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Waitrose Plan Faces Two Judicial Reviews – Council Will ‘Defend Its Decision’

The site near York Road where the Waitrose store will be built.

The Bellerby Theatre site near York Road where Waitrose was granted permission to build a new supermarket and 48 homes.

The plan to build a Waitrose supermarket on the Bellerby Theatre site is facing two applications for judicial review*. Cllr James Palmer, lead councillor for the town centre, says Guildford Borough Council (GBC) will defend its decision.

One of the judicial review applicants is the Guildford Vision Group (GVG), the other is Hermes, asset managers with funds of £27 billion sourced initially from the British Telecom/Post Office pension funds and owners of the Friary centre.

Planning permission for the Waitrose development, which included 48 homes, was granted by GBC, that owns the Bellerby site, in December, after the Secretary of State for Local Government decided that it did not require intervention by him because it was only of local importance.

In a press release, GVG said: “We believe that GBC, amongst other things, has incorrectly applied a crucial planning test – the ‘sequential’ test. In layman’s terms, the assessment of the planning application by the planning officers has to determine that more appropriate sites for town centre uses, taken in sequence, do not already exist, such as the redevelopment planned for North Street and the Friary.”

Other grounds for a judicial review, they say, include: “…poor assessment of conservation and environmental aspects.”

Hermes are the the sole owners of the Friary centre after Westfield sold it its interest last year. Owning the majority of the land for the proposed North Street development, Hermes has been long-term major investors in the town but have announced a decision to sell its Guildford interests to PRUPIM, the property arm of Prudential.

Site Plan

Site Plan

John Rigg, chairman of GVG said: “We do not take the judicial review step lightly.” [It has been done] “more in sorrow, in fact. It all comes down to the lack of a sensible, professional masterplan for the town. Where is the logic in a traffic-busy, trolley format foodstore outside the main retail envelope of the town centre and, indeed, just outside the extended primary retail area anticipated by the North Street development?”

Three other leading community groups also challenged the planning decision, asking the Secretary of State to call in the scheme: The Guildford Society; The Guildford Residents’ Association (an umbrella organisation covering numerous residents associations in Guildford) and the Guildford Environmental Forum.

Michael Jeffery, chairman of The Guildford Society, said: “We support GVG’s judicial review request. The Bellerby site should be retained solely for housing, as originally planned.”

The previously agreed housing role for the Bellerby site delivered 75 affordable housing units against the 18 provided under the new scheme. GVG says believes the site could accommodate up to 250 homes if it were given over entirely to housing. The newly approved scheme manages just 48 homes in total.

A GVG spokesperson said: “GVG is pro-growth and supports plans to develop both North Street and the Bellerby site, provided the development is in the context of a masterplan that looks at the broader picture, especially the traffic implications.

“A good masterplan will deliver a finer Guildford. If Guildford is to flourish well into the 21st century, the importance of a beautiful town, and of people over cars, has to be acknowledged, with much improved public space for the community, arts and entertainment, as well as for attractions such as the established street markets.”

A GBC spokesperson confirmed knowledge of the two applications. She stated: “Guildford Borough Council has received notification of two potential legal challenges to its decision, to grant planning permission for a town centre mixed-use scheme submitted by Waitrose.

The north part of the site looking towards York Road

The north part of the site looking towards York Road

“The plans to regenerate the site include 48 new homes, 18 of which will be affordable, a new community centre and a medium-sized retail store accompanied by 168 parking spaces.

Lead Councillor for Town Centre and Transport, Cllr James Palmer, said: “We firmly believe our decision to grant planning permission supports the principles of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which favours and encourages town centre development.

“The project is a great opportunity to regenerate a part of the town centre and at the same time introduce a long-awaited top brand foodstore to Guildford. We will of course defend this decision.”

GBC and GVG are known to have been in dialogue over development plans for Guildford. GVG have been allowed by GBC to hear presentations from the short-listed developers for the North Street development project. The impact of GVG’s action remains to be seen.

PRUPIM declined to comment on this story. Hermes was invited to comment but no reply has been received.

In August, Hermes’ asset manager Ben Tolman said: “We remain committed to Guildford, having recently purchased Dominion House, which now gives us ownership of some 60% of the wider Guildford town centre expansion site.”

