Hot Topics

Bill Stokoe Interview

Bill Stokoe Interview 500 500 GVG Admin

GVG Chairman Bill Stokoe was interviewed by The Guildford Dragon news site recently.  View Bill’s interview on this link

Council Passes Landmark Motion For Town Centre MasterPlan

Council Passes Landmark Motion For Town Centre MasterPlan 1300 731 GVG Admin

Last night, at a full meeting of Guildford Borough Council, a motion was passed to start work on a masterplan, with Development Plan status, for the town centre.

The motion was bipartisan, proposed by R4GV councillor John Rigg, founder and former chairman of Guildford Vision Group (GVG), and seconded by Tom Hunt, Liberal Democrat councillor for town centre Friary & St Nicolas ward. In a cross-party decision, the motion also carried the support of former Conservative party council leader, Cllr Paul Spooner.

“This is a momentous event,” says Bill Stokoe, chair of GVG. “For the past eight years, GVG, under the tenacious leadership of John, has lobbied strongly for a masterplan for the town centre. The support for the motion was overwhelming. Allied to other successful motions passed last night on climate change and single- use plastics, there is now a real chance that the town centre, as well as other areas of the borough, can look forward to a much more sustainable future.”

GVG will be seeking to be involved in the drafting of the brief for the masterplanning consultancy involvement also approved by the motion.

Speaking at the council meeting in support of the motion, Bill Stokoe reiterated GVG’s objectives for the plan. The plan should be people-centric and deliver:

• Much wider pedestrianisation
• Exciting new public space, including a market square and a reinvigorated riverside
• Redirection of traffic away from the centre, reducing pollution and improving safety
• An integrated transport hub around the rail station
• More town centre housing, including affordable and social
• A new crossing, for a better East-West link

The commitment to tackling climate change and plastic usage, passed in two other motions at last night’s meeting, adds urgency and emphasis to the masterplan process. A regenerative, comprehensive masterplan can bring direction and consistency to all new development and associated infrastructure, particularly around sustainability issues. GVG remains committed to new infrastructure that unlocks key areas of the centre. It must make the environment even more attractive to residents, businesses and visitors, while respecting the heritage and green setting of the town.


Network Reply to our concerns on the Solum Development

Network Reply to our concerns on the Solum Development 692 517 GVG Admin

Network Rail has replied to our concerned expressed in a letter to Chris Grayling Secretary of State. The letter is not very satisfactory as it fails to address

  • The short timescale for planning up to 2043 for rail services, compared with a design life of 100 years for the Solum scheme
  • Why the station is being compromised for the sake of 2 metres of land is not explained.

We can only conclude Network Rail are development led rather than rail services led.

We will be raising this issue with the council as they do need to robustly question Network Rail and Solum on this matter.

Guildford Society also have an item on this correspondence including a link to the Network Rail Reply.


Solum blocking rational station expansion?

Solum blocking rational station expansion? 692 517 GVG Admin

Guildford Station, is the busiest station in Surrey and is a vital asset for the town and the greater south east. The station is at the junction for five different lines, where services from Gatwick to Reading, Portsmouth to London, and local services e.g. Farnham, intersect.

A Freedom of Information request, by GVG, to Network Rail confirms our concerns that proposed property development may compromise the future capacity of Guildford Station.

New platforms are required at Guildford to meet service expansion (e.g. to cope with a link to Heathrow) and to improve the resilience of the rail network when issues arise. Recently trains queued outside Guildford due to a track issue elsewhere on the network.

The Solum redevelopment may unnecessarily restrict the east side of the Station, removing the opportunity to build a new platform (Platform 0) – information from Network Rail indicate it may only need a, yet to be built, car park to be moved 2 metres to provide room.

GVG have written- Click to See Letter -on this subject to Chris Grayling Secretary of State for Transport outlining our concerns on future developments at the station, we still await a reply.

You can Click to find background material on this issue.



Local Plan Update

Local Plan Update 1440 1920 GVG Admin

The Council is being requested to either adopt or reject the plan at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the council 25th April 7:00pm.  The public can attend to hear the debate.

GVG believes the plan, if adopted, is a bad plan and will have a impact on our Greenbelt, due to gross over-provision in housing numbers, and fails to bring forward good plans for the Town Centre including tackling infrastructure deficit  (GVG has its focus on the Town Centre).

We have supported a letter that Ockham Parish Council and Wisley Action Group have sent to the James Brokenshire Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government requesting a Holding Direction which will allow for a pause whilst the gross overprovision of housing is re-examined.

Your Vote Matters

Your Vote Matters 1450 794 GVG Admin

The time to vote in the Local Elections is fast approaching, particularly for those voting by post – your form should either be with you or arrive in the next few days. GVG reflects many political views, we even have members standing for opposing parties locally; and certainly different views on National politics.

As a group we are united on key principles that affect our town and borough.

read more

GVG 2018 Round Up

GVG 2018 Round Up 533 400 Lisa Flounders

New Houses – Town Before Green Belt
The main focus of attention in 2018 has been the Local Plan. We think it is still unsound. As we pointed out in our last Update, our main contention is that the council has not made enough effort to find new housing sites in the town centre. By its own rules it has to look for sites in the centre before moving out further. We think it has made the leap to the Green Belt sites too quickly.

At first glance these sites, as virgin territory, might seem the easiest on which to build the required number of homes to meet the government’s five year supply target. But when you look closely, the arguments against the Green Belt sites, apart from the obvious loss of amenity, begin to stack up.

Green Belt Sites Infrastructure Challenges
Guildford has problems when it comes to sewage and electricity, for example, certainly when it gets to the Slyfield and Gosden Hill Farm sites. Wisley, another site, presents considerable road infrastructure challenges, as does Blackwell Farm. These latter challenges all rely on major improvements to the A3 through Guildford, improvements that have yet to be fully scoped and finally timetabled, let alone funded.

None of these issues, including the sewage and sparks, is ever going to be sorted in under five years and probably not under ten years.

Town Centre Housing More Sustainable
So back to the town centre. GVG has consistently maintained that building new homes in the town centre is a much more sustainable approach. Yes, such development will bring its own infrastructure challenges. But such housing is unlikely to create as many car journeys, for example, as the strategic sites on the edges of town or further away.

