & Pirbright in the forthcoming GBC election Keith Witham (Cons, Worplesdon) who shared the video in his newsletter to residents said: “It’s a very interesting and informative video that people should watch and make up their own minds. The R4GV party don’t take criticism for their actions very well.

“They are in power at GBC, they are responsible for their actions and decisions, and the voters should hold them to account. That is what local elections are for.”

Ramsey Nagaty, GGG leader.

Leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) Ramsey Nagaty, who is standing in Shalford called it “another Robin Horsley scare story”.

“GGG will seek to stop the proposed development as it currently is and would look for a wide public consultation after which detailed negotiations with the developer, St Edward, to take on board the results of the consultation, should take place.”

Christian Holliday, conservative candidate for Burpham and deputy chair political of the Guildford Conservative Association.

Conservative candidate for Burpham, Christian Holliday was not so dismissive. He said: “Robin Horsley’s series of videos raise some important issues about the future of Guildford.

“As a resident of the borough he is perfectly entitled to raise concerns, as is any other resident, but we do not ‘endorse’ messaging from others. As Mr Horsley is not a political candidate we can have no objection to our candidates sharing third-party content where appropriate.”

Howard Smith, vice chair of Guildford Labour Party.

Howard Smith, Guildford Labour vice chair and Labour candidate for Westborough, said: “Guildford Labour supports the building of new homes but not at any price. We want height limits set for different zones in the town to suit the prevailing style of the neighbourhood, and we need a big push to build council houses for the 2,000-plus people on the local waiting list.

“Why can’t R4GV and the Lib Dems just call a meeting to agree height limits? This is not rocket science, it’s democracy. We need to stop arguing and get to work on the developments Guildford needs.”

A spokesperson for the Guildford Liberal Democrats said: “We all want to see regeneration of the North Street site, but we believe it must be a regeneration which meets our town’s needs, and we hope that the developer is already considering amending the scheme to address the objections raised by January’s planning committee.

“The planning committee is, of course, non-party political, and each member of the committee is free to vote as they see fit. Any amended North Street planning application would need to be decided by the planning committee, and we would expect any Liberal Democrat members of the committee to keep an open mind and to consider for themselves the benefit of the application against any harm it may bring, including evaluating the application’s compliance with the national and local planning policies that Guildford Borough Council is legally bound by.”

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Responses to North Street Scheme to Go to Appeal – Developer Commits to Compliance with Post-Grenfell Rules

  1. Keith Parkins Reply

    May 3, 2023 at 12:35 am

    Greedy grasping developers have nothing but contempt for Guildford, its people and history.

    Take the opportunity on Thursday to kick out RVGV. Conned once don’t be conned again. Guildford deserves better.Not only this eyesore development where Joss Bigmore and R4GV have been a disaster for Guildford.

    And unaccountable Experience Guildford has been a disaster for Guildford. The BID Levy, a tax on top of business rates, is killing struggling local businesses.

    As council leader Joss Bigmore fell over backwards to promote and defend Experience Guildford, casting 27 votes for the BID to continue killing struggling local businesses, car parks voted, public toilets voted.

    His claim there was no partnership between GBC and Experience Guildford was untrue.

    GBC enabled the BID, the council collects and enforces the BID levy, letters on joint letterheads are sent to BID levy payers and there is a signed operating agreement between GBC and Experience Guildford.

    Joss Bigmore and R4GV must be kicked out in the Local Elections on Thursday before they inflict further damage on Guildford.

  2. Helena Townsend Reply

    May 3, 2023 at 6:53 am

    Many people are saying that if R4GV get control of the council they will work with the developer to make minor amendments and re-submit – is this action therefore nervousness from St Edward who are not confident R4GV will secure control.

    The election in Guildford is too close to call, initially I thought R4GV had it in the bag but this Horsley video has done some serious damage to their reputation.

