Letter to the Surrey Advertiser dated 19th November
We desperately need a plan for Guildford. All of your first page of letters (16 November) were about this in one way or another. First of all, we should appreciate Guildford for what it is. It is a smallish market town and has been for over a thousand years. It is the county town of Surrey, and was the only town for several centuries, and it is not a city. City status would do nothing for us, and think of the cost of re-branding GBC! The historical background is important in understanding how Guildford has evolved and it is an asset which should be cherished. We should not be trying to increase the shopping space by 60% when there are around 25 empty shops in the town centre, a couple of temporary shops and now, worst of all, a ‘Pound shop’. Worst because of what it says about the national and local economy.
As Alderman Bridger has done, we should study what the town does well, and what it needs. Why should the only answer be to make ourselves prisoners of international companies who will invest, or not, in Guildford for their own benefit, not ours, regardless of the effect on the town? The area north of North Street has been blighted for years, including rows of perfectly good houses. The site of the old CEGB building on Portsmouth Road has also been empty for years. What we need in Guildford is a lot more housing in the town centre, which will encourage more firms to move to the area, and improvements to the traffic. We need facilities for the elderly, who have been forced out of the town centre by GBC. We need lots of independent shops which will encourage shoppers who can’t find that elsewhere. The Friary Centre is quite big enough for chains of shops. We should encourage the cultural facilities currently being down-graded by GBC. No-one would take a city seriously which gets rid of its orchestra and has a splendid Guildhall which is hardly ever open to the public. Thank goodness that the Guildford Vision Group is looking for a bolder vision for the town.