Town centre housing will mean people can walk to the rail and bus stations, and to the shops, restaurants and cinema. They will be able to cycle along the towpath to the attractions alongside the river.

Town Centre Capacity Exists
If the council is prepared to use its compulsory purchase powers, decent housing sites can be assembled more quickly and brought into development more quickly than the precious Green Belt sites. These are just some of the arguments for a proper plan and design envelope for the town centre. It would mitigate the impact of the current opportunistic development we are seeing, for example, along Walnut Tree Close and its environs.

Here we are seeing unnecessary building heights of ten storeys or more. Curiously, this land is not identified as available for housing in the Local Plan. Assuming more permissions are granted, ie the council has inadequate policies to refuse them, it just shows the considerable capacity of the town to accommodate new housing not included in the council’s Local Plan calculations.

Examine Town Centre Policy At Next Hearings
Which brings us back to the next public hearings for the Local Plan – scheduled for 12-13 February 2019. At the moment, the inspector only intends to look again at the housing numbers in the light of the recent downward revision by the ONS of the population projections.

We want the inspector to look also at the town centre policy, S3, which he himself called for as a ‘Main Modification’. In particular, Inspector Bore asked the council questions about the town centre which have yet to be adequately answered. He also invited the council to cooperate with resident groups on the new draft town centre policy. The council chose to disregard the invitation.  We believe that, to create a sound Plan, adequate policies related to the Town Centre must be included in the February hearings. The allocated town centre regeneration area should also be subject to the Place Shaping requirements of Policy D1.

Solum Solutions

The other topic that has occupied our time during 2018 is the impact of the Solum development. As you may recall, Solum was granted permission on appeal to build its ten storey monster stretching for 300 metres alongside the tracks on the eastern side of the station (the Walnut Tree Close side). What has temporarily halted us in our tracks is that the northernmost element of the scheme blocks the route for our new crossing proposal.

Rather than sticking to ‘there is no alternative’, we are looking, Brexit-like, at a range of options. We remain determined to find a solution. We will leave no stone unturned to find a way to move the traffic away from the centre, reduce pollution and serious accidents, and to free up the bottom of town for pedestrianisation down to the river.

Staying On The Rails
Another line of work has been the railway system. We want to see better facilities at the station than those incorporated in the Solum scheme. There are a lot of behind the scenes studies underway or recently completed by Network Rail and others to shape rail services, both existing and new. What’s needed to link better to Heathrow? How might Crossrail 2 impact services to Guildford? What track and platform changes are required to enable more trains to run through Guildford? How might the railway system help take more cars off the road, linked to new and revitalised local stations?

Remain Regional Hub
All these matter if we are to remain the regional hub, remain economically vibrant and able to manage the integration of the 25,000+ new people coming to live in and around our lovely town. All this while ensuring Guildford and its surroundings retains its unique character and becomes an even more attractive location in which to live and work.

Leave Land For Infrastructure
The development of land on the west side of the station is a key part of GVG’s own masterplan for the town. If used wisely it can help overcome some of the infrastructure challenges facing the town, not least the constriction of the inadequate and ailing Farnham Road Bridge.

If our infrastructure is to become more resilient in the face of the new housing on the edges of town, then logic suggests we need another east/west rail and river crossing. The forthcoming strengthening project for the Farnham Road Bridge will inevitably show up the frailty and fragility of routeing options in our town.

No Bad Deals
This year saw another prime example of the need for a town centre masterplan. The council, fresh from the experience of losing £1.2mill on the ill-fated pop-up Village, has managed to spend £1mill on a new bridge project without any metal being cut or concrete poured.

The costly £3.7mill cycle and pedestrian project, replacing the current serviceable bridge linking Walnut Tree Close to Bedford Square, is going ahead (with an apparently dangerous design) before there are any settled plans to develop the Bedford Square area. At the station end, the new, wider pedestrian & cycle bridge will feature a light-controlled toucan crossing, not many metres from the existing pelican crossing.

There Must Be Better Ways
If the justification is increased footfall and cycle trips, how can any meaningful supporting ‘traffic’ data be gathered before the Bedford Square scheme is drawn up, plus new schemes further into town – not least the long-awaited North Street redevelopment? The argument for pressing on is that (LEP) funding has been secured and must be spent within a certain timeframe.

Surely, in the 21st century, we can organise things better than that? Incidentally, one of our engineering contacts reckons they can design, build and erect a perfectly suitable bridge for £500,000. A makeover of the existing bridge would cost even less.

Our Letter To Santa
What goodies is GVG hoping for in 2019? Better relations with the council is number one. There are signs that matters are improving. We are, after all, a group of concerned residents. And we are all ratepayers.

We take comfort from the fact that at our last public meeting, 150 of you turned up and shared your concerns about aspects of planning and the soundness of the new Local Plan – not the most enticing topic, yet you came. Again, nearly 10,000 clicked on the link to the webcast that recorded the proceedings, almost matching the response we achieved when we launched our masterplan in February 2017.

We are very grateful for your support and we look forward to the challenges that 2019 will bring.

A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all our supporters!

Click  here to download the newsletter.


Transport Experts Say Vision Group’s New Traffic Corridor Would Bring Significant Changes

Transport Experts Say Vision Group’s New Traffic Corridor Would Bring Significant Changes 910 683 Lisa Flounders

In a report commissioned by Guildford Vision Group (GVG), experts at local transport consultancy Motion have concluded that the town centre traffic layout proposed by GVG would have significant benefits.

Thanks to the new East/West traffic corridor over the river and railway put forward by GVG, the aggregate number of junctions encountered by vehicle movements routeing across the town centre falls by 40% to 93 from the 156 encountered involving the current gyratory.

The report also concludes that the new corridor and associated routeing ‘can deliver major environmental, safety and transport benefits as well as adding considerable resilience to the system’.

As the latest public consultation on the Local Plan comes to an end, Motion also points out that the creation of a Sustainable Movement Corridor (SMC) is a key part of the spatial vision for the borough, as set out in the submission Local Plan, and that the GVG masterplan assists in its delivery.

The GVG plan significantly aids the delivery of key SMC elements by substantially improving the town centre for pedestrians, cyclists and buses, whilst making car journeys easier and separating modes to greatly facilitate modal shift.

