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GSoc & GRA Joint Press Release opposing Solum Scheme

07th January 2016

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Solum’s regeneration of the station and surrounding site should bring benefits to Guildford, its local residents, commuters and other transport users.The Guildford Society and Guildford Residents Associations have joined forces to oppose proposals for a massive, out of character development at Guildford station.

Says Guildford Society Chairman, Julian Lyon, “This is the biggest ever application for Guildford town centre that will define the character of our town. The scheme should set the standard for a new, regenerated riverside area and provide station improvements, good links to other transport services to ease congestion, and a significant number of much-needed affordable homes. Instead, the application fails the town and community in so many respects and blocks land that could be used to provide a new bridge over the tracks. We hope the current scheme will be withdrawn or rejected.”

Says Amanda Mullarkey on behalf of Guildford Residents Associations, “Allowing this application would squander a once in a generation opportunity to provide major transport improvements, a new link across the railway for our divided, congested town and an attractive new residential area. The proposed wall of high rise buildings along the tracks would set a dangerous precedent making it hard to resist other eight to ten storey buildings. We see the tower blocks on the Mount as a mistake of the past not as a model to be repeated on an even bigger scale.”

The Guildford Society is organising a public meeting at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 13 January at Millmead Baptist Centre, Millmead, Guildford, GU2 4AZ to provide an opportunity for the application to be discussed. 

Says Gillian Cameron, Guildford Society event organiser, “As so often happens, this application was submitted over the Christmas period when people were busy. We encourage everyone to come along on 13 January, find out more and express their views. Otherwise there is a danger this scheme will slip through unnoticed until it is too late.”

Anyone wishing to comment on the proposals should write to Neil.Taylor@guildford.gov.uk at Guildford Borough Council.

Notes to Editors:

1. Application details:

2. Guildford Society comments: www.guildfordsociety.org.uk

Search online: http://www.guildford.gov.uk/searchforaplanningapplication Planning application: 14/P/02168 13 Nov. 2015 Design & Access Statement 1/8

Solum's regenerationof the stationand surrounding site should bring benefits to Guildford. its local residents, commuters and other transport users.
  • The ticket office and concourse will be larger but where are the other station improvements? There is no lift or escalator access to the platforms; nor any development on the western side, which is the town’s gateway to the University, Research Park, and Hospital & Cathedral.
  • There is no integrated bus / rail transport interchange at or near the station (neither east nor west side) to encourage the shift from car use to other forms of transport proposed by GBC.
  • Development of the site in its proposed form will fail to protect any future transport corridor for a second road bridge over the rail tracks and the river and hinder other major transport improvements.
  • The application lists nine section 106 agreement items for the towns’ benefit but nothing that cannot be found in many such large schemes apart from the contribution to a new footbridge over the river. We believe that Solum can afford to provide much more for the town and that GBC should be pressing them for further contributions, especially as Solum also escape the proposed future Community Infrastructure Levy on residential development which we estimate would add nearly £11 million to GBC’s coffers
  • Guildford needs more affordable housing. This development offers 438 dwellings, alongside commercial office and retail space. The Draft Town Centre Masterplan (TCMP) encourages 40% of residential development be affordable. Solum has offered only 10% so called intermediate homes and claim their development cannot afford more. We urge GBC to challenge Solum’s viability arguments.
  • The building heights, up to 10 storeys, the bulk, mass and design, are overpowering for the character of our historic town. They overwhelm the surrounding conservation area and fail to protect important views. We do not believe that Solum’s application meets the recommendations of the emerging new Local Plan and the 2015 Draft Town Centre Master Plan, nor even the 2003 Local Plan
 

This is the largest planning application ever received for the town centre. Solum should be told that it is premature to entertain their scheme until it forms part of a wider package of improvements for the station and the surrounding area.

In summary, we would like to see a new application from Solum that delivers:

(i) A significantly lower intensity but viable development

(ii) A scheme in full accord with wider plans for the area

(iii) A considerably greater affordable housing provision

(iv) A much larger section 106 contribution

3. Guildford Residents’ Associations comments: www.guildfordresidents.co.uk

•           At up to ten storeys, the buildings would be too tall. Consent would radically alter the character of Guildford and set a precedent for other town centre developers. We believe the residential blocks should be limited to four to five storeys.

•           The development is too bulky -an unrelieved wall which would block views within the town and to and from surrounding countryside. This is the gateway to Guildford when you arrive by train. The development should be more articulated, with each block more separated.

•           Being the biggest application ever received for the town centre, the scheme would alter and define the character of Guildford. The design proposed fails to provide suitable architecture that makes a statement about the town’s heritage or intent. The scheme would dwarf and harm the setting of the riverside buildings and the adjoining Conservation Area. We would prefer to see a style which complements the red brick warehouses which border the river.

•           The development does little to address the needs of the borough in terms of affordable housing. The application would only provide 10% affordable housing, well short of the existing requirement for 30% and the draft Local Plan proposal of 40%.

•           The scheme does not meet the requirements of the approved Local Plan. G5 (1, 2, 6) GT8

•           The proposals do not comply with policies in the National Planning Policy Framework due to inappropriate design and harmful impact on the surrounding area (section 7), inadequate access arrangements (section 4), and impact on the Conservation Area along the river (section 12).

•           The proposals are at odds with the emerging new Local Plan and Master Plan. The Master Plan strategy advocates avoiding the need for tall and bulky buildings which would have a negative impact on Guildford’s character. This development does not contribute sufficiently to much needed integrated transport provision, traffic improvements or improved pedestrian links between the station and the University and the town centre. Instead, the scheme unconvincingly suggests it will not add to traffic and that, as a station scheme, there will be inadequate funds to contribute to the infrastructure needed to support development. The scheme would build on land Guildford Residents’ Association have proposed should be “safeguarded” for a new bridge over the railway to improve links across our town. Specific proposals for crossings have been suggested by various groups including the Guildford Vision Group.

•           The development fails to provide sufficient benefit to rail users. This is a developer led, not a station led, scheme. These proposals do not provide improvements to the station itself and do not appear to form part of a comprehensive plan to upgrade the station or provide for future growth in capacity, including airport services. The railway station should not be viewed simply as a development opportunity.

•           Transport and access arrangements are inadequate. Improvements to the station are fundamental to achieving a shift from car use to public transport. Under the scheme access for pedestrians would become more difficult with many steps to navigate. There is inadequate space for buses, especially given the need for better links to the station and at times when buses replace train services. Access to and from the inadequate vehicle drop off area will be restricted by queuing taxis, traffic queuing to get into the limited multi-storey car park and by delivery lorries servicing the shops and offices. Access onto the gyratory (or its successor) would not be improved.

•           The residential parking provision, at roughly one space for every two flats, would be inadequate. The objective is reducing car use not necessarily car ownership. There would also be a lack of parking for rail users and shop and office workers.

•           The application should be part of an integrated approach to developing both sides of the railway track to make the best use of the opportunity and provide a joined up design. It is premature to entertain Solum’s scheme until it forms part of a wider package of improvements for the station and the surrounding area. Network Rail should be encouraged to formulate its long term plans for the station so that such improvements can be achieved as planning conditions relating to any approval.

Allowing this application would squander a once in a generation opportunity to provide major transport improvements, a new link across the railway for our divided, congested town and an attractive new residential area.

4. Contact Gillian on 01483 503172

 

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