Reinvigorating Guildford’s Economy

09 February 2023

DRAFT Economic Development Strategy Published (Amended)

Amended to link to the The Society's critique of the Strategy.

Guildford Bororough council are finalising a Economic Development Strategy for Guildford that will be agreed with the full council.

The main ambition of the Strategy is:

“We will re-establish Guildford as the beating heart of Surrey’s economy. We will be widely known for our modern, innovative, progressive, productive, inclusive and green economy, characterised by unique clusters of high growth knowledge- and production-based economic activity.

Attracted by our world-class university, ground-breaking hospital, regenerated town centre, intensified employment areas and unrivalled heritage, cultural and natural assets, we will become the number one place in the South East for workers, entrepreneurs and businesses to locate.

Enterprises that choose Guildford, or have roots here, will receive first-class support from our pro-business partners to help them start-up, scale and grow, and, most importantly, clear and obvious connections will be created with our residents to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from economic success”.

GBC Role

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) will play the role of ‘lead custodian’ for our local economy, but emphasises that no one body can deliver economic growth on its own so the responsibility for these is shared across our organisations.  GBC recognise that this includes Waverley Borough Council (WBC) given the new partnership.  Note the report is Guildford Centric and it is not clear that the statistics etc have been revised to include Waverly.

Guildford Flatlining

The Guildford Economy has not doing well compared to a variety of town around London, and on a range of economic comparisons the borough is ranking well below the average for England.  A summary Comparison Chart from the report can be viewed below.

Issues identified include:

  1. We have less commercial space than our competitors - Reading has 2.8x more office floorspace and 2.5x more industrial floorspace than we do.
  2. Our commercial space could better meet the needs of modern higher-value occupiers - Only 5% of our office stock, and is  located away from our main train station and town centre) and 4% of industrial stock is classified as ‘high quality’.  
  3. We do not provide enough low-cost and supportive space for innovators and entrepreneurs - We do not have any innovation or accelerator type workspace in our town centre.
  4. Our housing market is highly constrained - We have to deliver at least 562 homes per year to meet our identified ‘need’.
  5. This is one of the most unaffordable places to live in the country -  House prices are 13.2x higher than average workplace earnings; 30% higher than across the South East and 63% above the national average16  .
  6. Our local labour market profile limits some parts of the economy - Almost 70% of our residents are in highly qualified professional occupations making it difficult for foundational sectors to recruit.
  7. We suffer from significant traffic and congestion We are the 7th most congested borough in the entire country.
  8. Our public transport connectivity could be stronger - Poor accessibility to education, skills and training provision are the main drivers of deprivation in our borough.
  9. Our digital connectivity speeds are not sufficient for some innovative and high-wage businesses -  Only 65% of our properties have access to Gigabit connectivity, versus 89% in Cambridge, 87% in Milton Keynes and 86% in Crawley.
  10. Our town centre could better reflect worker needs - 40% of our units are occupied by national ‘clone’ chains which is more than nearly all of our competitors and double the national average.

The Report proposes a series of actions to support the local economy including more provision of high-quality office space, focusing on certain sectors etc.  The proposed Economic Strategy will be fed into the Shaping Guildford Future plans.  The Society has yet to review the recommendations in detail but will post a response shortly.

Critque from the Guildford Society

The Society has sent a critique of the proposals in the draft document to the councillors concerned with Regenertion and the local Economy See below.

The Evidence Base, Report and Action Plan are attached below.



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We want our town to be vibrant, attractive and liveable. We support development that brings a sense of place and enhances the best aspects of our town. If such aims can be embraced, we believe Guildford has the chance to lead the way in enabling sensitive and sustainable development.

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