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St Mary’s Wharf Plan Has 215 Homes in Eight Storeys But No ‘Affordables’ Specified

Published on: 23 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 29 Nov, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

A planning application for the anticipated new development “St Mary’s Wharf” on the prime, riverside, town centre Debenhams site has now been submitted.

When GBC and developers Native Land were asked how many affordable units there would be they both referred us to the application which states there will be “215 new residential units for private market housing”. The development will comprise  two buildings, controversially, up to eight storeys high.

Artists impression of St Mary’s Wharf viewed from Millmead. The illustration shows the flood mitigation wall adjacent to the river protecting the development.

The Local Plan seeks “at least 40%” affordable homes on developments but this is subject to discussions between the developer, Native Land, and GBC on the project’s viability.

A financial viability assessment by the property consultants, Gerald Eve, says the scheme does not achieve the expected “benchmark return” due to the high development costs.

If the proposal is approved, the existingl Debenhams building will be demolished in 2022, retaining the existing basement. The project is planned to be complete by 2025.

Illustrative view of St Mary’s Wharf from the High Street.

The residential-led application is for the “demolition of the existing building and the construction of two new buildings to provide 215 new homes, with flexible retail and commercial use, open space for the new residents and public realm” with a public square and a one storey pavilion to the north of the site. 

The submission has had three rounds of public consultation with “high levels of engagement and strong support for the creation of a high-quality development with new public access to the River Wey, places to live, shop, eat and relax, and high standards of environmental sustainability” says the developer.

Chair of the Guildford Society, Alistair Smith says they want the site developed but say the current proposals ignore Guildford’s heritage with a high building, nearly 14 metres higher than the existing Debenhams, with an overbearing mass which “will damage [Guildford’s heritage] forever, if they proceed”.

They are calling for a review of the scheme by Heritage England.

Mr Smith said: “Is Guildford really destined to be an 8-10 storey town without consultation?”

Native Land says its submission “reflects the many comments made during consultation”. They say the development will “open up the River Wey by creating publicly accessible spaces including a new biodiverse landscaped riverside walk and access from the High Street to the river for the first time in 50 years”.

Changes to the design during the consultation is said to include setting back the eighth floor on all four sides, reducing the number of dwellings from 228 to 215 and widening the proposed riverside walkway.

Consultation closes on December 10 2021.

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test 5 Responses to St Mary’s Wharf Plan Has 215 Homes in Eight Storeys But No ‘Affordables’ Specified

  1. Lisa Grant Reply

    November 23, 2021 at 6:58 pm

    What on earth are planners thinking? Guildford is a beautiful town and we don’t want high buildings like this. From what I can see it will be a massive carbunkle and without any social housing or even affordable homes, it has no place here.

    Guildford already has plenty of elite homes, in the prettiest parts of the town, it’s time the ordinary people of Guildford, particularly young families, were considered.

  2. Harry Elson Reply

    November 23, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    It is frightening to see the proposed design of the buildings that are going to replace the old Debenhams building. Please tell me that there are architects who can come up with something that is beautiful and will stand the test of time on such an important site.

    I have walked past the latest buildings in Walnut Tree Close and could not believe my eyes. The new station will also be an eyesore. What is happening to the Guildford I once knew?

    I remember when Bridge House was built in the Sixties and I hope these proposed buildings go the same way.

  3. Peter Mills Reply

    November 25, 2021 at 10:56 am

    The Planning Committee will wave this through, as they did the development on Walnut Tree Close. I listened to the recording of the planning meeting for that development, in preparation for objecting to the application for 12 one-bed flats on Annandale Road, on the plot where there was once a single house. I’m paraphrasing, but when discussing the proposal, one member of the committee said something like, “Well I don’t think we will get anything better”. Great attitude!

    And yes, 12 tiny one-bed flats with two parking spaces are being built on Annandale Road as I write this.

  4. Mark Chadwick Reply

    November 29, 2021 at 9:57 am

    I quite like the look of the proposed building.

    Architecturally it mirrors the style of the Rodborough Building and recalls Guildford’s industrial heritage which was of course the original function of the riverside.

    Whilst it is possibly several stories higher than one would like, it certainly complements the location better than the old Debenham’s building.

  5. Leigh Carter Reply

    December 1, 2021 at 8:01 am

    I agree that the proposed height and mass of the new buildings at St Mary’s Wharf will not complement the look and feel of the town and risk creating an overbearing mass very close to the town centre.

    I am also very disappointed that in this day and age of new and innovative technologies the architects and developers involved could not come up with a more affordable scheme to ensure it is built sustainably and with a decent level of affordable housing included.

    Let’s hope the Planning Committee do the right thing and push back on the current proposals.

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