Planning starts for North Street – St Edward a joint venture of Berkley Homes and the site owners M&G have started a process, via a request for a ‘Scoping Opinion’, to obtain planning permission for North Street. Bill Stokoe has commented on this application
North Street – What is going on in Guildford Planning?
Today we learnt that Berkeley Homes has jump started the North Street planning process by requesting a ‘scoping opinion’ from the council relating to the future Environmental Impact Assessment that will be required when a full application is made.
To learn that North St is underway is great news. The site has lain fallow for far too long. GVG has discussed the site with Berkeley Homes on a regular basis over the past few years and is generally supportive of the latter’s consultation process.
But the scandal is that Guildford Borough Council Planning Department is yet to produce a design brief for the site. No proposals have yet been published so far.
Thus it is the developer who is making the running, asking for an opinion in relation to up to 850 homes. That almost certainly means well over 10 storeys, the unfortunate precedent set by the approved Solum development at the railway station. This is way beyond the expectations for the North Street site set out in the new, unloved Local Plan.
To compound the scandal, we have yet to hear of any real progress with a brief for a town centre masterplanner. The full council passed the motion in July for a town centre masterplan to be produced and a masterplanner to be engaged.
What is going on? Why the delay? Is the council, both key councillors and officers, hoping the masterplan initiative will somehow fade away?
It does point the finger at the Planning Department and those charged with the regeneration of our town. Are the officers getting the right direction from councillors? Are councillors adequately monitoring how officers prioritise their work when it comes to the vital needs of the town centre? Is the Planning Department adequately staffed?
Yesterday another application was lodged for the Casino site. This is a key site in the centre of town. Yet where is the guiding brief for this development as well?Both these developments should be assessed against an overarching town centre masterplan, supported by effective planning policies hanging off the Local Plan. In the latter respect the council is clearly playing catch-up; witness the recent rushed Views SPD. Unless the council gets its act together sadly we are going to remain on the back foot when it comes to making our town centre fit for purpose. This is especially so in respect of crucial infrastructure such as the road layout, buses and, not least, sewers. Together, Solum and North Street are looking at over 1200 homes. And this is before the impact of the 14,000 new homes in prospect around the fringes of our town.
Surely the time has come for determined leadership for the town centre?