* A judicial review is a procedure in English administrative law by which the courts in England and Wales supervise the exercise of public power on the application of an individual. A person who feels that an exercise of such power by a government authority, such as a minister, the local council or a statutory tribunal, is unlawful, perhaps because it has violated his or her rights, may apply to the Administrative Court (a division of the High Court) for judicial review of the decision and have it set aside (quashed) and possibly obtain damages. A court may also make mandatory orders or injunctions to compel the authority to do its duty or to stop it from acting illegally. Source Wikipedia.

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29 Responses to Waitrose Plan Faces Two Judicial Reviews – Council Will ‘Defend Its Decision’

  1. David Smith Reply

    March 15, 2013 at 9:35 am

    What a disappointing story, I wonder when Guildford Vision Group will realise they don’t represent Guildford people. Having attended the Planning Committee meeting myself last year it became quite clear what type of group this was – wealthy individuals, housewives and retired pensioners who kept complaining “we can’t hear”, rudely may I add. Oh I forgot to mention the head of Clyde and Co who was against the scheme as his staff who drove in already encountered traffic – why do they not use trains?

    The planning committee had overwhelming support from people of Guildford and that is why over 90% of them voted the Waitrose scheme in without hesitation. Now a scheme we were all looking forward to starting this year along with much needed homes and community centre may be delayed further. Thank you GVG. We all hope you are happy. When will you consult local people on the next scheme you take a dislike to? Sorry when was that…? Never….?

    Hermes who, in fact, are looking to sell the Friary (thank you very much too) having been granted planning back in 2000, or so, for a scheme which still hasn’t been implemented, you have decided to allow even more of our town to turn into a zone of discard. I wouldn’t join forces with GVG just yet mind, it will be your scheme (if you ever get your finger out) that they ‘don’t like next’.

    Lets all remember that these are just applications and no judicial review has been confirmed. After all the common grounds of illegality, procedural impropriety or unfairness and irrationality are likely to be hard to support. As the Head of GBC Planning Committee said; no application had been given more thought, time or study.

    I really hope that these review applications founder and suggest that when they do GVG steer well clear of our new store, oh and perhaps they could drop the name Guildford too as they certainly don’t represent my views or anyone else I have spoken to!

  2. Sarah Taylor Reply

    March 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Guildford Vision Group does not represent my views as a Guildford resident, I wish the group would stop halting vital development whilst not providing alternative suggestions. They waste everyone’s time claiming to speak for the whole town. We have our own voices, we do not need a group such as this.

  3. Jan Todd Reply

    March 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I completely agree with what David and Sarah have said. I did not vote for the Guildford Vision Group, and they do not represent my views. The Guildford Vision Group suggests that the proposed Waitrose site could accommodate 250 homes, but one of their objections to the store is that it will increase traffic. Will the residents of these proposed 250 homes not be allowed to own cars? Where do the ‘Guildford Vision Group’ propose that any children living on that site go to school, with local school places stretched to the limit? The Waitrose application has my full support. What a shame that it may be delayed, or even stopped altogether.

  4. Stephen Thair Reply

    March 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Whilst Guildford Vision Group (GVG) might not represent your views they do represent the views on many Guildford residents.

    I am not a member of GVG nor have any connection with them or any other party involved in the development plans but I do have serious concerns about this development for three reasons:

    (1) I would like to see a traffic masterplan first that addresses Guildford horrendous traffic issues with the current gyratory bottleneck before adding another influx of traffic into an already congested area;

    (2) I would like to see how the Waitrose plans are integrated with the North Street plans and the plans for the railway station re-development;

    (3) Given that there is a significant number of vacant shops already in the main shopping areas of North St and High St (and an even larger amount empty office/commercial space), I would like to understand the economic rationale for even more retail development.

    The GVG may indeed be a bunch of middle-class NIMBY’s that are not representative of Guildford “as a whole” but the idea that Guildford needs a “vision”, with an integrated traffic master plan, that addresses the three concerns outlined above seems very sensible to me.

    That the Guildford Council seems to want to push ahead without a “vision” seems to me to be the odder decision that’s more worthy of investigation.

    Lastly, to quote from the article..

    “Three other leading community groups also challenged the planning decision, asking the Secretary of State to call in the scheme: The Guildford Society; The Guildford Residents’ Association (an umbrella organisation covering numerous residents associations in Guildford) and the Guildford Environmental Forum.”

    So to solely attack GVG seems to miss the point entirely.

