Fringe Box



Opinion: Guildford Needs A New Local Plan Not Just a Review

Published on: 25 Jan, 2024
Updated on: 30 Jan, 2024

By John Rigg

Former R4GV lead borough councillor for Regeneration and now, once again, chair of the Guildford Vision Group

Guildford’s strategic planning is in a dire state.

Guildford needs an improved, updated Local Plan. The review, currently underway, will be inadequate.

John Rigg

Guildford Borough Council has consistently failed to provide any visionary planning policies for the town centre. So I am calling for an update of the 2019 Local Plan, not just a review.

The update should include valuable evidence, especially in relation to flooding, drawn from the council’s masterplan project, “Shaping Guildford’s Future”. Worryingly the council seems to be dropping this important initiative.

Much of the 2019 Local Plan’s “current” evidence studies are outdated – one dates back to 1995. Of the Local Plan’s 281 live documents, only 5 per cent have been updated in the last five years and a third are over 10 years old. The retail study risibly suggests we need the equivalent to a whole new shopping centre.

I am calling for an update of the 2019 Local Plan, not just a review.”

Yet the council’s 2023 Shaping Guildford’s Future (SGF) draft part 2 plan, produced by external experts, complies with major changes in national policy on Environment, Biodiversity and Climate Change and would help to provide some greater currency to the Evidence Base.

The 2024 review of the 2019 Local Plan provides just such an opportunity to take action. Yet there seems no appetite to use or endorse the recent work on masterplanning.

Has anyone at the council aspirations to improve Guildford and tackle its problems?

The town centre, by a huge margin, is the largest concentration of residents. 90 per cent of the population of the borough lives in less than 17 per cent of the land area. Yet the only current town centre-focused policy are few lines demanded by the Local Plan inspector who, when the plan was being examined, was dismayed to see such inadequate planning.

He immediately demanded a policy to be drafted overnight. It was, but not consulted on. It has failed to bring forward quality regeneration, instead there is stagnation.

So, we continue to have no plans to address flooding, no height restrictions, no guidance on density issues which we know is unpopular with the community.

There is still time to produce a visionary masterplan for the centre of Guildford. The arguments to not progress SGF will just waste £3 million on masterplanning and condemn the town to more failure.

How appropriate are our policies when existing major occupiers leave the town and new ones turned away? Neither the impact of Covid nor the collapse of the High Street is covered at the moment.

Not getting the flooding alleviation scheme… leaves the risk of a major flood”

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) instructions are crystal clear that Local Plan evidence should be up-to-date and relevant. SGF phase 2 meets both needs, at least for an important part of the town.

Not getting the flooding alleviation scheme – part of the SGF work – in place to address the sequential test is shambolic. It leaves the risk of a major flood and blights good sites in the centre in perpetuity. Without it, higher housing numbers are almost certainly destined for greenbelt or currently protected villages.

Securing Guildford’s Future, with its flood alleviation suggestions, could deliver homes, business, space river walks, new parks and help environmental, biodiversity and climate change objectives. And much of the work is complete and money spent.

There is an absence of positive planning… there is an absence of a vision”

Cries of “stop work” to reduce further modest costs are nonsensical when it delivers a town plan for Guildford’s future and its economy.

There is an absence of positive planning. Planning officers have consistently failed to fill this void. Councillors must bear much of the responsibility for this omission.

The need now is for the expensive planning strategy team to explain how their recommendation will improve the town and mitigate the threats to its success.

They should be asked to explain why there is an absence of a vision. They should also be asked to confirm their view that the evidence base is up-to-date and relevant for recommending the Local Plan ‘review’ in the form proposed.

The lack of engagement with forward-looking master planning also raises questions that need to be addressed.

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Responses to Opinion: Guildford Needs A New Local Plan Not Just a Review

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 25, 2024 at 9:33 pm

    The Burpham Neighbourhood planning team are actively amending the current Burpham Neighbourhood plan to ‘fit’ the new ward geographic area.

    We hope to complete early to mid 2025.

    As the Burpham Neighbourhood plan has been so successfully, copied by many, perhaps we could offer services to GBC for the Local Plan update. Starting late 2025, After all the only amendment to pt1 of the local plan was achieved by our chairman Christian Holiday in Burpham during the examination and only Councillor to abstain during the vote for the plan!
    So we have ability history

  2. Alan Judge Reply

    January 26, 2024 at 9:37 am

    John Rigg became a councillor based on campaigning for no high rises in Guildford. He then voted for the high rise North Street development when he was a councillor.

    John Rigg wants a new plan now he has been voted out.

  3. RWL Davies Reply

    January 26, 2024 at 4:59 pm

    Not much to criticise in John Rigg’s piece; all eminently sensible.

    But where’s the political will and the energised planners to update “the plan” in the context of events since 2019?

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    January 28, 2024 at 12:07 pm

    One difficulty is that Mr Rigg is no longer a borough councillor. As a result his influence is significantly smaller than it was.

    While he was a councillor he had every opportunity to address this issue. Many people, including the GGG councillors asked him to.

    Arguably his failure to address this issue (and the related issues of building heights, new towns, traffic etc), when he was in a position to do so, resulted in R4GV losing most of its seats on the council.

    No one listened then. Is anyone listening now?

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