How high in Guildford Town

02 February 2021

Solum as a precedent

2nd February 2021 is the start of the appeal hearing for the Casino Site, on Bridge Street/Onslow Street, in the centre of Guildford. 

The Casino Site owners as part of their appeal against rejection of a scheme to develop a 10 storey building have, quite legitimately, in the absence of clear policy, used other sites as a reference, including Solum as illustrated (Taken from the Town Centre Views SPD).

The Casino Devlopers make the the following arguments related to height

The character of this part of Guildford is fundamentally changing, which is demonstrated by:

  1. The recent planning permissions and proposals in the town (redevelopment of Guilford railway station with a 10-storey element,
  2. GBC’s aspirations for developing Bedford Wharf (with 10/11 storey elements) to the north.
  3. The redevelopment of North Street within the heart of the town centre (part of Local Plan Site Allocation A5) by a scheme potentially up to 15-storeys on land within GBC’s freehold ownership.  The EIA for the site mentions “The heights of the buildings are anticipated at this stage to range from 5 up to 15 storeys”

No protection on height

This demonstrates the lack of protection in Guildford to the development of tall buildings.  The Casino site is a total redevelopment, an additional issue is the addition of floors to existing buildings that is allowed under the changes to permitted development rights.  It is worth noting other sites are due to come forward for development e.g. Debenhams, Lionwalk, etc.

The Local Plan 2019 is silent on Building heights and the Development Management Policies which have yet to be adopted are similarly silent. The sole protection in the Town Centre appears to be the Town Centre Views SPD that from a selection of views across the town proposes policies to protect the views. This SPD doesn’t address issues such as height causing issues within the town e.g. Shadowing, Wind effects, and is dependent on a few viewpoints.

Other towns have explicit policies.

Other towns and cities have done it differently producing policies to explicitly manage height.  London for example is implementing a height limit of 6 Stories except where councils agree an SPD to allow for higher buildings at a specified location. Oxford has a comprehensive set of policies relating to its historic buildings. Brighton has a simple policy, zoning the city for height, and describing areas for tall buildings. See Document below

The Society believes Guildford needs clear policies on Building Height to protect the Town Centre and also make development simpler by setting clear parameters.

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