“We’re delighted to receive this confirmation of the validity of our proposals for town centre traffic, especially in relation to our proposed crossing,‘ says John Rigg, chairman of GVG. ‘The crossing is the great enabler. It frees up riverside and other space for pedestrianisation. Bridge Street becomes a car-free route and remains the natural desire line for pedestrians to and from the station into town. Cyclists get dedicated paths. It enables creation of great public realm, making Guildford an even more attractive place to visit, to relax in, and to live and work in. Our plan is a win-win all round.”

GVG has included the Motion report as part of its submission under the latest Local Plan consultation which ended at noon on Tuesday 23 October.

GVG Newsletter – October 2018

GVG Newsletter – October 2018 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

The Local Plan Is Not Yet Sound
Notwithstanding the evident displeasure of the council leadership, we have declared that we believe the Local Plan unsound in its present form. The public consultation has just concluded, and the local plan still has no proper plan for the town centre. It still builds mostly on greenbelt and still does not address brownfield adequately. It continues to lack infrastructure solutions for the town, one of our worst problems after shortage of homes.


Overwhelming Support
Our stance on the Local Plan became clear at our recent public meeting attended by around 150 people. It was held on Tuesday 16 October to help our supporters and others respond to the consultation which closed at noon on Tuesday 23 October. We handed out a guidance note at the end of the meeting as to what to, and how to, submit by way of responses to the consultation. Following a show of hands we also undertook to offer additional guidance to those who wanted to add their voice to GVG’s in declaring the Plan ‘unsound’. The support for such action was overwhelming, with only two objections.


Town Centre First for Housing
A central thrust of our argument is that the council has not been diligent enough in exploring more housing in the town centre. This is at the expense of the green belt. It also fails planning requirements to put brownfield development first and green belt development last. At the moment GVG has identified scope for 3,500 homes in the town centre; the council plans 900 homes in the centre versus 6,000 on greenfield sites.


Housing Needn’t be High
We believe that, with the essential masterplanning required, around 3500 new homes could be included  in the town centre and its immediate environs, eg along Woodbridge Meadows. This saves one or more identified green belt housing sites. For those worried about the impact on the town, we believe building heights need not exceed four storeys in the main. Interestingly, for certain locations, the meeting exit poll found 80% of the respondees would accept a seven storey height limit. We say that must only be with new town squares, open riverside, proper amenity space and, of course, new infrastructure solutions.


Green Belt Housing A3 Dependent
And the ‘unsoundness’ argument is further supported by the fact that the identified Green Belt housing sites are all very much dependent on major A3 road improvements and associated road interventions. None of these vital works is as yet scheduled and there is no clear indication from Highways and the County Council as to when such works might be scheduled. This uncertainty, stretching into the late 2020s and beyond, with no immediate likelihood of a cure, means that the prospects for the 6,000 Green Belt houses are bleak.


Not So Much New Housing Needed
While many would welcome less housing, central government would decidedly not. The country needs more new housing, though the number for Guildford should be reviewed in the light of revised ONS figures. They show a marked demographic reduction in the need for new homes. However the council’s growth arguments in its plan may now be the justification for retaining the higher housing number.


An Unsound Plan is Costly
There’s a financial cost to a council of getting a plan wrong, including the years taken over the process. The more a ‘sound’ plan is delayed because of its shortcomings and thus the delivery of much needed new housing, the greater delay to the council’s receipt of the new homes bonus (a building incentive plan). In addition, it delays receipts from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a more elaborate and remunerative successor to section 106 payments from developers that are supposed to pay for additional improvements in the community.


It’s the Inspector’s Turn
Attention will now switch back to the next moves of the planning inspector, Jonathan Bore, who has been examining the council’s Local Plan and whose role it is to declare the Plan sound or otherwise. At the conclusion of the public hearings back in the summer, he declared that he was minded to find the Plan ‘sound’. But this was subject the council introducing changes to the Plan, known as ‘main modifications’ (MMs), with policies to address the town centre.


Focus on the Town Centre
As we have repeatedly pleaded over the past six years, we pointed out the complete lack of attention in the plan to the future of the town centre, as well as the hierarchy argument for housing on brownfield, rather than raiding the green belt. The inspector recognised the force of our arguments. He added some personal observations about the ‘appalling’ quality of previous (1950/60s) development immediately beyond the High Street and historic core of the town. So he called on the council to produce a new policy (S3) for the town centre. This was a notable ‘win’ for GVG at the hearings.


New Town Centre Infrastructure Needed
This new S3 policy has been part of the modifications (MMs) put forward for the consultation just ended. We believe the council draft S3, while an improvement on the blank space before, is still inadequate for a town of the size and regional importance of Guildford. There is no commitment to essential infrastructure improvements, for example. Everyone recognises that the town centre suffers from record congestion, pollution and accidents. Flooding needs better planning to offset its impact. There is no resilience. Look at the mayhem recent roadworks have caused. The ageing and failing Farnham Road Bridge will shortly be repaired and strengthened which, if closed or restricted, will only further test resilience. It will continue to remain a major bottleneck for decades ahead. Something must be done.


Safeguard a Crossing Route
Which brings matters round to our key infrastructure demand – a new crossing of the railway and river just north of the station. Since our inception we have called for a new crossing. One solution is incorporated in our masterplan for the town centre, launched to much acclaim and support last February. At the meeting on the 16th there was again overwhelming support for the crossing, with 93% agreeing a route for it should be safeguarded in the Local Plan, with no other solution available. Yet there is no such commitment in the MMs and Policy S3.


A Better Town Centre Helps Everyone
The next few weeks will see the Local Plan drama play out. We are hoping other resident and action groups will join us in declaring the Plan ‘unsound’. We have been challenged in the past about focusing exclusively on the town centre. While not apologising for that, we hope our submissions around housing, where we call for more in a properly masterplanned town centre, can be seen as complementary to equally focused campaigns on Green Belt development.

Green Belt development just creates more car movements and congestion. Over 20,000 more people living outside the town will in no way help our roads or the centre. By contrast, 10,000 more people living in the town centre, able to access public transport and sustainable movement options, should make an impressive reduction in the demand for Green Belt development as well as sustaining the town centre economy.


