The Society has written to all councillors making the following comments on the St Mary's/Debenehams application for redevelopment.
The Committee in its determination of the application to redevelop the Debenhams/St Marys site 21/P/02232 will be adjudicating on the most important Town Centre Site to come forward in the last 30 years. The decision will affect Guildford for maybe 100 years. We have also published this letter on our website including some further details and pictures.
The Society would ask you to consider the following carefully:
The Society supports a mixed-use development/redevelopment of the site; supporting the view of the council that the provision of a large retail store on the site is inappropriate. We also support the opening up the riverside as a promenade. (which mustn’t be confused as a cycling track or as a pedestrian walkway to access the town quickly). We also support the emergent ideas to bridge across to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
We remain concerned by many aspects of the scheme and feel the connectivity of the site to the lower high street and to the Yvonne Arnaud complex has yet to be properly addressed.
We support imaginative development that respects the area and maintains Guildford as a distinctive town.
Any development must respect and enhance this important site.
Is the mix of accommodation and quantum correct on the development.
Is this precious site being used to the best economic advantage for Guildford and the Borough.
The new Northern Block of the Solum Development is approximately the same height as the proposed Building A at St Mary’s, being 8 Storeys High. It is worth walking around this development, at the station, to get an impression on the height and bulk that will be apparent from for example Millmead, and Millbrook. (See Solum Building pictured below with height of exisitng Debenhams indicated by red box) It is apparent, from remarks at the recent Development Management Policy Examination, that the council have a full model of the development in the Vu.City visualisation tools. Images from this platform have never been made public. It is hoped that the planning committee have had an opportunity to examine this material as it can provide insights on shading, night-time views etc well beyond a limited series of static views of the site.
Is this Height and Mass acceptable in a sensitive location near the river and high street.
As well as considering views across the Town, it is important to understand how a town appears at street level, including affording glimpses of the surrounding Hills and Heritage Buildings.
It must be noted that the developers have produced essentially one design for consultation.
It is very disappointing that an Architectural Competition has not been run to inject a plurality of ideas into plans for the site.
Are we getting a really distinctive development on this important site.
More information on embodied Carbon and an exploration of alternative building techniques should be requested before determination.
Our Town Heritage, as well as being an attractive set of Buildings and Places is valuable a valuable economic asset as it attracts visitors, businesses, and residents to Guildford and surrounding area.
We have serious concerns that the issues raised by Historic England have been ignored. We don’t believe the harm to our heritage is balanced by the benefits that can be allocated to the scheme e.g. rating affordable housing (5 units) as a significant benefit of the scheme seems bizarre.
Dismissing the objections of Historic England must be questioned.
The Society has expressed serious reservations about this development on several occasions. We believe it is an indifferent development in a key location providing limited public benefit and causes significant harm to Townscape, Heritage, and the Sense of Place of Guildford.
Dangerously, it also opens the way to similar developments along the Wey e.g. the owner of the Casino site has already stated, in the local press, that he plans to bring forward a scheme if the St Mary’s scheme is consented. It is a concern that one of the arguments for ignoring Historic England appears to be the Solum and Casino Development have already compromised Guildford, so don’t bother with other developments. Can the council exercise any control of future development?
Much is made in the ‘Shaping Guildford Future’ material, where it is notable most of the sketches show 4-6 storey buildings, about opening up the riverside. We support proposed walkway along the Wey (Shaping Guildford’s Future). However, if is to be lined by a row of 8-10 storey blocks, which consenting the St Mary’s development could enable, it won’t be an attractive prospect. Shaping Guildford’s Future cites Richmond on Thames as an exemplar – note it is only 5 storeys high.
Guildford needs for the Town Centre to move on from considering individual sites in the context of inadequate policies. A set of robust and agreed set of Town Centre Strategies and Policies is urgently required. To ensure development is managed properly and positively against the ability to solve issues such as infrastructure provision and connectivity. It must be hoped that ‘Shaping Guildford Future’ can be the mechanism for this to occur.
The Society believes the proposal needs to be reconsidered for the reasons given above. Guildford is missing a major opportunity to develop a brilliant site for a variety of uses, supporting economic activity in the area, including housing. Please note the developer appears capable of delivering high quality schemes, judging by their schemes in London. We believe they could offer a better scheme.
We hope the committee refuses the current application – Guildford Deserves Better.
The Society welcomes moves redevelop the Debenhams site. However, we consider the scheme, as presented during this 3rd Consultation, is fundamentally flawed.
View article Debenhams Site - St Marys Wharf Consulta... View article Native Land have appointed a team to propose a design for the site. The Society has added a page to the website to keep track of progress of the development. The team have now published a initial ideas for the site, and to kee... View article St Mary's/ Debenhams Scheme a Poor Schem... View article The council planning committee passed the planning application for the redevelopment of the Debenhams site in the Town centre by Six votes to Five last night with two abstentions. Voting was along party lines, Residents for Guildford and Villag... View article
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