Fringe Box



Still No Progress on Versailles Twinning

Published on: 25 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 27 Apr, 2020

Hotel de Ville Versailles and Guildford Guildhall

By Martin Giles

The silence from Versailles on the proposed twinning with Guildford has now lasted for over 12 months. Using diplomatic language, Guildford Borough Council would say only: “Discussions with Versailles are yet to progress any further.”

But one informed source described the proposal as “moribund”. The twinning was first discussed over two years ago.

See: No Comment From Versailles on Proposed Twinning with Guildford

Dongying, China

At the same time, the controversial partnership with Dongying, China has seen little activity other than an exchange of goodwill letters during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both initiatives contrast with the busy programme of Guildford-Freiburg twinning activities some of which will now be affected by the Coronavirus lockdown.

See also: Guildford Twinning Association Kicks Off Celebrations For Freiburg’s 900th Anniversary

A GBC spokesperson said: “Following their successful visit to Guildford in September 2019, a number of activities had been planned by Freiburg to celebrate its 900th Anniversary in Summer 2020. This included an official visit by Guildford and Freiburg’s other sister cities to Freiburg in July. Unfortunately, these celebrations have been postponed. A planned visit by Guildford in May 2020 as part of its International Sister Cities Business Start-Up Network was also postponed.

“There were talks about Dongying visiting Guildford towards the end of 2019, although a date proved difficult to find. Discussions with Versailles are yet to progress any further.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves, Leader of the Council says: “We really enjoy and value our excellent working relationship with Freiburg, the ‘Green City’. They set a great example for sustainability and dealing with climate change and we are proud to be affiliated with them. Between us, we share new learning opportunities and innovation to expand our knowledge on climate and new technologies.

“Recently we have received letters from the Mayor of Freiburg and the Mayor of Dongying, acknowledging the difficulties and hardships we have faced and wishing us well during the pandemic.”

Cllr Bob McShee, (R4GV, Worplesdon), who was critical of the Dongying partnership when it was proposed in 2017, said: “I haven’t heard the words Dongying or Versailles mentioned at council meetings for over a year.”

Cllrs Tony Rooth and Bob McShee

And his colleague Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) added: “Dongying is as different from Guildford as its wetland and oilfield are to our cobbled High Street and Guildhall. Yet GBC, in a move initiated by [former borough councillor] Matt Furniss made a partnership and civic visit with Dongying in 2017. Why?

“Wikipedia tells us that Dongying was established only in 1983 to develop the Yellow River delta and the second-largest Chinese oilfield. It is also renowned as one of the world’s leading producers of rubber tyres. Dongying had a population of over two million in 2010 with a climate of over 40 degrees in May-July.

“So ‘Yes’ to Freiburg and Versailles as ‘sister cities’  but ‘No’ to Dongying. Some councillors including Bob McShee and myself voted against this ridiculous journey but, unfortunately, not enough councillors did so to puncture its tyres.”

See also: Inscrutable Progress on Dongying Partnership



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Responses to Still No Progress on Versailles Twinning

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 27, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    I would have thought that the Dongying “twinning” was something the new leadership would want to forget.

  2. Gordon Bridger Reply

    April 27, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    Absolutely right. There was a consultant’s report on the Dongying link last year. It was a useless whitewash and never seems to have been discussed.

    I think Cllr Spooner and the vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey should tell the public what their initiative has achieved and what we can expect in the future.

    Last year when The Guildford Dragon NEWS investigated (see: Inscrutable Progress on Dongying Partnership) GBC refused to say if any funds or staff were allocated to the link nor even how or whether opportunities were being identified.

    It would be very interesting to find out whether there had been investment in housing, land or in the university since the link was established.

    Gordon Bridger is an honourable alderman and former Mayor of Guildford.

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