We will Press On
We will continue to press our case in the coming weeks. Given the importance of having a sound Local Plan, we are also hoping the council will set aside its reluctance of some years now to engage with us so a meaningful and progressive dialogue can be established. Sadly only three councillors were present to hear our reasoning and to see the overwhelming support of the community, with important questions posed during Q&A.

As the support for GVG at our meeting demonstrated and evidenced in the exit poll, our arguments around masterplanning the town centre are logical, aspirational and what residents and businesses want to see happen.


We Love Guildford because..
Two worthy winners of ‘I Love Guildford because…’ competition were announced at the public meeting. Both received £100 vouchers to spend at the Cosy Club in the new Tunsgate. Heather Mantle used a photo of building detail of the Trinity Centre to remind us to stop and really study our fine heritage, ‘to look again when we think we’ve ‘seen’ but have only really glanced.’ Ian Blyth, in a written submission, said ’Guildford has the wonderful amenities associated with a town but retains an almost village-like feel ‘. His ‘people’ focus struck a chord with the judges. Our best wishes to them and thanks to all who took part.

Key Guildford residents groups want wider scope for reopened local plan hearing

Key Guildford residents groups want wider scope for reopened local plan hearing 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

Guildford, Wednesday 31 October 2018: The Guildford Society (GSoc) and Guildford Vision Group (GVG) want the reopened public hearing into the Local Plan to consider the council’s proposed new town centre policy wording, not just the housing numbers. Both resident groups fully support the reopening of the Local Plan hearing to consider new housing numbers in the light of revised, lower ONS projections. Examining inspector Jonathan Bore has asked the council to propose dates for another hearing session.


GSoc AND GVG are both keen, however, to see any new hearing encompass a discussion on Policy S3, following their submissions under the public consultation just closed. This Local Plan is about land use allocation – where development should take place. The policy, covering the town centre, is therefore inextricably linked to both the housing number and housing location issues.


Both groups are unhappy with the wording and scope of Policy S3. They suggest S3 and related policies are currently inadequate and need meaningful commitments to provide an effective framework for development. Both groups have lobbied for the town centre to accommodate much more housing, thus freeing up one or more Green Belt sites currently in the frame for housing development. Town centre homes represent more sustainable development than congestion-creating homes in the Green Belt dependent on major A3 improvements as yet to be scheduled, and acknowledged by GBC to be outside its control. Town centre homes would be good for the town’s economy but would again focus attention on the centre’s inadequate infrastructure.


GVG and GSoc say regeneration of the town centre must be masterplanned in a holistic way to address failings in the infrastructure (transport, flood prevention, public realm/facilities etc). A high quality, functioning town centre with a proper balance of housing, commercial and retail space, is not achievable otherwise. Policy S3 should designate the whole of the town centre as a strategic site – or at least the regeneration area identified in the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy – delivering homes, retail and commercial space. Such development could then come with the same obligations the council wishes to impose on private developers of the strategic green belt sites.


Policy S3, as currently written, allows for a piecemeal ad-hoc approach which will never deliver the infrastructure upgrade the town needs. The emerging impact of ad-hoc planning can already be seen, with opportunistic developments of nine storeys or more – up to fourteen – either approved or under application.


Both groups have also complained at the poor response from the council regarding consultation with key stakeholders on the important issue of the town centre. As an example, GVG and GSOC submitted a Draft Statement of Common Ground to the council as part of the hearing process. It was never acknowledged by the council.

GVG responds to consultation regarding Guildford Borough Council’s local plan

GVG responds to consultation regarding Guildford Borough Council’s local plan 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

GVG has responded to the most recent consultation regarding Guildford Borough Council’s modifications to its Local Plan, which will determine how Guildford’s town centre is developed until 2034.


These modifications were made following the Local Plan hearings this summer, when the inspector examining the initial plan said it was fit for purpose but subject to some changes. Following this consultation, the inspector will decide whether the modified Local Plan can be formally adopted.


GVG’s response to Main Modifications to the Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites 





This advice follows the conclusion reached at the Public Meeting on Tuesday.

WHEN: Immediately, and certainly before the deadline of 12 noon on Wednesday 23 October 2018.

HOW: The easiest method is by email to:

Ensure you include your name and address as the Council will not accept anonymous responses. You can respond online if you choose – see *note at the bottom of this page.


The Local Plan is unsound because:

  1. The council has not properly observed its hierarchy of development. Brownfield opportunities, especially in the town centre, have not been fully exploited
  2. There is too much reliance on A3 improvements and they are beyond the council’s control
  3. The town centre policy, S3, is thus inadequate and also does not address the infrastructure deficit
  4. Housing numbers should reflect the latest ONS figures and projections. The public hearings should be re-opened on this subject to allow re-examination
  5. The grounds for green belt development are inadequate because of 1 and 3 and do not represent ‘exceptional circumstances’

Don’t worry if you have made comments already. There is no restriction on the number of responses you return so long as you include your name and address and meet the deadline.


You will find the names and contact details of the councillors for your ward on the GBC website here:

Ask them how they will ensure we don’t end up with an unsound Local Plan. What they are going to do to ensure Guildford has a proper, adopted Masterplan which integrates GVG’s proposals.


Ask them how they will implement what the town needs for a sound Local Plan through GVG’s proposals.

*SEE THE LOCAL PLAN MODIFICATIONS: To download the modified Local Plan, and to respond online if you choose, go to:

You don’t have to respond to every modification. GVG is very keen that you respond to Policy S3 which is about the Town Centre.  Go to MM3 to make your comments about the Plan being unsound.

For more information visit our website: See the ‘flythrough’ of our proposals at: or email us at: with any queries or suggestions. Tuesday’s public meeting can be viewed here 




WHEN: Immediately, and certainly before the deadline of 12 noon on Wednesday 23 October 2018.

HOW: The easiest method is by email to:

Ensure you include your name and address as the Council will not accept anonymous responses. You can respond online if you choose – see *note at the bottom of this page.