    Perhaps the three who made the comments above would like to expand on any connections or allegiances, to the developers, council or other special interest groups, they might have?

  5. Julian Lyon Reply

    March 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I am a member of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) Steering Group. I understand the agonies of observers for and against the Bellerby development. But, speaking for myself and not for or on behalf of GVG, I would like to point out that, had the processes of: site allocation, site disposal, integrated evidence, and a realistic examination of alternatives, been properly and comprehensively undertaken by the Council and applicant (we are going back to before the application was even submitted) it is quite possible that all of us who would like to see Waitrose in the town could have had our way. But not necessarily on that site and almost certainly not in that format.

    Whilst some may choose to speculate on my class, wealth or employment status, this is not about NIMBYism. This is about quality and about strategic planning.

    If we are to accept development ‘In My Back Yard’, we must demand that it is done properly, without wasting the scarce resources of our previously developed sites (before raiding the countryside to make up the housing numbers for example). We must also make sure that the rest of the town can not only continue to function but can grow its economy. It should: the Region and the Country requires it to.

    This will need good governance, good leadership and good application of the law and planning regulations. Better engagement with stakeholders and communities would be a good start and I hope the forthcoming Local Plan consultations will embrace this and move us much further forward with an up-to-date, workable and comprehensive plan for the town and the Borough.

    I hope there will be a sensible location and solution for both Waitrose and John Lewis, but I personally am not prepared to stand by and let our town be destroyed for a lack of patience and imagination, and from misguided pragmatism.

  6. A W Derbyshire Reply

    March 18, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Well, having spent more than an hour struggling along Walnut Tree Close into the dreaded gyratory on three or four occasion over the past month, the Guildford Vision Group certainly speaks for me!

    We’ve got to tackle traffic in the centre of Guildford. We need that to happen before we think about opening another supermarket. Bellerby should remain as a housing site. We need housing before we need another supermarket and car park in the town centre, don’t we?

    Guildford Vision is on the right track when it argues for a masterplan. Where’s the sense in not having one?

    Sensible planning can deliver sensible outcomes: more public space, better pedestrian routes, attractive leisure areas, and engaging architecture. And an end to my nightmare on Walnut Tree Close. All power to their elbow, I say.

  7. Sarah Taylor Reply

    March 18, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I would ask A W Derbyshire and all those within the “Guildford Vision Group (GVG)” to correct me if I am wrong, but will housing not also cause more traffic? Surely, if the claims about refusing the Waitrose store is actually about traffic, you would want the site to remain empty whilst (yet another) traffic survey is carried out instead of proposing 250 new homes? What about jobs? To suggest we do not need another supermarket whilst proposing more new homes is short sighted. Where are these people going to shop and as Jan Todd asked, where will the children go to school?

    GVG moans that the council and Waitrose have not consulted people properly, has GVG consulted people about their existence such as holding events and introducing themselves to the whole of Guildford before going in all guns blazing with their irrational views? No. Please explain why there are so many of these silly “residents association” groups. Stop trying to be something you’re not and let the residents speak for themselves.

    At the end of the day, Guildford cannot stay as it is. We all agree on that. However how we go about the masterplan and development is what we disagree on, which is a decision for the council and all residents, not residents association groups who represent a select few.

  8. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

    The new Sainsburys, Tesco store and the Ladymead centre came about for the very reason that town centre traffic congestion was unacceptable.

    That was twenty years ago, since then the traffic problem has worsened and if allowed to continue in this fashion complete gridlock will be the result.

    Put back the clock at your peril!

  9. A W Derbyshire Reply

    March 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-21812826

    If you follow this link a then click on ’16 Projects’ the Guildford gyratory is listed.

    What is the project, what is happening? Can Surrey County Council tell us please?

    Or is it another change to Guildford without the residents being consulted?

  10. D Cullen Reply

    March 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    At least there is some interesting debate going on here. I’d like to make a few points.

    In response to:

    Stephen Thair. You make some valid points but I suggest that the other leading groups who are objecting are GVG under other names. Most of the GVG are part of other residents associations and the Guildford Society (who object to anything and everything).

    Julian Lyon. How can you consider a John Lewis in the Town Centre acceptable and not a Waitrose on this site? You talk about us accepting development ‘in your back yard’. Do you live in the area where Waitrose is planned? Have you consulted those in the immediate locality to see what they want? The suggestion of affordable housing is not going to grow our economy nor will it alleviate traffic problems.