  3. Robin Horsley Reply

    May 3, 2023 at 10:27 am

    This is a misleading headline. The developer is saying they are appealing the current scheme – with single stair-wells. That’s the bottom line.

    My understanding now is that the construction industry expects that all new schemes will have to have two stair-wells if they are over a height of 18m following calls from the Chartered Institute of Housing and others for this limit.

    If second stairwells were added to the blocks, it would be an entirely different proposal. The living space would be reduced in each block to accommodate a second stairwell. So presumably the flats would either be made smaller or there would be less of them. The position of the proposed second exits from the blocks would need to be considered by the planning committee also.

    As the Lib Dems who currently have the most Cllrs on the Council have said, “Any amended North Street planning application would need to be decided by the planning committee…”

    The appeal must therefore be an attempt to force through the single-stair well scheme as I warned might well be attempted.

    Responding to the comment Jack Nicholson, land & development director, St Edward said: “We confirm and reiterate that the scheme, whether submitted on appeal or as a new application, will comply with the emerging Building Safety Act when these new regulations are adopted. The result of the appeal will be decided by the Planning Inspector, not the Planning Committee, who have already determined the application.”

    • Sue Wyeth-Price Reply

      May 3, 2023 at 4:08 pm

      Robin Horsley either misunderstands the planning law, or is deliberately misrepresenting it.

      As a participant in three appeals now, on behalf of residents, I have seen developers amend plans between refusal at the planning committee and the appeal itself. Indeed, this is standard practice. In the most recent appeal I attended, as an advocate for AGRA [Ash Green Residents Association], the applicant amended the site layout to remove a number of houses, and added an entire new field to the application in an attempt to mitigate environmental concerns.

      The council has no opportunity to decide on any amendment that takes place during an appeal. That decision sits with the planning inspector from the moment the appeal is verified by PINS.

      Sue Wyeth-Price is now an R4GV borough councillor for Ash South

  4. John Redpath Reply

    May 3, 2023 at 9:02 pm

    The best thing about this report, produced by the very credible Hugh Coakley, is that for the first time that I can remember (editor correct me if I’m wrong) Guildford Dragon NEWS have used a different view of the development, rather than the one that only a pigeon flying past would see.

    The architecture may not be to everyone’s taste, but thank you Dragon for showing your readers something different from the view plagiarised and then doctored (by the removal of all the existing surrounding high buildings) by a certain activist who only wants to exaggerate what he perceives as bad.

    Yes, you are completely wrong. We have used numerous images in our coverage of North Street. The photos of the developer’s model were taken by me and Hugh Coakley at different times, without discussion, simply from head height. We asked for photos taken by the developer of the model but were told ours were better. Ed

  5. Peta Malthouse Reply

    May 4, 2023 at 4:32 am

    Sorry….this is a total red herring of a lie. ANY planning approval is subject to Building Regulation Approval. You cannot build your approved dwellings unless they are compliant with the law and we have Building Inspectors at the Borough to check that. The councillors do NOT give consent to build anything which is not compliant.Try this

  6. S Foster Reply

    May 4, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    It is strange how elected members of the council say that the site has been laid dormant for 30-40 years. When you look at Google earth imagery you can clearly see that this was not the case and that demolition began in 2014-2015 (less than 10-years ago).

    I do not trust these people who have a vision for the town based on their capitalist ideologies (no affordable or social housing, screwing up the vistas across the town for capital gain).

    Does anyone really think that bringing 400 highly paid professionals into the town will fix the demise of the high street? They will still shop online like we all do.

    Focus on improving culture, providing affordable parking after 6pm and stop chasing the £.

  7. Michael Ney Reply

    May 14, 2023 at 4:46 pm

    There is a cry for height limitations on developments to be brought in by the new council. The Local Plan (passed by the previous council but one) does not include any limitations on height within the borough, so the North Street proposal complies. Until there is a revised Local Plan the issue remains.

    Editor’s comment: There is a supplementary planning document (SPD) to protect views but the North Street proposal was compliant.

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