WHAT TO SAY: The key points to make about the Main Modifications (eg MM3) are:

  1. MM3 – POLICY S3. Guildford Borough Council must deliver real and coordinated results. The Town Centre must be designated a strategic site or sites
  2. MM3 – POLICY S3. Guildford must have an effective local plan. Development rules must ensure quality of development across the Town Centre
  3. MM3 – POLICY S3. Guildford Borough Council should adopt Guildford Vision Group’s proposals, including the new crossing or equivalent effective alternative, to deliver a safer, pedestrianised town centre with transport resilience and opened riverside
  4. MM23 – POLICY D1. Guildford Borough Council, as a major landowner in the centre, must accept the same obligations as imposed on the other strategic site owners by the council as planning authority

You may have other points to make about your own neighbourhood, for example, using response notes from your local action group or residents’ association. You can make these separately as there is no restriction on the number of responses you return so long as you include your name and address and meet the deadline.


You will find the names and contact details of the councillors for your ward on the GBC website here:

Ask them why we are in the current situation, how will they ensure we don’t go over the brink into piecemeal development and what they are going to do to ensure Guildford has a proper, adopted Masterplan which integrates GVG’s proposals.


Ask them what they will do for Guildford and your area, and what how they will implement what the town needs through GVG’s proposals.

*SEEING THE LOCAL PLAN’S MODIFICATIONS: To download the modified Local Plan, and to respond online if you choose, go to:

You don’t have to respond to every modification. GVG is very keen that you respond to Policy S3 which is about the Town Centre. Go to MM3 & MM23 to make your comments

For more information visit our website: See the ‘flythrough’ of our proposals at: or email us at: with any queries or suggestions.

GVG announces next public meeting

GVG announces next public meeting 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

Local Plan – We’re on the Brink
Guildford town centre is on the brink. What do we want? Planned, sensible, infrastructure-sensitive and mixed development? Or a piecemeal, disjointed, over-built, infrastructure-insensitive and 41,000 sq m retail-led car crash? We could be heading for the latter – the signs are not good.


New Town Centre Policy Consultation

Does the Local plan now represent sound planning for the next 30 years? This is the last chance to influence the planning future of our town. The latest statutory consultation is now underway. We will be holding a public meeting to discuss the latest local plan modifications and, in particular, the new town centre policy.


GVG Public Meeting re Consultation

Our public meeting will be at the Baptist Centre, Millmead on Tuesday 16 October, starting at 7.30pm. Please do come.


The local plan public consultation closes on Monday, 23 October so you will have time to make your response to the council after our meeting. Here’s the link to submit your views to the council online.


GVG Town Centre Policy Win

Our July Update told the story of the Local Plan public hearings and GVG’s hoped-for ‘win’ when the inspector called for a new policy for the town centre – now called Policy S3. There’s a lot to like about the proposed policy; we could have written much of it ourselves.


Local Plan Still Sound?

But at its heart, the Local Plan still remains unsound in our view. It doesn’t, for instance, provide any commitment to masterplan the centre or to deliver major betterment, including significant infrastructure improvements. It doesn’t provide adequate protection of the Wey Navigation and its Corridor – one of the real and much under-utilised assets of our town.


New Housing

On new housing, the Plan speaks of a hierarchy of development, starting at the (brownfield) centre and only moving to the green belt when all other options have been exhausted. Yet, on the ground (and in the Plan) we see evidence of a green belt-first approach, with developments at Blackwell Farm, Wisley, Gosden Hill Farm and others. There are only 900 homes proposed for the town centre. We think that number could be 3500 (irrespective of new ONS figures). Our masterplan demonstrates that it’s possible, with most building not going above five storeys.


A Lot Going On

There’s a lot of important strands to track at the moment:

  • The latest consultation on the new Local Plan, including a new policy for the town centre
  • Revised ONS figures now show lower population growth than envisaged in Local Plan. Will we still build 672 new homes a year?
  • GBC reviewing and updating its 2017 Town Centre Regeneration Strategy
  • GBC hiring consultants to advise on protecting key views into and out of the town, somewhat late after current policies failed to protect against the Solum Development and others!
  • GBC hiring consultants to advise on how new major strategic developments, are masterplanned to connect to and from the town centre.  Again, rather late in the day to think about Town Centre transport infrastructure? Why cannot the Town itself be masterplanned?
  • Four separate student accommodation planning applications – 1100 units – in a cluster in Walnut Tree Close and now another 300 on the Casino site.


We Still Need a Masterplan

In response to all these events, GVG simply points out the pressing need for an adopted masterplan, something it has been calling for repeatedly since 2012. GVG’s suggested masterplan can be found on our website here.


When challenged, the council always points to its Allies & Morrison masterplan – but never adopted – and its 2017 Town Centre Regeneration Strategy – again never adopted but now to be revised just one year later. Neither of these documents can stop developers submitting non-compliant applications that take advantage of the mistakes and precedent of the Solum application at the station.


GBC Relying On Non-Adopted Documents

As things stand at the moment, all the council’s town centre documents have no planning policy status. The new Policy S3 is thus based on the evidence of non-adopted plans and strategies. The competence of the GBC to manage the planning process must be questioned.  The current town centre policies didn’t stop Solum (the 10 storeys, Great Wall of Guildford).  And now we have the Casino application coming in at 14 storeys and developers outlining ideas for Walnut Tree Close at 12 storeys. We wait in dread of what the North Street development might try for.


No Brake on Undesirable Development

The Local Plan contains fine words about the town and development generally, including improving the riverside. Yet, in reality, there is no real brake on undesirable development. So do the council really care?


Take Walnut Tree Close for example. Here the Allies & Morrison masterplan, much referred to by the council, envisages a riverside park stretching along to Ladymead. We in GVG support that. Our Plan shows how that whole area, including Woodbridge Meadows, could accommodate considerable housing but set back from the river to leave even more green space for public enjoyment.


Impact of Student Housing in Town

In practice, right now, there are planning applications or outlines for four separate student schemes, all clustered around the eastern end of Yorkie’s Bridge far too  close to the towpath – a total of 1100 units, a veritable student quarter (with another 300 on the Casino site).  Surely we need robust policies that promote a mix of residential units, including affordable homes for lower income residents?  We do need to provide for long term residents in the town centre.  The university has space for more student units on its campus.