    Why does everyone think people using the Waitrose will be doing so by car?

    And finally to A W Derbyshire. A traffic master plan won’t stop lazy people using Walnut Tree Close as a shortcut. If you actually study the gyratory system two lanes are often free it’s the A281, and the demand for it, that causes problems together with drivers trying to filter out from Walnut Tree Close and cross two lanes to get into the lane adjacent to Wetherspoons. I use public transport and walk down Bridge Street and see it all the time.

    You make it sound like we have ample supermarkets. Have you been in Marks and Spencer food hall, Sainsburys in Burpham or Tesco in Park Barn on a Saturday? They all have more business than they can handle. You can’t get a space in the latter two. How is building more homes going to reduce the demand for food retailers?

    By all means have a masterplan but my gripe is that planning permission has been granted and it was what the people of Guildford wanted. It was granted in a transparent way, with all the councillors involved, with numerous traffic surveys and with considerable consultation.

    Calling for a judicial review simply because you don’t agree with the outcome or, in the case of Hermes, because you didn’t get in there first is likely to fail.

  11. Stephen Thair Reply

    March 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    D Cullen writes “my gripe is that planning permission has been granted and it was what the people of Guildford wanted. It was granted in a transparent way, with all the councillors involved, with numerous traffic surveys and with considerable consultation.”

    Can you please post some links to the traffic survey results and the consultation outcomes? I’d like to see some facts to back up those assertions.

    Personally the first I heard about the re-development was when GVG started objecting to it… so I must have missed a lot of the “consultation”.

    I admit that I might not be the most engaged of Guildford residents all the time but it says something about the consultation process that it managed to fly below my radar while the GVG didn’t.

    Or is GVG just better at PR than the council (and if so, let’s sack the PR department and get some better people in…)?

    I’d also assert that what the council approves, what the councillors support and what the people of Guildford “want” often bear no logical or causal connection so to say that it’s what the people “want” just because it passed council planning seems to be drawing an unwarranted conclusion without any additional facts to back it up.

  12. D Cullen Reply

    March 19, 2013 at 7:55 am

    In response to the comment from Stephen Thair – I suggest he refers to the The Guildford Dragon NEWS Website, Estates Gazette Interactive, Get Surrey Website, About Guildford, Property Week Journal and Waitrose’s own dedicated website. This is not new news it has been discussed at length for the last two years. Waitrose held an extensive consultation and drop in at the Guildhall I think back last year and since then there has been comprehensive coverage. This is just one of the stories: http://www.guildford-dragon.com/2012/04/21/guildford-waitrose-exhibition-attracts-large-numbers/

    It’s also a shame Mr Thair was not at the planning committee meeting where councillors were explicit in stating why they thought it should be approved. In one instance, Councillor Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary and St Nicolas) said: “Some people may have lost sight of the fact that this is a mixed use development with a community centre, housing and foodstore…”Interestingly it is the only application in my ward where residents have contacted me because they were so concerned that it will not go ahead.”

    In addition, Waitrose found, of those surveyed, 87% wanted the store. Perhaps The Guildford Vision Group (GVG) should consult Guildford residents and ask them if they want GVG to take the role of democratically elected councillors. Why does this group think they can speak for all of us?

    And finally, I believe the traffic reports should be on the GBC website annexed to the planning application – where the highways department would aslo have commented.

  13. Sarah Taylor Reply

    March 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

    There are numerous ways Stephen Thair could find information for himself. Looking at the planning application would be a good start.

    D Cullen is correct, Waitrose held a consultation at the Guildhall. It was very informative and allowed people to voice their concerns (via themselves, not through silly little groups).

    This application has, and always will have, my full support. The Guildford Vision Group will never speak for me.

  14. Jan Todd Reply

    March 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I was bemused that Stephen Thair seems to think that anyone who might support the Waitrose application must have ‘connections or allegiances, to the developers, council or other special interest groups’!

    I am simply a Guildford resident who lives close to the site. I, like many others, have been aware of the Waitrose proposal from the outset. It was certainly given high-profile coverage in the media, which I followed closely, and as far as I am aware, went through all the usual planning processes.

    It seems to me that the proposed ‘mixed use’ development would be ideal. If the site were to be given over entirely to housing, where is the infrastructure to support it? School places, doctor’s surgeries etc…. And as D Cullen asks, why does everyone think people using Waitrose would be doing so by car? Many local residents, and people working in the town, would access it on foot.

