Fringe Box



Scrapping Car Park Development Linked to Unifying Borough Council Offices

Published on: 23 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 23 Mar, 2023

Godalming Crown Court Car Park (Image: Google Street View)

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

Controversial plans to build houses on Godalming Crown Court car park and replace lost spaces with a multi-storey lot have been scrapped with opponents heralding the “U-turn” as a “spectacular victory”.

It comes after confirmation that Waverley Borough Council and Guildford Borough Council could close their own council offices and relocate under a shared building.

Cllr Paul Follows

Leader of Waverley Borough Council, Paul Follows, said the savings mean the car park scheme  – which drew a petition of more than 4,000 signatures –  is now off the table.

The news was met with joy from both the Godalming and District Chamber of Commerce and opposition councillors.

The plans had formed part of a regeneration project at three council-owned sites in the town, the Burys office building, Crown Court Car Park and the Wharf Car Park.

Cllr Follows posted to his Facebook page: “The proposals for Crown Court were not anyone’s first choice but we also could not, as responsible councillors, just ignore the financial issues.

“As such, my colleagues and I have sought to explore other options to remove the need for this aspect of the proposals.

“Guildford and Waverley councils will explore co-locating on to a site to be confirmed in the near future and subject to discussions and consultation with staff at both councils.

“At this point this isn’t a commitment to either of the current sites or even a totally different site.

The post was accompanied by a video of Cllr Fellows addressing Godalming Town Council.

He said: “I’ve heard that car park described as many things but I would certainly not agree that it is some kind of paradise or magnificent vista to look out upon. It is not even a particularly good functioning car park.

“I’m actually going to do something I wouldn’t normally do in this sort of meeting, but I think it’s an appropriate place to do it, being a meeting of the electors of Godalming, I’m going to put out information that is not available anywhere else and won’t be until the end of the week and is a little but of a preview.”

He added: “I’m pleased to announce that Guildford Borough Council and Waverley Borough Council will be announcing themselves their intentions to co-locate on a single site and that site will be determined in the near future”  – subject to staff consultation.

“Either way this decision should negate the need to undertake the crown court element of the project whilst addressing the financial pressures that both councils face.”

The relocation, he added, would be unlikely to affect housing developments proposed for Wharf Street.

Responding to the announcement, the Godalming and District Chamber of Commerce said it “warmly welcomed” the council’s decision “to U-turn on its plans to build houses on crown court car park in Godalming”.

A statement read: “The chamber strongly objected to the main proposal, which was to build residential housing on crown court, the town’s main car park which is ideally situated in the middle of the retail centre, just a short level walk straight on to the high street and conveniently positioned for all businesses including those in Church Street and the Upper High Street.

John Taylor, the chamber’s president said that 85 per cent of its current, past and potential members objected to moving the car park further away from the town centre

The news also welcomed by the opposite side of the political floor with Waverley Conservatives calling it a “victory for the local campaign” that “forced Liberal Democrat-led Waverley Council into a u-turn on their plans to develop the crown court car park and build a multi-storey car park in the town to replace it”.

Cllr Peter Martin, ward member for Godalming Holloway, said: “This is a spectacular victory for Godalming residents and local businesses, who united around this campaign, we had over 4,000 signatures on our petition against this plan and even the council’s own consultation showed their plan did not have the support of either the community or local businesses. I’m delighted that the Liberal Democrats have been forced to listen.”

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