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Cllr Spooner Should Own Up to the Council’s Failures

Cllr Spooner Should Own Up to the Council’s Failures 500 500 GVG Admin

Bill Stokoe chair of GVG has written a forceful response concerning a recent item posted by Cllr Spooner (now Conservative Independent Group) on the Guildford Dragon.

In his letter to the Guildford Dragon,  Bill highlights that Masterplan progress and speed plus town centre development heights are matters, along with others, that Paul Spooner could have addressed during his time as Leader. To make comments concerning the efforts of John Rigg (Founder and past chair of GVG) and Julian Lyon (Past Chair of Guildford Society) at this time is unworthy.

The full text of the Bill Stokoe letter follows:-

Cllr Spooner (now Conservative Independent Group) has a selective memory. Masterplan progress and speed plus town centre development heights are matters, along with others, he could have addressed during his time as Leader. To take a pop at John Rigg and Julian Lyon at this time is unworthy.

A little history may help. Allies & Morrison’s (A&M) first masterplan-related appearance in Guildford was back in 2011 when it was retained by The Guildford Society, at the urging of John Rigg, to critique the council’s ill-fated – and inadequate – Interim Town Centre Framework. The inadequacies revealed by the critique led to the formation of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) under John’s determined leadership. GVG’s initial work was helped by continued interaction with A&M.

With GVG’s blessing, the then conservative administration (before Cllr Spooner’s time as Leader) hired A&M to do the work to which Cllr Spooner refers. But, crucially, A&M were restricted by the council’s brief from focusing at any length on infrastructure. The A&M masterplan never achieved planning status, for reasons that were never quite clear. Sadly, it was never formally adopted by the council led by Cllr Spooner.

The council’s approach to the town centre in Cllr Spooner’s time was piecemeal, almost on a site by site basis. A better planned centre would have relieved pressure on the green belt. Hence the Local Plan public examination in 2018-19 revealed the inadequacy, indeed absence, of planning for the town centre, spotlighted by GVG’s submission and presentation of its own TCMP concept.

The inspector made some incisive comments about the poor state of the town centre. He used the word ‘appalling’. He demanded the council produce a better policy for the town centre. That became policy S3. Written overnight, the policy was an improvement but still left significant gaps, and with the controversial green belt sites ‘locked-in’.

The inadequacy of the council’s planning regime was only too apparent when SOLUM’s plans for a massive, 10 storey development alongside the tracks at the station were approved on appeal. That’s when the height precedent was set for town centre development in a sensitive area adjoining a conservation area. That was under Cllr Spooner’s leadership.

I have been involved closely with GVG since its beginning. I was involved in a number of meetings and interaction with Cllr Spooner and others during his time as Leader, along with John and Julian.

It is fair to say that GVG’s progress was hampered in recent years by very poor relations with the council led by Cllr Spooner. Maybe there was an element of ‘not invented here’ in its reaction. Nonetheless, GVG public meetings consistently attracted a very large audience, on one occasion topping 400 (when we launched our TCMP – see our website). So we were regularly reassured by that high level of support of residents. A number of councillors also expressed support but for some reason felt unable to speak out publicly.

To my, and others, great sadness, the real frustration of all these years has been the inability of the council to work cooperatively, progressively and productively with a group of well-intentioned, well qualified residents towards a common goal of a better town centre, fit for the 21st century.

Residents and businesses should be very grateful for the hours freely given by people like John and Julian and devoted to seeing a better Guildford emerge. When it comes to the town centre, good luck, I say, to the current administration. It deserves our support.

Kind regards

Bill Stokoe

Chair, Guildford Vision Group

GVG Comments on Development Management Policies

GVG Comments on Development Management Policies 600 350 GVG Admin

GVG has responded to the consultation on the Local Plan: Development Management Polices that provide the detailed ‘rules’ that support the Local Plan as agreed in 2019.  GVG considers the DMP has limited powers to drive the regeneration of the Town Centre and that revision is required. See our full submission to the Council.

If only we could see what is going on in planning

If only we could see what is going on in planning 456 419 GVG Admin

Even before lockdown’s legacy, our town and its centre faces challenges. Among these are large developments that will shape the future of our town, either for good or bad. But do we know what they might look like? What mass, height and cladding choices are there, for example? How might residents better see what is going on?

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GVG Calls For Comprehensive Bus Service Review As Part Of North Street Redevelopment

GVG Calls For Comprehensive Bus Service Review As Part Of North Street Redevelopment 653 339 GVG Admin

Following its recent call for bold action on town centre transport, Guildford Vision Group (GVG) believes the imminent redevelopment of North Street should trigger a comprehensive review of Guildford’s bus services.

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Vision Group Calls For Bold Initiatives To Reduce Car Volume In Town Centre

Vision Group Calls For Bold Initiatives To Reduce Car Volume In Town Centre 640 480 GVG Admin

At the start of a new decade, and at a time when the climate crisis is centre stage, the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) believes the council should be looking at much bolder initiatives to deal with traffic in the town centre.

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North Street – Details Emerge

North Street – Details Emerge 1920 1440 GVG Admin

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?

Guildford Station Development Starts

Guildford Station Development Starts 692 517 GVG Admin

It appears from Surrey Live press reports that the development of Guildford Station East side begins on the 28th October.

GVG is disappointed that this major development is going ahead, despite many objections. We believe the Station should be redeveloped; but in a properly planned manner. Apart from 400 plus flats,  the Solum Development provides little of value to the town and its supporting infrastructure (Roads, Public Facilities etc).

The opportunity presented by the railway station site to create a new Transport Interchange and Vibrant Quarter for the town is being lost to short term commercial considerations.

Undaunted, GVG is re-appraising it’s proposals for the Town Centre to encompass Solum and other potential changes in the Town Centre. GVG and will be proposing updated ideas in the new year which we hope will provide a input to the Town Centre Plan that we urge the council to develop with vigour and in good time.  We need to protect the Town Centre from another planning disaster.

(Click Here to see news item)

Reflections on the Heritage Weekend for the Town Centre

Reflections on the Heritage Weekend for the Town Centre 533 400 GVG Admin

Bill Stokoe Chairman of GVG has contributed an opinion piece to The Guildford Dragon reflecting on the lessons offered by the Heritage Weekend.  See Bills thoughts here (Opens in a new link) GVG believes that a town centre masterplan should not just be improving access to the retail offering, but should enhance Guildford’s many and varied exciting venues, displaying our town as a much more attraction-rich destination, a better day out, than that offered by neighbouring towns.
Turn the negatives of gap town, river barrier and hilly setting into positives. Promote a day out along the riverside. Celebrate the wider pedestrianisation as improving access to our heritage and not just the retail centres and nightlife, important as they may be.

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.

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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 

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