The Guildford Society

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The Treadmill starts again.

The recent announcement by Cllr Spooner Leader of the Council of yet another set of studies to create a plan for Guildford Town Centre (or Town Centre Regeneration Strategy) are to be welcomed but GSoC fear it is too little, too late.  We remain concerned that it is maybe more a public relations initiative than a real attempt to regenerate the town centre.

The studies commissioned are:

Guildford Heights and Views Study will identify particularly important views of our historic places and buildings that help GBC to better understand the development of the town. Land Use Consultants (LUC) will be assisting with this study.

Strategic Development Framework commissioned from David Lock Associates which will look at overall high-level master planning for strategic sites in the borough, including their connections to and from the town centre.

Click Here for full announcement on GBC website

As a society we believe we have been here before, and there is NO explanation as to why a large part of this work wasn’t incorporated in the recent Guildford Local Plan – a point raised by the inspector (Jonathan Bore) at the hearing on the plan. 

GSoC are concerned the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy is:

·         Too Late - How is the Town Centre going to be protected from high rise developments (Solum, The Plaza Site, Walnut Tree Close, etc.)  Don’t we need a policy in the Guildford Plan NOW to control the situation whilst the Guildford Heights and Views Study is conducted.  Why this isn’t already in place as part of the draft local plan is a mystery!!

·         Too Late - The Strategic Development Framework appears to be very limited dealing with a few key housing sites (Wisley, Slyfield, Send, Ash, Gosden Hill, Blackwells Farm) BUT makes no reference to creating a proper infrastructure within the town centre.  The pressure to build on Brownfield sites in the town centre is increasing, particularly after remarks for the Local Plan inspector and the Guildford station planning approval.

·         Too Little - On our current understanding the studies perpetuate the current disjointed approach to the Town Centre.  The Local Plan inspector asked for a Town Centre Policy AND YET the announcement is silent on how the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy fits into the development of the policy.

·         Too Little - The Guildford Urban area is notable for its absence, apart from the strategic sites, e.g. How the University is using its considerable land resources, the Millmead Car Park.

·         Too Little – The studies include connections into the town centre, but doesn’t seem to cover infrastructure within the town centre and connections across the wider area.

GSoC agree with Cllr Paul Spooner’s aspirations in making Guildford in his words “in making our dynamic and attractive town a great place to live, work and visit”.

Judging on the past decade of false starts and discarded studies we have yet to be convinced that the Treadmill of planning, with all the costs that it incurs, is connected to any meaningful decision making and action on the challenges facing the town centre, and wider urban area. Recently GSoC and others submitted ideas, at the request of the Guildford Plan inspector, to the council. The council has failed to engage.  Although consultation is promised, we are concerned that the ruling group on the council appears to be riven with tensions and fearful of proper engagement with an increasingly frustrated and despairing electorate.

As always GSoC is very happy to contribute to debate on planning issues, provided it is true and open debate.

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