Where is the guiding hand of the council? Where is the design oversight? Where are the planning policies to promote housing that supports residents, key and low income workers, as well as sensible provision for student?


Your Voice Matters

There’s a lot going on, and it is a vital time to voice your opinions on the future of Guildford via the public consultation. The May 2019 local elections are not far away. We need to get the future of the town centre well up the agenda of political debate, including pressing for effective use of brownfield sites before we touch the green belt.


Love Guildford and Be a Winner

Please make the time to come to our public meeting on Tuesday 16 October at 7.30pm. We need your support and value your opinions. We will also be announcing the winners of our ‘I Love Guildford because..’ competition at The Baptist Centre meeting. See our WebFacebook and Twitter sites for information.



Guildford Vision Group has launched its ‘I love Guildford because…’ campaign, a survey and competition to find out exactly what Guildford’s residents, workers and visitors think of the town centre. We need you to share your views on what you love best about the town; we’ll announce the results at our next public meeting on Tuesday 16th October.

Answers are welcome in a variety of ways, whether you wish to provide a written list of all your favourite things, you just have a preferred shop on the high street and you want to let us know, or you want to share your pictures and videos. Simply start your response with ‘I love Guildford because…’ and get in touch.

You can take part by leaving your comments here on our website, or by emailing us directly. You can also find us on Facebook (@guildfordvisiongroup), Twitter (@guildfordvision) and Instagram (@iloveguildford) if you’d like to share your videos and photos. Please submit your responses by Monday 1st October.

In addition, we’ll be handing out prizes; a £100 gift voucher for Cosy Club will be awarded to two winners, one recognising the most unusual reason to love Guildford town centre, and the other rewarding GVG’s favourite photograph of the town centre.

John Rigg, chairman of GVG, said: “We know that Guildford is a brilliant place for all sorts of reasons, however we want to know exactly what people love best about living and working here. Your views will allow GVG to create the first, definitive list of Guildford’s best bits, according to the people who are here every day.”


Competition Terms & Conditions

  1. The promoter is: Guildford Vision Group
  2. The prizes are: A £100 gift voucher for Cosy Club awarded to two winners
  3. The competition is open to the public of the United Kingdom aged 18 years or over
  4. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition
  5. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions
  6. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified
  7. Closing date for entry will be 1st October 2018. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted
  8. The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows: provide written content, pictures or videos illustrating your favourite elements of Guildford town centre, starting the response with ‘I love Guildford because….’ Submissions will be accepted via email, comments on the website Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
  9. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter
  10. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition
  11. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable
  12. Winners will be selected at random by assessing all entries.
  13. The winners will be announced on 16th October at GVG’s next public meeting and also personally notified by direct message on social media platforms, email or on the website dependent upon method of entry. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner. The promoter will notify the winner when and where the prize will be available to pick up
  14. GVG accepts no responsibility for the warranty of the prize
  15. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other social network


GVG Newsletter July 2018: GVG responds to Inspector’s Local Plan demands

GVG Newsletter July 2018: GVG responds to Inspector’s Local Plan demands 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

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

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.


We Need Your Support – Please Help
So please keep supporting us. Feed us your views via our website, Twitter and Facebook. We welcome them. If you want to make comments by email, please send them to

You can also help us by making a donation. Every £ helps. Please email for information on how to donate. Thank you.

Local Plan hearings: GVG congratulates Guildford Borough Council and welcomes new town centre policy

Local Plan hearings: GVG congratulates Guildford Borough Council and welcomes new town centre policy 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

Guildford Vision Group (GVG) congratulates the Council at the end of the Local Plan public hearings yesterday where the Inspector indicated he would find the Plan sound.

GVG has taken considerable comfort in that the Inspector, in requesting a main modification of the Plan, has called on the Council to include a new policy for the Town Centre, where many of the improvements sought by GVG can be incorporated.

GVG, at the request of the Inspector, has already submitted comments and suggested amendments on the first draft by the Council of the Town Centre Policy S3, produced during the course of the hearings.

“We are really pleased with the Inspector’s call for a new Town Centre policy,” said John Rigg, chairman of GVG. “He has clearly recognised the importance of the Centre. He made particular comment on the poor environment for pedestrians and also the need for better design management of development outside the historic core. We look forward to constructive dialogue with the Plan team in the formulation of Policy S3”

GVG has spent the last six years calling for a comprehensive masterplan for the town centre, including new and improved infrastructure. It has produced its own masterplan, launched to much public acclaim and support in February last year.

The Council are now revising the Local Plan in line with the Inspector’s detailed observations. The amendments, including the new Policy S3, will be the subject of public consultation on the Autumn if all goes to plan.

Guildford Vision Group - Guildford Council's gambling Rolling dice

Guildford Local Plan: The council’s gambles and the inspector’s questions

Guildford Local Plan: The council’s gambles and the inspector’s questions 1920 1277 admin

Our council leadership has taken two great gambles with the Local Plan.

The Local Plan – Two Great Council Gambles
The failure of its strategy may well lead to even more housing coming our way, and in ways and places we haven’t bargained for.

Gamble 1 – New Housing & Infrastructure
The Council has sought to contain the new housing number by making any development dependent on provision of adequate infrastructure. There is no certainty this will work as a strategy. Specifically in so doing, it has not met, among other things, the Government’s requirement for a five year housing supply to be identified and achievable from the start of the Plan period.

Gamble 2 – Green Belt vs Brownfield
And in not looking hard enough at brownfield sites, especially in the town centre, something GVG has been urging it to do, the Council has taken the easier route and looked to Green Belt sites to provide land for new housing. This too is a gamble, as planning legislation, regulations and guidance combine to make it quite clear that there must be exceptional circumstances to reverse any Green Belt designation.

The Inspector Calls
The Inspector appointed to examine the Local Plan is already on the Green Belt case. He asks:

‘Please can the Council provide me with a single paper setting out (a) a clear explanation of what it considers to be the strategic level exceptional circumstances justifying the release of the amount of Green Belt land indicated in the plan and its broad spatial distribution; (b) an explanation of what it considers to be the local level exceptional circumstances relating to each specific site from the Green Belt; and (c) an explanation of why it considers that there are exceptional circumstances that require the addition to the Green Belt between Ash Green Village and Ash and Tongham.’