    Siting yet another supermarket on the outskirts of town, which some have suggested would be preferable, would be no use to me, since I don’t own a car and don’t have the luxury of time to travel there by bus.

    Also, could someone enlighten me, please, because I don’t know enough about these matters? Will this judicial review cost the local council-taxpayers anything as the Council ‘defends’ their position? If so, that could make me really cross!

    • Martin Giles Reply

      March 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      We have asked the council to confirm that the tax payer will be paying for the legal costs of the council associated with any judicial review, as we believe to be the case.

  15. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Sorting out traffic problems on the Guildford gyratory and the A3 is certainly number one priority. Everyone agrees that this should be done before development of sites in the town centre could properly begin.

    Solutions for congestion are there but these need to be holistic i.e. these should address the question of efficient use of road space, re-routing traffic to achieve smoother flows, widening footways for pedestrians, introducing cycle lanes into the town centre, relocating the bus station, introducing bus routes extended to the railway station, and providing multiple waiting areas around the Friary so that bus users virtually continue to enjoy the same degree of convenience if not more.

    The railway station development also needs to improve the east-west route and cater for a direct pedestrian route to the town centre.

    How could all these be done? It seems impossible to address so many issues concurrently. The answer lies in phased improvements but these are designed to be part of the whole scheme so no abortive work is involved.

    I have outlined my ideas of improvements on my website and I sincerely hope the Councils would take up many of these. Vast improvements could be achieved for less than £10m. Should you wish to see these, please search for ‘revamp guildford gyratory’.

  16. David Smith Reply

    March 20, 2013 at 9:15 am

    I think its time Julian Lyon and the rest of this so called vision group start engaging with residents and letting them know they have taken it upon themselves to delay much needed retail, jobs and community centre at the cost of the taxpayer. I believe there will be considerable anger in the town.

    We want answers on:

    1. How much is this challenge going to cost?

    2. Where are we going to locate the much needed retail and community centre?

    3. How will the schools and infrastructure cope with yet more homes? We have already seen that the adjacent school ‘needs to improve’ according to Ofsted.

    4. How you can believe John Lewis will even entertain coming to Guildford after the Waitrose fiasco that they have helped cause?

    5. If a Guildford wide survey comes out in support of the council and the scheme will they back down?

    6. Finally, what is the risk of these key retailers locating to nearby Woking who seem to be able to move with the times? They are already doing all they can to tempt John Lewis into their town.

  17. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

    When I served on the planning committee at Guildford Borough Council several applications were rejected on the grounds that there were too many car parking places proposed.

    That was twenty years ago when it was said even then that the number of central car movements should be cut back.

    The solution then was to encourage these developers to provide shower facilities to encourage more of their employees to cycle to work.

    “A more acute and immediate problem was the chaos of traffic around the station. No plan which was a compromise based on the existing road system would do it was just a bad design.”

    Source: Guildford of the Future Outline Plan 1946.

    Has anything changed?

  18. Sarah Taylor Reply

    March 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    In response to Stephen Thair’s comment on March 17th where he suggests that myself and the others showing support for the application may have some connections to “the developers, council or other special interest groups” I can confirm I certainly don’t have any connections and to suggest such a thing is completely ridiculous.

    Funnily enough, I am just a Guildford resident with common sense who wants to see this development go ahead, as I am sure the others supporting the application also are, or is that not allowed to be the case?

  19. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Further to my earlier comments, I would like to raise the issue of relocation of the bus station. GBC’s proposal to relocate the bus station to Bedford Road car park site has been opposed by many. The existing bus station is included in the area of North Street development, so where will the bus station be relocated to? What is happening to the Friary Extension? Is Hermes or PRUIMP not proceeding with this? I may have missed some announcements having been out of the country recently.

    Hermes has bought Dominion House and yet GBC has marked it as due for demolition as it is apparently an inferior quality building!

    We will soon know how the three bidders have tackled the issue of the bus station. If the relocation is to be outside of the area of North Street development, how have the bidders dealt with the relocation, or have they been directed to assume it will be in Bedford Road anyway?

