Fringe Box



Vision Group Calls for Delay to North Street Developer Selection

Published on: 18 Apr, 2013
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2013

Vision group logo3Plans for North Street should be put on hold to allow discussions with PRUPIM, currently buying the Friary Centre, and further consideration of which development partner to select, according to the Guildford Vision Group (GVG).

Leaders of the group explained their assessment of the proposals submitted by three shortlisted firms at a public meeting attended by around 150 people at Millmead Baptist Centre on Monday evening (April 15).

They disagree with the council’s recommendation and presented their scoring of the proposals rating Land Securities as the best. But Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) Executive is expected to accept the evaluation committee’s recommendation for Australian developer Lend Lease.

GVG believes the council should pause for  four to six weeks in its deliberations and engage directly with PRUPIM that will be the primary landowner in the development site.

GVG’s chairman, John Rigg, a property professional who works for Savills, said: “GVG is pro-growth and wants to see improvements to our town centre, but Guildford has no current Local Plan, nor an up to date evidence base, by which to judge the impact of major schemes like that for North Street.

GVG Team 1

The GVG presentation team: John Rigg, Gerald Bland, Julian Lyon and Bill Stokoe.

“It is a significant shortcoming and leaves the door open for ad hoc planning across the town, with the risk of unintended consequences. And North Street is only one of three significant schemes currently in prospect. There’s the foodstore at Bellerby and, coming down the line, the Solum scheme at the station. Hence our call for a masterplan and the involvement of the primary landowner.”

A GVG spokesperson said: “A lack of a settled plan, plus the associated evidence base, also makes it impossible to judge the impact of the three schemes against each other, especially when it comes to key aspects such as traffic congestion and the pedestrian experience.

“A masterplan, a step GVG has been calling for, would have helped considerably if the work had got under way a year ago, for example.”

GVG Audience 2

The meeting, held at Millmead Baptist Centre, attracted an audience of around 150.

GVG’s scoring of the three shortlisted developers drew, it says, on the combined professional experience of its team and an objective assessment of the developers’ submissions. The exercise was run in concert with representatives from other local bodies, such as The Guildford Society and East Guildford Residents’ Association, an umbrella organisation for several residents associations.

A question is asked from the floor

A question is asked from the floor.

The group admits that all three developers have good credentials but in GVG’s view, Land Securities has reputation, size, and much more recent and relevant experience. GVG also believes that Land Securities has the appetite and expertise to more fully explore infrastructure funding opportunities, something it says Guildford should really look to take full advantage of, given issues such as congestion and poor transport planning.

Questions from the floor covered issues such as: bus services; the evidence to support the increase in retail retail space;  the cost of a masterplan and the time it would take; and the balance between sustainable development and maximum financial return.

A number of GBC councillors and officers attended, including Cllr James Palmer, lead councillor for the town centre and transport. He was invited to speak and he detailed the various actions GBC is taking, in concert with Surrey County Council in the case of traffic. He encouraged people to attend the meeting of the Executive on Thursday, April 18, at which Lend Lease would be making a presentation.

GVG Audience Cllrs 3

In the audience, Cllr Palmer (Con, Shalford) looking to his left. On his left is Cllr David Goodwin (Lib Dem Friary & St Nicolas) on his right is Cllr Bob McShee (Con, Worplesdon) and Cllr Nikki Nelson Smith (Con, Christchurch). In front of her is Cllr Sarah Creedy (Con, Holy Trinity) and next to her (with glasses) strategic director (finance) Sue Sturgeon.

Speaking after the event Cllr Palmer said: “I was very pleased to hear the presentations tonight. I think GVG have been following some familiar themes and I look forward to taking to them further.

In response to GVG’s request for a delay to allow further consideration before selecting a development partner he commented: “Well, as it says in the council report to the Executive, we have had discussions with PRUPIM and we have given them serious consideration.

“We believe that the best course, having followed a seven-month process to appoint a development partner, is that we should continue with that process and hopefully Lend Lease, PRUPIM and the council will partner together to bring forward the new development.”

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Responses to Vision Group Calls for Delay to North Street Developer Selection

  1. David Smith Reply

    April 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Well it’s not all bad news, in terms of delays that is. I approve of the postponement.

    The Aldi application at the former Green Man in Burpham will be determined at next Tuesday’s Planning Committee (30 April) and has been recommended for approval, subject to various contributions including Highways.

    Hopefully this, if approved, will provide Guildford with much needed investment of which there is little at the moment, what with the ongoing Waitrose saga.

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