Lobbying Result – A New Town Centre Policy!
The Council must produce a new Policy for the Town Centre in the new Local Plan. This is the important demand from the Inspector examining the new Local Plan. He made his decision after hearing from GVG at the formal Local Plan hearings held over the past month.
It’s a Real Result!
For GVG that’s a real result. It’s a result for all our lobbying and the input from the professionals advising us. It’s a vindication of all our lines of argument over the past six years. The Inspector clearly believes the Town Centre deserves better and more specific treatment. It’s a challenge the Council now has to pick up.
Our Comments are Official!
The Inspector called on us to comment on the first draft of the new Policy, produced overnight by the Council, at the hearing. This we have done and he has declared our initial comments an ‘Examination Document’, ie part of the official record.
The new Local Plan, costing ratepayers millions, is meant to map out the town’s future until 2034. It defines what is wrong with the town, how to address the issues and where to build new homes.
Housing – We Say Brownfield First
During the hearings we highlighted where we thought there were serious omissions and errors of commission in the Council’s Local Plan.
We made the case for more housing in the Town Centre, stating that the Council should concentrate more on brownfield sites, thus relieving pressure on the Green Belt. Other groups supported this line of argument, most notably The Guildford Society.
Our Masterplan Shows The Way
As a follower of GVG, you will be aware of how we would like the centre to look and why there’s a pressing need for change. Our masterplan is on our website at www.guildfordvisiongroup.com.
We have pursued a constant line about the need for a Town Centre masterplan in the years leading up to the hearings, making comprehensive submissions to all the formal consultations launched by the Council.
The Centre Will Be Busier
Residents, businesses and commuters need a secure future here. Over the plan period an extra 30,000 residents will arrive. Increased pressure will also arise from adjoining boroughs that are expanding as well, where their residents pass through or use Guildford town centre.
GVG Calls Must Be Heeded
As well as calling for much needed housing in the centre, we have repeatedly called for new infrastructure. But repeatedly our calls on the latter and the other important town centre issues have been rejected by the Council leadership.
The Inspector Agreed With Us
But they weren’t rejected by the Inspector. Indeed he used powerful and graphic language to describe issues in the town centre, including what he saw as the appalling experience for pedestrians in the town centre, and the lack of any cohesion and design standards across the areas of the town centre away from the High Street and historic core.
We all know the eyesores and disconnected parts of the town centre he’s referring to. He asked some pithy questions on the North St development site and the long delays in any progress.
New Policy Just For Town Centre
So there needs to be a plan for the centre, and the policy underpinning it (now labelled S3) must be in the new Local Plan. You can’t deliver quality with an ad hoc approach to town planning. Policy S3 should concentrate solely on the town centre. The Council’s initial S3 draft included policy on the other urban areas of the Borough. We say the latter should be incorporated in a new policy, Policy S4. Take a look at our proposals for S3 & S4, and additional info.
Another Autumn Consultation Looms
At the end of the hearings, in an informal summing up, the Inspector has declared that he sees the Council’s Plan as substantially sound, which must be a great relief to the officers and lead councillors. However, the Inspector’s view is subject to a number of ‘Main Modifications’ he has asked to be made to the Plan by the Council, not least the new Policy S3.
The Council has said it will respond to his call for these modifications by 23 July. They will then go out for public consultation, probably in September. At the end of that exercise the Inspector will give his formal advice to the Council as to whether the Local Plan is sound for formal adoption.
Town Centre Must Be Fit For Purpose
So the autumn consultation will be an important step for all of us who love Guildford and want its town centre to be great and to have a real future. We will want to see that Policy S3 incorporates all that is necessary to allow our Town Centre to develop in a sustainable manner and to make it fit for the21st Century. Our businesses and young people deserve no less.
GVG Plans Public Meeting In September
As the consultation starts, we plan to hold a public meeting. We would hope to be able to explain the impact and importance of Policy S3 in particular, and to gauge your support for it. Of course there are many other issues bound up with the Local Plan, not least incursion into the Green Belt for new housing and the associated infrastructure burden and demands.
Guildford’s Got To Be Go To Town
We want our Town Centre to be the ‘go to’ place in the region. It should be the place where pedestrian space is safe, pollution free and inviting, drawing people to the riverside, public squares, green boulevards and accessible leisure and pleasure facilities. Town centre housing will intermingle with retail attractions in a mix far removed from the shopping malls of yesteryear.
Cyclists will enjoy joined up routes and buses will deliver comprehensive coverage and linkages across the town and beyond. Cars will be directed away from the core of the town and greater use of Park & Ride will be encouraged by supportive pricing policies.
New Infrastructure Needed
New infrastructure for all modes of transport is essential. The plan must also deliver a comprehensive and co-ordinated transport interchange centred on the railway station, where extra platforms allow new and better connections to eg Heathrow and Crossrail.
The current version of the Local Plan does next to nothing to address the obvious traffic failings of the town. Business and residents must be able to travel and operate without too much hindrance. For an effective 21st Century plan we must masterplan the whole town centre. Our proposals include a new East/West crossing that helps route traffic around the centre.
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