    My proposal is for its relocation on Mary Road car park with: associated modifications to routes; four comfortable waiting areas; and new bus stops around the Friary and its extension. It would rely on multiple bus stops, a waiting area integrated with the Friary extension behind Dominion House and a new bridge over the river connecting Walnut Tree Close and Woodbridge Road. This new route that also takes the northbound traffic, connects the railway station and allows widening of southbound Onslow Street to three lanes to relieve congestion. These are all interconnected matters and cannot be dealt with piecemeal.

    The point I’m making is that the development of North Street, on its own, would be incomplete unless GBC had instructed developers to include provisions for relocation of the bus station. Have they?

  20. Gordon Bridger Reply

    March 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    A very interesting debate. Please note that the GBC Economic Study clearly states what we all know: greatest problem – traffic congestion; greatest need – affordable housing. What do we get? Another supermarket. Why? Because this will make the largest profit for the Council.

    No wonder Hermes are going for a Judicial review against a Council which changed terms of reference for this site to suit themselves thus prejudicing the value of Hermes assets earmarked for retail. The Council could be landed with massive compensation costs.

    I appreciate those who say housing on this site would create demand for schools and generate more traffic. It should be made clear it would not be family type housing but mainly for elderly or single people who would make little use of cars or need schools.

    More jobs? Forget it. This will take jobs from others with little or no net gain.

    The reason the country is in an economic mess is because we put consumption before production.

  21. Kate G. Jordan Reply

    March 21, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Many interesting comments but very few seemingly from residents such as myself who live close to the site. Those who do appear to be generally in support. I have to say that I do agree with aims of the Vision Group for a comprehensive town centre Masterplan, but would appear to be in a minority when I say that I feel the Waitrose proposals are actually a pretty good fit with the broader notion of improving the town centre, as a whole.

    However, this notion of a moratorium on all development until such time as a Masterplan is commissioned, completed and adopted in a time when the country is crying out for economic growth and investment is a selfish nonsense. Sure if the proposals were completely outdated or lacked merit of any kind it would be sensible to resist but I feel strongly that this is not the case.

    Some of the views expressed above seem outdated to me. Government policy changed decades ago in terms of moving away from out of town, supermarkets for car borne customers. What better place to put a supermarket than on the edge of the town centre shopping district which is also a vibrant, densely populated residential area, so the supermarket could be accessed by many people on foot.

    Look at the existing Waitrose in Godalming or any of the other superstores around Guildford. Is the traffic a nightmare? Hardly, these things have a habit of bedding down and fitting in and the same should be true of traffic on and around York Road. Some of the above comments are quite right, if people would get out their cars and walk more then we wouldn’t have half these problems of congestion.

    All that said, is Guildford really any different from other towns in terms of traffic and congestion? It doesn’t seem so bad to me in the 20 years our family has been here.

    As stated at the beginning of this comment, I’m not at odds with GVG’s general aspiration for a town centre Masterplan, and certainly think the Bridge St/Onslow St and Friary area is an eyesore. But, to date, what I’ve seem of the traffic solutions, including those on the highway engineering professor’s website, mentioned above, that I’ve looked at, don’t seem like great solutions either, putting pedestrians,as they do, on over-bridges or in new subways belongs to the 1960’s. More ‘Clockwork Orange’ than Guildford Vison!

    What’s called for is a degree of pragmatism and realism, welcoming investors into the town, and working with them positively. Not setting them up for huge legal fees dealing with some very well heeled, probably well meaning, but not particularly well represented views of a loud minority.

    Living just a few hundred yards from the site, I might well be biased (in favour) towards Waitrose. Our house value is likely to rise, hopefully the unsavoury neighbourhood characters and habits on Haydon Place will disperse as this largely neglected area comes back into vibrant use, not just residential but mixed, and we’ll get a better journey (on foot) into town. I for one can’t see the downside in this.

  22. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 22, 2013 at 2:41 am

    How refreshing to see that Kate G. Jordan has actually commented on my suggestions for solutions to Guildford traffic congestion although she seems to be unimpressed by these. Well, you can’t please everybody. She talks about a degree of pragmatism and realism but offers no alternative solutions to the huge issue of congestion that already exists.

    Separating pedestrians from traffic saves lives and unnecessary injuries and hence subways and high level walkways are used where traffic volume is very high. I must say that my recent experience of Dubai Mall and their superb walkway from the Metro station was a delight. It was not only safe but it enabled me to view the landscape from a height only birds enjoy.

