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Lead Councillor Says: ‘We Listened to Feedback’ on The Village

Happier times – December 2, 2016. Cllr David Bilbe, Cllr Gordon Jackson (at the time, Mayor of Guildford) at the rushed launch of The Village almost exactly a year ago.

The lead councillor responsible for The Village has commented this morning (December 6, 2017) on last night’s full council decision to withdraw the budget for The Village for 2018-19 and explore alternative temporary uses, including the possibility of a third party operator taking over the town centre site before the redevelopment of North Street begins in, it is expected, three years time.

Making no mention of reported internal party pressure forcing a change of the Executive’s decision to continue funding The Village in 2018-19, Cllr David Bilbe, lead councillor for economic development and tourism, said today, in a GBC press release: “We listened to feedback about the original village last December and we have listened again, before taking the difficult decision to recommend that The Village does not reopen in its current form next year.

“The council agreed last year that it wanted to relaunch and provide residents and visitors with an improved and unique event-driven space in the centre of town. There is no doubt that this unused area is now in a better state and our summer programme proved very popular with many people, as well as giving local business and new start-ups a chance to develop.

“Last night’s decision by the council not to allocate any future budget means that we will now consider alternative options for this site after The Village closes on Christmas Eve.

“Although it can take a number of years before new ventures succeed, we have to carefully consider and balance existing investment with future costs, especially when the council faces many financial challenges ahead.

“As well as trying innovative ways to improve our borough, weighing up advantages, disadvantages and risk is an important part of the Council’s responsibility to our community and the achievements so far are not enough to justify continuing with this new enterprise.”

“There have been positive highlights during the year, but it’s disappointing that certain attractions have not been successful enough to draw the crowds and the footfall anticipated. It is also a real shame that the independent operator of the ice rink has decided to close before Christmas.

“Despite the hurdles and unforeseen challenges, some of the small independent outlets have had a flourishing trade and we hope they can build on that good start and grow in the coming years. We know that some people and businesses will be very disappointed that this won’t continue in the same way and I would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work and support in trying to make The Village a dynamic and vibrant addition to Guildford.

“We will look at different uses for this area, including the possibility of a third party operator, as part of the exit strategy agreed by the Executive last week. We will also continue with our other initiatives and joint work to help boost the borough’s vital local economy. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, there is still plenty going on at The Village to help you celebrate. So I encourage you to visit and enjoy the wide range of food, drink, gifts and treats on offer.”

If the budget for 2018-19 had been approved by the council, The Village would have closed on Christmas Eve and reopened on Easter Good Friday 2018. The Executive will receive a future report on any alternative temporary uses.

A council spokesperson said: “The independent operator who managed the skating and temporary ice rink will contact people with existing pre-booked sessions about refunds.”

For more information about Christmas at The Village visit:
www.guildford.gov.uk/thevillage

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One Response to Lead Councillor Says: ‘We Listened to Feedback’ on The Village

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 6, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    So the Executive has finally listened to residents over this particular fiasco.

    Given that there were over 40,000 comments on the various iterations of the local plan, most of which were objections, and they were almost entirely ignored in the current draft, will they now ‘listen’ to these and scrap this ruinous plan?

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