Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, visited Guildford on 16th February and attended a meeting hosted by Julian Lyon, Chair of The Guildford Society along with Anne Milton MP; Sue Sturgeon, Managing Director of Guildford Borough Council; Chris Mansfield, Development Director of Guildford Borough Council; Cllr Matt Furniss and Cllr Caroline Reeves (Guildford Borough Council); Cllr Mark Brett-Warburton (Surrey County Council); and Kevin Lorimer, Chairman of Experience Guildford.
The topic for discussion was how best to progress the regeneration of Guildford and Ms Mordaunt was accompanied by three staff from CLG to take note of the needs of Guildford and to observe the discussion which was both open and constructive.
What was clear was that there was general agreement about a lot of aspects of regeneration of the town centre and that we really need to engage with the Local Enterprise Partnership (EM3) to help us direct funding.
Clearly we have been missing out in the absence of a Local Plan and of specific schemes for bringing forward highways and transportation improvements.
The need of a new crossing of the river and railway was discussed and generally welcomed. Julian Lyon asked Ms Mordaunt if the Government could explore the potential for some equivalent rights to Compulsory Purchase Orders to be provided to local communities separated by railway lines. This is not just a Guildford issue but we feel the railway barrier particularly strongly in our town centre.
There was discussion about the merits of the creation of a Neighbourhood Forum rather than an Urban Development Corporation and this may be a sensible approach to master planning the town centre ahead of the Local Plan.
The Guildford Society and Guildford Vision Group thank Penny Mordaunt MP for her attention and objective advice to help bring about our desired regeneration of the heart of Guildford.