    My suggestions do not prevent any pedestrian from using Bridge Street should they wish to continue to inhale traffic fumes on their way to and from the railway station. My suggestion for a subway was in the earlier part of the development of my ideas and I would now prefer a walkway over rather than a subway under Onslow Street.

    Waitrose would add a little bit more to the congestion but I’ve said in these columns before, and on my website, that provided entry to and exit from this site are restricted to left turn in and left turn out, I think it would work in conjunction with measures to restrict right turn from Stoke Road into York Road during peak hours. A turning around facility by means of a roundabout near the York Road car park would achieve this. And the subway should be extended and retained and continue to provide a safer crossing for the children attending nearby school. So not a bad 1960’s concept altogether.

    Guildford Vision Group’s (GVG) town planners had suggested closing Millbrook and reopening Friary Street to vehicles. That is not all. They had even suggested widening the Town Bridge! GVG talk about employing a professional planner for the town centre but I shudder to think, if they are of the same ilk, what they might propose. Affordable housing in the middle of the town centre would soon become unaffordable, if they are any good, as they would rapidly increase in their value only for the wealthy to snap them up and estate agents make fat profits every time they change hands.

    Waitrose, and for that matter Guildford Borough Council, need to address: the issues of noise pollution in College Road (brought up at the planning meeting but ignored); access to the site by delivery vehicles and their exit other than via narrow Leapale Road and North Street and probable gridlock in York Road (if right turns in and out are allowed, as per the Waitrose plan); and not forgetting continued safety of children crossing York Road. I supported Waitrose planning application with the proviso these issues were addressed.

  23. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 22, 2013 at 5:58 am

    May I say that Kate Jordan has made an interesting contribution.

    However, to compare Godalming with Guildford is like comparing apples with pears.

    Godalming now has a through road for traffic. Guildford has not.

    This innovation has made the central area of Godalming user friendly, almost like one of the surrounding villages.

    But the people of Godalming have a voice in the form of a town council. Guildford has not.

  24. Kate G. Jordan Reply

    March 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I know its easy to have a dig without coming up with solutions myself and I am not a highways planner. I can see the effort that Bibhas Neogi has gone into identifying solutions for the town and I think that that’s commendable and I’m gald to see that he supported the Waitrose application.

    However Guildford is a traditional British market town. If comparing the setting of the proposed Guildford Waitrose [to Godalming] is comparing apples and pears, [as suggested by Bernard Parke] then I’m not sure how much we can draw from the analogy of Dubai?

    Streets are for people, not cars. We need active, well used streets with lots of uses along their lengths (what about some decent cafe’s with wide pavements?) to solve the dilemmas of Bridge Street and Onslow Street. Subways and aerial walkways are (in my view) completely inappropriate for a market town such as Guildford, and it’s the legacy of such 1960’s traffic engineering that has left the lower town centre the eyesore that it is.

    More expensive infrastructure whether above ground or below ground is not the answer for Guildford.

    What we all the Guildford Vision Group (GVG), Guildford Borough Council(GBC), Surrey County Council! Hermes, Prupim , infact everyone involved, should all be pushing for is a return to traditional streets and spaces between the railway station and the High Street/North Street area.

    In my view repairing this part of Guildford is the real vision we should collectively be working towards. It may be that GVG (let alone GBC’s!) ‘vision’ is just not visionary enough!

  25. Stephen Thair Reply

    March 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Kate Jordan, in her comment, says, “Look at the existing Waitrose in Godalming or any of the other superstores around Guildford. Is the traffic a nightmare? Hardly…”

    Not sure what time of day she goes to Waitrose in Godalming but most of the times I go there the car park is full and it’s gridlocked trying to get in and out out. At times the traffic backs up to the roundabout and blocks traffic trying to get back out over the bridge.

    Just to clarify my thoughts again:

    (1) I love Waitrose, they make a New York Cheesecake to die for, and my wife used to work at John Lewis. I’d happily have a Waitrose and John Lewis in the centre of Guildford if it doesn’t result in utter traffic chaos.

    (2) Whilst I agree with Ms Jordan that the “country is crying out for economic growth and investment” but I agree more with Gordon Bridger who stated, “The reason the country is in an economic mess is because we put consumption before production.”

    There is a already a huge amount of unused retail and commercial office space in Guildford without any further retail expansion. I’d like to see some serious economic analysis addressing the issues behind this vacancy rate before we build more white elephant stores in any of the proposed developments.