The Inspector is also questioning the Council’s proposal for widespread ‘insetting’ of Green Belt villages and settlements, where hitherto the Green belt has ‘washed over’ them. The consequence of ‘insetting’ is to modify local planning guidance to make new house building more achievable in these formerly well-protected and often historic areas much loved by their electorates.

Insufficient New Housing
The main shortcoming of the Council’s Plan is that it has also almost certainly provided insufficient new housing numbers across the entire Plan period to 2034, partly by choice but, as we may well discover at the Public Examination starting in June, by an inaccurate interpretation of the calculation formula, despite many warnings from resident groups and others.

In his first comments and demands, the Planning Inspector appointed to examine the Council’s Plan has made it clear that he is questioning the whole basis of the Council’s approach when it comes to the provision of new housing. He says:

‘I am very concerned about the proposed stepped housing trajectory which indicates that the plan will deliver much lower numbers of homes in its early years than are actually needed. This appears to be an unacceptable aspect of the plan and the Council needs to consider the steps that should be taken to improve housing delivery in the earlier years of the plan.

If the Plan is about anything, it is about the provision of new housing. If the Council’s great gambles fail, the consequences for all of us will likely be very disturbing.

Where’s The Evidence?
What the Inspector seems to be suggesting is that, where the Council claims an infrastructure shortfall, its evidence base for such a claim is unsound. If the Inspector is right, then the Council’s rationale for the under provision of new housing at the start of the Plan period is completely undermined. He also suggests that the infrastructure needs are inadequately set out as well.

Study Your Profile
The evidence, or rather lack of it, is to be found in the ’Settlement Profiles Report’. The Guildford Society pointed out the deficiencies of the Profiles Report very early on in the Plan process but its advice went unheeded. The Settlement Profile should help positive planning at settlement level by looking at the micro economy of defined areas across the Borough. It measures their issues, threats, opportunities, concerns, micro-economies, relative deprivation, infrastructure, connectivity and characteristics.  The level of study is supported by statistics recognised and used by central government.

Most settlement profiles had at least some input from their Parish Councils. Guildford Urban Area has none and the report, written by the Council itself, is a very poor reflection of this key area.

Urban Guildford Loses Out
One glaring aspect of the Profiles Report is that Guildford town is seen as just one settlement, among 30 others across the borough. Each, of whatever size, merits a three page analysis. With a population of 74,000 the Guildford Urban Area dwarfs the other ‘settlements’ in the borough, such as Ash Green (pop: 593), Chilworth (pop: 1852) and Send (pop: 2314). Thus in the town, the three-page Profile provides poor guidance and does not distinguish between, for example, the micro-economies of Burpham and Stoughton. It does not distinguish between infrastructure needs of, say, Merrow and Park Barn. Thus the three-page Report on the urban area of Guildford leaves it with a very superficial conclusion:

Guildford is designated as an urban area and contains a high level of services. As such it could support a level of development which exceeds that of any of the borough’s other settlements. If suitable sites are found, there is the option to extend the urban area to enable more development however this may lead to development away from key services. The sustainability of any extension should be assessed in more detail through other evidence base studies. This will include further work to assess the level of infrastructure needed to support the level of growth.’

This is the quality of the evidence base against which planning policies are formed to judge future developments of a size such as Solum’s at the station.

Our Masterplan May Yet Have Its Day
GVG has long called for a masterplan for the town centre. GVG draws most encouragement from these words from the Inspector. In a series of questions, he asks:

  • ‘How many years has the redevelopment in North Street, Guildford been under consideration, how long has it had planning permission and has that permission been renewed? Against a background of changing retailing patterns with continued strong growth in internet retailing, what consideration has the Council given to re-evaluating the balance of uses in this location having regard to the need to accommodate additional homes?
  • There is nothing about the masterplanning of large sites, how the public can engage in the overall masterplanning process, or how overall masterplans and the different components of the larger schemes are to be subject to design review – essential parts of the urban design process. These considerations need to go into a new policy ….. and the wording needs to be designed with advice from a masterplanner / urban This is essential given the number of
    major housing and mixed use allocations in the plan.
  • Please can the Council produce a paper setting out what steps should be taken and policy revisions made to accommodate a greater amount of the housing growth in the town centre and on other eligible brownfield land including suitable employment land and

We share the Inspector’s concerns over developments in the retail market. We have engaged with the North Street developer over the past year or more. We are proposing a much more mixed use scheme, with a substantial housing element, which now the Council may at last recognise. We want a professionally masterplanned scheme. We want an attractive centre extension of mixed uses, with appropriate massing for the County Town. We do not want a ‘mega mall’ with a housing estate on top.

You Have Contributed To Our Plan
GVG has asked to be allowed to present its masterplan for the town centre to the Inspector. The plan has evolved through interaction and consultation with residents, businesses and visitors alike over the past six years. We have been very heartened by the level of support for our plan shown at the two public meetings we held last year when over 500 people attended.

Guildford Residents Should Have Their Say
With the new crossing we propose, the centre of Guildford and the riverside is given back to pedestrians. Our plan delivers over 2,000 more homes in the town centre than the number planned by the Council. Our plan delivers this number while respecting and enhancing Guildford’s heritage and lovely setting. If only the same could be said for the Solum scheme – the Network rail planning application which GBC should have managed so much better before losing the planning appeal, courtesy of inadequate or absent planning policies. This is why it is so important that we all speak out. Guildford is our town and we should all have a meaningful say in its future.

GVG newsletter April 2018

GVG press release: Council gambling with our future says Guildford Vision Group April 2018

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Unsplash

Guildford Vision Group Newsletter logo

Guildford Local Plan: Update August 2017

Guildford Local Plan: Update August 2017 210 72 admin

Does the £3m, 10-year Guildford Local Plan deliver?

We’ve just submitted our detailed comments on the latest Guildford Local Plan draft. You can find our comments in the download section of our website here: They make interesting reading.
The Draft Guildford Local Plan can be found on the Council’s website.
It’s been the third opportunity to comment on the Council’s draft since it started life ten years ago. A protracted and expensive exercise (believed to be costing £3m for consultancy) has produced a Plan that is lacking in many crucial elements. It has little aspiration or vision for what Guildford, especially the Town Centre, could be like by the middle of the century.

