No 1 Onslow Street (Sanofi House) - proposed height increase by 3 stories.

13 April 2021

Refurbishment Plans Submitted

The owners of No 1 Onslow Street M&G, who also own the Friary Centre, have applied (21/P/00539) to modify No 1 Onslow Street occupied until recently by Sanofi.

The key proposals are to create a three storey extension to the roof, roof terrace and externally alter the building elevations.  This will include a new main entrance on Woodbridge Road. 

A High Walled Town

The Society has been in communication with the developers and expressed concern over aspects of the design, particularly height and impact on the surrounding area. Investment is good on this site, as we note below, but not if it compromises the setting of the street, the existing listed buildings and the building's massing adversely effects the valley setting . The proposals as they stand will add a further ‘detractor building’, as referred to in the GBC Key Views SPD, on a key site in the town centre.

The Society is particularly concerned that we have developers referencing back to previous consented buildings notably Solum, Walnut Tree Close. Our MP Angela Richardson in a recent Facebook post cautioned Guildford Borough Council ‘not to engage in the Wokingisation of Guildford by urbanising the historic town centre with dense high rise structures’.  The Society concurs with this view.  We believe that we won’t be going as high as Woking but we are in danger of Guildford becoming a ‘Walled Town’ of 6-10 story blocks close together as evidenced by Walnut Tree Close, Guildford Park Road Car Park, Solum.  The North Street Redevelopment plus No1 Onslow Street is in danger of creating another wall.  The Key views SPD provides limited protection, as it doesn’t address the urban environment as experienced by a individual e.g. Walnut Tree Close is becoming a mini canyon of buildings.  

Engaging the Public.

This development is an ideal opportunity for the council to use its new VU.City technology to visusalise the development and surrounding properties and show the impact of the changes from viewpoints around the town and most importantly at street level. 

The Office is not Dead.

We also acknowledge that many aspects of the proposed upgrading of No 1 are positive especially in that it involves significant investment in a town centre commercial building. Although the demand for office space is unclear due to the pandemic, we can see a demand for a variety of offices in the future, as working from home is only viable for some.  The continued vibrancy of the Guildford High Tech Sector and Professional services will depend on access to good office space in an attractive location.

We thus concur with the objective to refurbish 1 Onslow Street to create a best-in-class office space in central Guildford, providing all the facilities that modern tenants expect.

It is noted that  White Lion Walk has a plan submitted to refurbish the arcade (21/P/00573) including converting part of the floor space to provide multi-use offices on the High Street/North Street.  Developers obviously consider that office accomadation in the Town Centre is not dead.  The Society is glad to see hese moves to make the town centre home to a balance of activities.

Bus Station not moving?

The proposal to move the entrance to the building to Woodbridge Rd is interesting. The entrance will be on the entrance to the current Bus Station. The North Street Development being proposed by St Edwards (which is a Joint Venture of M&G and Berkley Homes) will have a influence on how effective and attractive the relocated entrance will be.  The application for No 1 mentions shops in the building on the Woodbridge Rd frontage.

As North Street Plans are shrouded in secrecy, it is difficult to work out what is going on.  One interpretation is that the Bus Station is to remain in-situ, rather than move to Leaplae Rd, which would make the commercial opportunities afforded on the Woodbridge Road attractive.

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