Local Strategy & Economy

News on local economy developments and issues. The Economy Group (See More Details) keeps this area under review. We also post items of interest on the economy from other organisations, including the government.

Coronavirus is certain to impact the UK economy in both the immediate and long term, with many current economic trends likely to accelerate.

Guildford has prospered for several decades. It has successfully developed a mixed economy based on professional services (legal, accountancy); education (the University etc.), retail; and a group of hi-tech industries fostered by the Research Park and the Pirbright Institute.  Of these, one of the most vibrant has been the games industry, which attracts a young and dynamic workforce.

Many in Guildford also commute to jobs in London and elsewhere (such as Heathrow), using the reasonable rail links to London and creaking road network.

Recently, there have been signs of economic problems emerging:

a) Several large companies have relocated, citing congestion and cost.

b) Retail has had a difficult decade. Guildford’s dependence on chain outlets has made it more vulnerable to changes.

c) New businesses have often elected to expand in locations other than Guildford for cost and infrastructure reasons.

d) Lack of affordable housing and traffic congestion have impacted growth plans.

e) The town centre outside the High Street and Castle area has few attractions and large parts are vacant land. Other centres such as Woking are rapidly overtaking Guildford as a destination (whatever your views on tall buildings).

f) Local industry and manufacturing have been discouraged. The rise of an industrial estate at Dunsfold employing 2000 workers is an example of what can be done (some of the businesses at Dunsfold having relocated from Guildford).

Guildford needs to develop a strategy which will minimise economic issues for the next decade and work to support growth sectors of the local economy.  Our Local Strategy and Economy Group are considering:

  1. Reviewing the town’s employment profile and looking to support sectors that are growing. In an environment with little public money, there should be an awareness that some sectors will fail or shrink.
  2. Using vacant buildings in the town centre as business incubators (perhaps teamed with the University). This could be on a temporary basis whilst sites are awaiting redevelopment.  An important element of this strategy is NOT to manage the businesses, but to see who wants space and support what develops.  
  3. Ensuring new developments in the Local Plan strategic sites have workspaces, high quality internet access and good physical and technological communications.
  4. Being aware that London may attract people back to the city, if house prices stagnate and the balance between commuting and living in London changes. There are signs London is already planning to expand pedestrian and cycle space to make the city more attractive.
  5. Guildford requires a major attraction either in terms of Built Environment, Leisure or Business. Examples could be a rebuilt Spectrum Leisure Centre or a revitalised and extended Museum, linking to the Castle grounds and providing a new exhibition space in the town centre.

The Local Strategy and Economy Group has a clearly defined remit and has produced a series of position papers on aspects of design.  The chairman of the Local Strategy and Economy Group can be contacted at LSE@guildfordsociety.org.uk

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