A Proper Plan Is Vital
Surveys repeatedly show the infrastructure deficit is cramping business plans and making the town centre less pleasant.

An agreed Local Plan is vital for Guildford. It unlocks government funding, allows informed decisions to be made on planning issues, and identifies critical infrastructure investment necessary to enhance the town’s prosperity and attractiveness.

Sadly, we fear the Guildford Local Plan is set to fail the town centre.  Although there are some nuggets of hope and progress, the latest Plan just isn’t ambitious enough when it comes to the centre.

No Policy Is No Policy
GVG is all about creating a wonderful town centre, the very heart of our borough, and making it safe, vibrant, sustainable and attractive. Remember the six goals we set ourselves for the centre. It is by these that we have judged the Guildford Local Plan:

  1. Wider pedestrianisation of the town centre
  2. Exciting new public space and a reinvigorated riverside
  3. Redirection of traffic away from the town centre
  4. An integrated road and rail hub
  5. More town centre housing
  6. A new bridge for a better East-West link

The Town Centre must be properly planned. There are major components missing, e.g. agreement with Highways England on improvements to local road network.  In its latest draft Local Plan Guildford Council is relying just on piecemeal development, supported by a Town Centre Regeneration Strategy it hasn’t actually adopted as policy!

Councillors must be questioned as to why they approved the Plan draft if its proposals won’t determine the path of either planning or planning applications in the centre. An unambitious, piecemeal Plan is insufficient to address current failures or to ensure our town is fit for the 21st century.

Town Centre First
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is very clear on the role which town centres have to play in the growth of boroughs:

‘Local planning authorities should plan positively, to support town centres to … create attractive, diverse places where people want to live, visit and work.

.. and plan to meet the needs of main town centre uses in full … adopting a ‘town centre first’ approach and taking account of specific town centre policy.’

GVG struggles to discern any ‘town centre first’ or policy approach by the Council and believes Guildford will be the poorer as a result.

GVG has developed a master plan that it believes should be properly considered as a contribution to a more comprehensive and sounder plan for the town centre.

We want to make our robust case and to facilitate this GVG has engaged PRP, a respected planning consultancy, to help us scrutinise the local plan, judge its contents against other towns and to make fair representations. PRP has also marshalled our contribution to the Reg. 19 consultation just closed.

Some Examples Of Where The Draft Guildford Local Plan Fails:
a) North Street – A Centre For Tomorrow, Not Today
GVG left the area out of its masterplan on the basis that a scheme was about to be announced. The Local Plan has a very ambitious target for new retail space of 41,000sq metre, the planned volume for the North St site and almost half as much town centre retail space as exists today. So all our new retail eggs will be in one North St basket.

But our main concern is that retail is changing dramatically due to on-line retailing, nowhere more so than the US where department stores, retail chains, and malls are in serious trouble. We lead the US in online retailing so are we heading for a North St fall before the scheme has got off the ground?

M&G and GBC have some interesting designs for their new mall on North Street, but should it be a much more mixed development – commercial, retail, leisure and housing in a mix that introduces attractive public realm and community assets? Guildford lacks modern attractive commercial space. Maybe this is part of the answer for North Street.

b) Housing to Help, Brownfield Best
The Council’s draft Local Plan misses a timely opportunity to bring much needed housing to the centre in a proper joined-up, brownfield plan to the detriment of the Green Belt.

GVG believes that its comprehensive, carefully constructed and co-ordinated masterplan can deliver, for example, around 2,000 more homes in the town than the amount set out in the draft Guildford Local Plan. That would save either Blackwell Farm or Wisley.

Our housing proposals are sensitive to their setting, draw on sustainable criteria and redress one of the most crucial challenges for our town. Our masterplan puts brownfield first and development in a safer, more attractive riverside environment.

c) Our Crossing – We’re Cross
Our new East/West crossing hardly merits a mention in the Guildford Local Plan. This is despite earnest arguments for it in the two previous consultations and the overwhelming support for it – 90% plus – at the two public meetings we held earlier this year. We have the supportive opinion of well-qualified professionals and organisations.

Meanwhile the pressing need remains to tackle growing congestion and record pollution and accidents in the heart of our town.

Our crossing enables so many benefits – wider, safer and healthier pedestrianisation, better cycleways, and a revitalised railway station and hub/interchange with buses. It brings great public space along the river, with an open market and new green spaces.

d) What the Guildford Local Plan leaves out
The Draft Plan is striking in what is left out, including potential development areas in the centre.  Some areas are needlessly divided. Developing the east and west sides of station separately doesn’t make sense.  The Plan is silent on any real detail on key infrastructure, eg roads, flood defences and renewable energy.

Let’s Talk
Despite the best efforts of a number of people, we struggle to have sensible conversations and debate with Council Leaders over the good ideas in our masterplan. Indeed there is a reluctance to allow officers and others to talk to us. This reluctance now seemingly extends to County Council officers.

As part of the process to develop and approve a Local Plan, it is a statutory requirement for the Council to consult.  GBC appears to be failing to meet this requirement.

It is ridiculous that we should have to turn to Freedom of Information and other statute-backed requests for key information. Aren’t we all on the same side?

We apologise to the Council if they find our proposals too challenging or radical but we believe there is a need for interrogation of the direction of travel proposed by the Council and its leaders.

No one should doubt our conviction that something must be done to reinvigorate our town centre. Guildford is the regional hub. It should be a centre of growth and progress. As we fall short in our plans, other centres are getting ahead while our outlook is currently just further deterioration. This is simply not good enough. We should be hungry for progress.

The Next Steps
The GVG Steering Group continues to meet weekly in pursuit of its goals. We hope to be more active via social media to ensure we meet as wide an audience as possible. We do welcome feedback from you and all in the community.

We would like help on funding or fund raising, expertise in social media or professional skills in the built environment.  In turn, we hope you will spread the word about our masterplan for the town centre. We need as much support as we can muster so we really can make our masterplan yours.

Our website has full details of our masterplan plus a very exciting ‘flythrough’ of the core of the town here:  It shows what might be achieved via a joined-up plan.

You can contact us at by email:

GVG newsletter August 2017