It must be recognised that there are natural limits to the growth that Guildford can accommodate. It is a gap town nestled in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a narrow floodplain created by the river Wey. Restricted roads converge in the town centre to cross the river. It is encircled by Metropolitan Green Belt. Also, it must be acknowledged that demand for homes in Guildford from families migrating out from London and elsewhere is unlikely ever to be met. All this represents a real challenge for Guildford.
Guildford benefits from its:
o Resource of enterprising residents with a strong commitment and sense of belonging to Guildford
o High tech and high added value economy and research park
o University with strategic plans to expand medical and veterinary areas and develop distance learning
o Foundation Trust hospital
o Tourist potential and access to airports and London
o Location in the Surrey Hills AONB with magnificent views and unspoiled countryside within walking distance of the town centre
o Residential character of pleasant suburban and conservation areas
o Scenic historic High Street with alleyways, views and the river providing a unique shopping experience
o Variety of open spaces with individual character and green approaches into town
o Good schools, sports, arts and leisure facilities, cathedral and historic buildings
In recent years Guildford has not developed as hoped:
o Traffic congestion is a problem for businesses and residents.
o The gyratory prevents best use of the river frontage and hampers links between the railway and shops.
o Development has turned its back on the river and blocked pedestrian access along the riverside.
o The A3 and railway divide the town hindering access to the university, research park and hospital.
o Development at Slyfield is impeded by lack of road capacity.
o The A3 causes noise pollution from Burpham to Onslow.
o Ad hoc development fails to consider cumulative impact or contribute adequately to already strained infrastructure, a problem fuelled by a piecemeal approach to the sale of publicly owned assets.
o Overdevelopment of sites, unrealistic attempts to design out rather than manage the car, loss of green features and over-reliance on retail expansion have undermined confidence within the community.
o Poorly designed buildings increasingly dominate, eroding the sense of place.
o Ribbon development and brash buildings are diminishing the character of the approaches.
o Our streets deter walking and cycling.
Residents call on Guildford Borough Council to re-engage with the community and reverse the trend of recent years in which planning has become more remote, often as an unintended consequence of:
o The focus on strategic and enterprise partnerships with no residents’ representatives,
o Asset reviews lacking the familiar consultative mechanisms established for land use planning,
o Centralised planning targets and necessary endeavours to achieve savings and stimulate the economy.
As the Ministerial foreword in the National Planning Policy Framework states “in recent years, planning has tended to exclude, rather than to include, people and communities.” A key principle is that “In order to fulfil its purpose of helping achieve sustainable development, planning must not simply be about scrutiny. Planning must be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which we live our lives. This should be a collective enterprise.” We agree. Residents Associations really want to work with Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to embrace this approach in Guildford. We welcome the 12 “core planning principles”.
We invite all parties to rise to the challenge and work together to achieve our aspirations.