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Town Centre Tories Call for Time Out on North Street Plans Saying Height Limit Is Required

Published on: 8 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 10 Nov, 2022

A model of the North Street Friary Quarter proposals.

By Martin Giles

North Street Regeneration Proposals should not proceed in their present form. That is the view of the Town Centre Conservatives

While welcoming the changes proposed by developers, St Edward, to their planning application for the North Street Regeneration Area. They say they are only “initial steps in the right direction” and express disappointment that so far the developers have done little to address the fundamental issues which they describe as:

  • failure to meet the requirements in the adopted Town Plan that development ‘respond to
    the surrounding street pattern and historic environment, and take the care required in
    respect of massing, heights and roofscapes’;
  • inadequate parking provision that will increase parking pressures in the town centre and
    across neighbouring areas and add further to congestion;
  • little if any contribution to relieving housing need in the town.”

Cllr John Rigg

But Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity) countered by saying the May borough council elections were motivating the Conservatives to make these arguments.

“There are countless planning policies relating to design, views, impact, need etc and it is a question of balance that a planning committee must decide in reaching a decision on the benefits and if the benefit outweighs any harm caused.”

“As the project includes 475 new homes, reduced through negotiation from 735 to reduce height and massing, I still do not understand their comment that ‘it makes little if any contribution to relieving housing need in the town’.

“And I understand even less their reference to massing, heights and roofscape. I am not sure how we reduce heights and massing and add more housing.”

Branch Chair, Richard Mills, said while the prospect of regenerating North Street was welcome,  proposals “that work for residents and protect what makes Guildford special” were needed.

He said: “The North Street Regeneration will shape the future of the Town Centre for decades to come, so it is vital we get it right.”

See also: Why Let Guildford Be Ruined By ‘Monstrous Mass And Height’ Buildings?

The tallest building proposed for the northern end of the four-acre North Street Regeneration site has recently been reduced to 13-storeys.

The Town Centre Conservatives, in a statement, go on to say that they have also “reluctantly” come to the conclusion that a maximum height limit for new buildings in the town is now necessary.

“We had hoped that provisions within the Local Plan requiring proposed developments – and the council in handling them – to have regard for local context and particular regard for building height would be sufficient to protect our local skyline.  Recent experience suggests otherwise.

“We recognise that a maximum height policy may not prove simple and it may be some time before it can be implemented through the Local Plan process. In the circumstances, we hope that all parties represented on the council will make clear now that:

  • they will not look favourably on proposals that seek to bid up building height;
  • they will rigorously apply the word and the spirit of existing Local Plan provisions relevant to building height.”

Admitting that policy statements may not affect the legal position, the Conservatives hope they will make developers think twice before pushing proposals for high buildings.

The statement continued: “With towers rising to 14 storeys (seven higher than the current tallest blocks in Guildford and four higher than the tallest blocks so far granted planning permission) massed on a relatively small site, the development risks dominating the character of the town and impairing views and sight-lines as well as raising local issues of privacy and over-
shadowing.

“The special character of the town can only be protected by reducing the overall height and massing of the development.

“The bland design is similarly out of character with Guildford. It could be made more in keeping by incorporating Bargate stone elements, more traditional name stones and date stones, pitched roofs, and a greater variety of more traditional facades around windows and doors. The relatively recent St Luke’s Park development does many of these quite well.

“More generally having the buildings take more cues from the iconic High Street would make it more in character. There are some nods towards this in the proposals, but not nearly enough.”

But Cllr Rig pointed the finger firmly back at the Conservative’s track record on planning saying: “The Conservatives ran the council for a long period up to the 2019 election. They had unlimited time to set rules on massing, heights and roofscapes but chose not to do so.

“We currently live by their 2019 plan although at the moment l am pleased to say we are progressing new ‘Development Management Policies’ covering in great detail very many matters not addressed previously.

“Due to the current make-up of the council with no one party having an overall majority it was decided to have a cross-party panel including the Conservatives to set a direction in planning.

“Design, density and height were discussed at great length. It was recognised that a  fixed policy of ‘one size fits all‘ on heights was inflexible and interestingly only a tiny minority of councils have taken this approach. Usually, they still leave a large degree of flexibility to decide an application on its merits as at Cambridge.

“Judging a development here requires taking into account a broad spread of policies including protecting views, reflecting the special topography of Guildford, the very complex character including the need to value heritage balanced against regeneration and renewal to meet today’s needs. All have to be considered rather than a simple arbitrary limit for those that place a fixed solution on height above all else.

“I acknowledge North Street will be a new and contemporary quarter and it will impact the Guildford landscape. It will not suit some but those that live in the Friary Quarter will be pleased to have somewhere to live especially in the heart of this wonderful town. It will bring new life to the town and to the High Street and after 30 years of dereliction, it is in my view long overdue.”

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test 4 Responses to Town Centre Tories Call for Time Out on North Street Plans Saying Height Limit Is Required

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 8, 2022 at 11:17 pm

    Redevelop North Street to the current capacity of the infrastructure and integrate the transport system.

    Will solve everyone’s problems, perceived or actual.

  2. Helena Townsend Reply

    November 9, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    Is John Rigg really incapable of understanding what Guildford’s housing need is? It’s not tens of £450k one bedroom apartments, it’s affordable homes in sustainable locations. Sadly this development could have provided this.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 10, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    I believe a new-east west route, apart from reducing traffic and enabling removal of the gyratory and hence traffic from Friary Bridge, would open up areas on either side of it for development of affordable housing.

    It would also enhance the riverside regeneration in the town centre. So benefits are many.

    The only possible route at the moment is through Jewsons’s Yard and the light industrial buildings opposite it. It would proceed to join Woodbridge Road through Leas Road.

    The councils (GBC & SCC) would need to accept that it is necessary and then safeguard the route before more apartment block planning applications are lodged.

    A holistic approach to development of Guildford for housing, traffic problems and improved pedestrian, as well as new cycle lanes, are described in my website https://kvisit.com/Pg/yYsC

  4. John Redpath Reply

    November 11, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    Guildford needs a mix of housing and I would ask all those who comment here not to single out North Street as the only development in the town. What happens at North Street will largely be determined by the private developer, planning policy and demand.

    There are council-owned sites that are coming forward which are in sustainable locations where 40% of homes provide will both be affordable and meet the highest environmental standards. Guildford Park Road is one of these.

    It is very hard for the council to dictate what private developers do on the sites that private developers own. The trade-off against a lack of affordable housing at North Street is the offer of some fantastic public realm which will include pocket parks, pedestrianisation and a refurbished bus station, all of which will benefit so many.

    John Redpath is a R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity

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