Fringe Box



Waitrose Gets The Planning Go Ahead

Published on: 7 Nov, 2012
Updated on: 7 Nov, 2012

In the first of two major and controversial planning decisions last night (November 6), Guildford Borough Council approved an application for a Waitrose supermarket on the Bellerby Theatre site by York Road.

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The decision represents a clear risk for the council. If predictions made by objectors are realised and traffic congestion is made significantly worse, the decision will appear ill-judged and difficult to rectify. But traffic surveys carried out have concluded that any impact on traffic would be less than the “severe” level necessary for the highways authority to disapprove of the scheme.

Additionally, there was clear concern among some councillors that if the chance was not taken now to press forward with the scheme it might be difficult to find others prepared to invest and the site would remain derelict.

Heartfelt speeches were made both for and against the application for a modern style supermarket with a 168-space car park as well as 45 flats and three houses. Unusually, due to the level of interest six members of the public, instead of four, were allowed to address the planning committee: three for the application and three against.

Amanda Malarkey speaking against the scheme on behalf of The Guildford Society and 15 residents associations, said: “We’d be delighted with a Waitrose but not here.”

She explained that there were, in her view, three strong planning reasons to refuse the application:

“Location: this is the wrong place for a supermarket… It defies credibility to suggest that there’s no town centre site when a plot double the size of the Friary lies dormant…

“Traffic: the impact on congestion… will be ‘severe’. Adding a third traffic-light junction on York Road … will cause unacceptable chaos.

“Design: the brief says ‘materials and design to blend well’… this isn’t exciting local design; it’s inappropriate use of the Waitrose corporate style.” the end of her speech was met with the loudest applause of the evening.

However, David Francis, a resident of Haydon Place who will face the development, said that he had “no reservations” about the scheme.

“I am in full support of a much needed modern supermarket on this site, which I believe will be of considerable benefit to the commercial value of the town as a whole.

“In respect of road safety and traffic issues, I am very satisfied that because of the careful planning demonstrated, there will be no significant impact on traffic even during peak times.

“I am also very grateful for the open spaces created by this design.. [which] provides a comfortable, secure environment for all its users.”

Ian Raith, a resident in College Road, spoke of his concerns not only regarding extra traffic congestion but on the noise levels generated by delivery vehicles which he said would exceed recommended levels by a large margin.

During the debate that followed there was much mention of the concerns expressed regarding the likely impact on traffic congestion. Cllr Melanie Bright (Con, Holy Trinity) who lives on York Road, said: “I have received over the past few days emails questioning the validity of the various traffic assessments but the fact is that in policy terms there is little room for manoeuvre here. Regardless of what the people believe, the highways authority have stated that the impact on traffic will increase but that there will not be severe repercussions.”

Cllr Sarah Creedy (Con, Holy Trinity) was concerned that the the application was approved so that the 48 extra housing units included, 18 of them designated as affordable housing, could be realised.

Cllr Keith Taylor (Con, Send) said that if the application were refused prospects for the site would be bleak. He said: “For years to come people would walk past a blighted and derelict site and say, ‘Why oh why did the council not get this developed when they had the chance?”

Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) who proposed the motion to approve the application said that unusually she had been contacted by many people who were concerned that the scheme might not proceed. She could not recall receiving such messages on any other planning application in her ward.

The proposal was approved 18 votes to one. The sole vote against was from Cllr Bob McShee (Con, Worplesdon). Two councillors were observed to abstain, Council Leader Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham) and Cllr Tony Phillips (Lib Dem, Onslow). The decision is now subject to mandatory referral to central government due to its size.

Cllr James Palmer (Con, Shalford), Lead Councillor for Town Centre Planning, said later: “We are delighted that the planning committee approved the town centre mixed-use development application submitted by Waitrose, subject to a referral to the Secretary of State. The scheme will be a popular addition to Guildford providing new homes for families and first time buyers, a community centre to benefit local residents and a new store with many job opportunities.

“The ability to attract a quality food and home goods retailer demonstrates the strength of Guildford’s local economy and our position as a leading town in the South East.”

What is your view? Have the council made the right decision that will bring much wanted improvement to a jaded area of the town or have they made a bad mistake that will significantly exacerbate traffic congestion. Please use the Leave a Reply box below to have your say.

A report on the Onslow park and ride planning decision will follow soon.

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