Fringe Box



Shock North Street Developer’s Scheme Catches Councillors By Surprise

Published on: 26 Nov, 2019
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2019

Part of the North Street site cleared for redevelopment

By Hugh Coakley

A preliminary application for a large-scale, 15-storey development in North Street seems to have caught many, if not all, borough councillors off guard.

The request, sent to GBC on November 15 by Savills, on behalf of developer St. Edward (Berkeley Homes Urban Renaissance), is for “an opinion on the information to be supplied in an Environmental Statement (a ‘scoping opinion’)”.

The information will be used in an Environmental Impact Assessment and gives the first outline description of the much-discussed town centre development, as envisaged by the developers.

Excerpt from the developer’s submission to GBC showing the North Street development Red Line Boundary plan. Click to enlarge.

The application shows the proposed development will comprise “residential-led, mixed-use redevelopment, consisting of up to 90,000sqm total floor space”, and include:
• Up to 850 homes;
• Retail and leisure use;
• Food and drink use;
• Flexible commercial, retail and leisure use;
• New civic squares and pedestrian routes through the site; and
• A new bus and coach station.

The buildings would range from five to 15 storeys, Commercial Road and Woodbridge Road would be permanently closed and the bus station relocated further east, towards Leapale Road.

Cllr John Rigg, R4GV lead member for Major Projects.

Cllr John Rigg, (R4GV, Holy Trinity), a former Savills director, who leads for the council on Major Projects, said angrily: “The application for an Environmental lmpact Assessment (EIA) scoping opinion ahead of a planning application was a surprise to me and every member of the Executive, including the leader.

“I welcome any sign of progress with this long-running saga but councillors should not be the last to know, especially on a site we partly own.

“I have been actively requesting a briefing or sight of a development brief from our Planning Department since our election in May.

“Our residents deserve to know what is happening on this important site. I was able to meet the developer recently and I am surprised he made no mention of submitting an application.”

‘Leasehold ownership’ GBC land within the developer’s Red Line Boundary amounting to an estimated 17% of the total. Taken from the GBC plan of council owned land and buildings.

In a frank admission of dysfunction within the council, Cllr Rigg said he did not even know whether a development brief existed. “I have asked but received no reply,” he added.

Council leader Cllr Caroline Reeves, (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), said: “After years of waiting for progress on the redevelopment of North Street, this is a step in the right direction, but it is only a first step. The scoping request submitted by Savills is part of the usual process, but it is nowhere near what the final development would look like.

“Any scoping request will always look at the maximum levels of development both in height and number of units. This is not a planning application, and no project of this scale can proceed without first going through full and wide public consultation.”

The shops from Barclays at Woodbridge Road to Burger King at Commercial Road, are outside of the Red Line Boundary and also not be part of the new development.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS asked Cllr Reeves and Cllr Jan Harwood, (Lib Dem, Merrow), lead on Planning, Regeneration and Housing Delivery, to confirm they had been unaware the application was to be submitted but no response has yet been received.

In a Dragon interview earlier this month, Cllr Rigg expressed guarded optimism in the choice of developer, Berkeley Homes. But this optimism and the hope that owning part of the development land would give the council a measure of planning control appears to have been shaken.

He said: “It is our role to either lead from the front in identifying the right scheme or at least working as valued partners with the developer.

“It is a critical site and the community want a new approach after recent planning failures such as the Solum Station scheme. We simply cannot permit a repeat of that project on North Street.”

He also wants public consultation on a range of style options to be presented by the developers. It is uncertain whether the GBC Planning Department agreed with this approach.

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Responses to Shock North Street Developer’s Scheme Catches Councillors By Surprise

  1. Mike Forster Reply

    November 26, 2019 at 9:39 am

    It is very surprising that this site, which by any standards is a major development for Guildford, is being brought forward in advance of a much-needed masterplan for the town centre as a whole.

    Similarly, recent new proposals for the redevelopment of the Casino nightclub should only be advanced once a masterplan has been prepared and approved.

    Both sites lie within Guildford’s unique town centre and demand any future development to properly enhance the existing environment for generations to come.

  2. Alan Robertson Reply

    November 26, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Going by past outcomes, even the most inappropriate developments from wealthy speculative developers will be passed by GBC.

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