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Uncertain Future of ‘The Village’ to be Decided By the Full Council

Retail units, some empty, in The Village. Photo taken in August 2017.

The future of “The Village”, Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) temporary retail and events park by Guildford bus station, is to be decided at Tuesday’s (December 5, 2017) full council meeting.

The council Executive, at their meeting last week (November 28), agreed to recommend that investment should continue into 2018 and it would be very unusual for the Conservative-dominated full council to go against their Executive.

But the Executive decision came in the wake of some severe criticism by members of GBC’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee of a report on the venture’s performance, in particular the measurement of socio-economic value, or “Gross Value Added” which one Tory councillor Nils Christiansen (Con, Holy Trinity) described as: “spurious”.

The Scrutiny Committee agreed a resolution, proposed by Cllr Christian Holliday (Con, Burpham) which stated: “The committee has grave concerns over the fact that The Village is facing capital and revenue costs in excess of £1.2 million after less than two years in operation and is projected to incur additional costs of over £200,000 in each future financial year, for which figures are available, with no obvious overriding benefits to justify these costs…”

Cllr Tony Rooth

Former council leader Tony Rooth (Con, Pilgrims), who was sacked from the current Executive in May this year, has led the attack on the proposal to continue spending on the project.

Following an, at times, acrimonious exchange with Cllr David Bilbe (Con, Normandy) during the Scrutiny Committee debate, Rooth also spoke on the subject at the Executive meeting. He said: “I do challenge that [quoting from a council report]: ‘The Village has now turned the corner and become a superb venue’…. I regret to say that at the moment it is rather sad and rather empty with few visitors and even fewer that are buying things…”

Afterwards, Rooth appeared to be the target of Cllr Michael Illman’s (Con, Shalford) criticism when he said: “It is very easy to attack people, who are working hard, for your own personal agenda. We need to keep the faith…”

Cllr David Bilbe

Cllr David Bilbe, whose economic development and tourism portfolio includes The Village, sensing after the various speeches which way the vote was likely to go, said: “If we are all of a mind to say that we want this to continue then I am sorry to say we haven’t a choice, in some ways, but to say yes, therefore we approve the budget on this.”

It was notable that the Executive decision was not unanimous, something they usually seem to prefer not to be made public. Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity) voted against further investment in the project while Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), the council leader, abstained.

Unusually, council sources seem genuinely uncertain how the vote at the full council meeting will go given the level dissent expressed so far.

See also: The Village: Scrutiny Committee Recommends Review of Further Investment

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2 Responses to Uncertain Future of ‘The Village’ to be Decided By the Full Council

  1. C Barker Reply

    December 3, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Close it, put a temporary (not to mention much needed) car park there, recoup some of the money already lost. Sorted.

    • John Robinson Reply

      December 5, 2017 at 7:40 am

      100% agree with C.Barker. I particularly like the graffiti that has now appeared on the outside wall panels. Combined with the harsh white lighting within the borders. It does not look like Christmas.

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