    Yes, I understand the theory of “anchor stores” in retail developments but given that, in the case of the Waitrose development, this isn’t really a multi-retailer proposition that’s not really a serious factor in favour of the Waitrose development.

    (3) In terms of stimulating the Guildford economy I work in the high-tech sector and I know a lot of people in tech/web who’d love to not have to commute to London and the Silicon Roundabout every day so why doesn’t Guildford look at supporting a TechHub/TechCity style development to encourage start-ups etc. Guildford has a great technology base already with EA and other ‘tech’ companies. It seems to me that this would do more to stimulating the economy for real grass-roots growth than just building more retail square footage.

    (4) In terms of people’s vested interests or connections to interested parties I am not accusing anyone of anything at all but I hope everyone would agree that it’s by no means unheard of for special interest groups to use forums and comments sections in newspapers etc to advance their agendas.

    I’ve very glad to hear that those people who are contributing to the debate are genuine Guildford residents who care about the future of Guildford. That’s all I wanted to know and clarify.

  26. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 22, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Guildford – a traditional market town? Sadly that was in the past. Its historic architectural excellence had been decimated by developments like the Friary (it could be mistaken for a London Brick Company’s advertisement), Wey House and Bridge House to mention a few.

    I am a retired bridge engineer not a professor of highway engineering. I’ve lived in Guildford area for over 40 years and I believe I’ve a clearer understanding of what could be done sensibly to improve traffic matters in Guildford. Streets are for all users – pedestrians, cyclists, and motorised traffic though only the latter that pays for their upkeep.

    Sure we all want a traffic-free zone for a pleasant town centre area but Guildford is a gap town. A lot of traffic passes through it and to bypass Guildford warrants expensive solutions in the form an outer ring road through green belt (unlikely to be acceptable to a majority) or tunnels and viaducts. All are unaffordable at the present time and in the foreseeable future. So we have to make the best use of what we have with meagre funding.

    If Solum Regeneration [who intend to redevelop the railway station] is persuaded to build a bridge over their tracks, the gyratory could be freed up for traffic heading for Farnham Road. Equally. if Walnut Tree Close is used for northbound traffic, it would only need a single lane on Bridge Street for traffic bound for York Road, whilst traffic from Farnham Road bound for the A281 would use the reconfigured two-way Friary Bridge. Bridge Street could then have wide pavements with Cafes!

  27. Julian Lyon Reply

    March 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

    I just thought I should clarify a question that has arisen over representation and democracy.

    I fully understand that the councillors went out and got themselves elected to represent their constituents.

    With regard to Waitrose, however, here is a count of the votes actually cast by their constituents (consolidating reps from each household and screening out reiterations of support or objection):

    Friary & St Nicholas Ward
    22 letters of support, 73 letters of objection

    Holy Trinity Ward
    20 letters of support, 28 letters of objection

    Christchurch Ward
    10 letters of support, 19 letters of objection

    Other locations
    57 letters of support, 39 letters of objection

    Totals
    109 letters of support, 159 letters of objection

    Even this analysis does not tell the whole story; whilst many of the letters (both supportive and objecting) echoed most people’s sentiments that they would like to see a Waitrose store in Guildford, many of the representations in favour of the proposal carried serious concerns about traffic and the loss of the York Road underpass. Many also referred to its proximity to the bus station, and we do not yet know where that will end up in a comprehensive regeneration of the town.

    So, reflecting on democracy, when the councillors were elected, they won based on votes actually cast and not what might have been on the minds of those people who did not feel strongly enough to vote.

    My point, however, was not about a competitive “us versus them” situation, it was about good planning versus bad planning.

    I do very much welcome the debate taking place here, but it needs to be opened to a wider public form through proper engagement. Let the people decide, not just me or the Guildford Vision Group, or a handful of correspondents in this discussion. The key must be proper community and stakeholder engagement which, after all is what the Guildford Vision Group has been calling for.

  28. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Are calls for judicial review out of time limit?

    This is the advice on time limit I found on the following website, http://www.publiclawproject.org.uk/downloads/WhatIsJR.pdf

    “…to bring a judicial review case, it must be brought to court as soon as possible and almost always within three months of the decision or action being challenged to avoid time limit problems.”

    The Council approved the Waitrose application on the 6th November 2012, so the 6th of February 2013 would have been the end of the three month period. It appears that the calls for a review were outside this time limit? I’m sure the legal bods would clarify the situation.

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