Latest Draft Plan (Apr 2016)

Guildford has published its draft Regulation 19 Consultation Draft Local Plan (two drafts because it is not yet approved for consultation and not yet adopted) and the first stage will be when it is presented to a Council Committee on 13th April.

As before, I have created links here to a point-in-time version with the evidence base as it stood on 9th April 2016 (but to keep up with the actual document, here are the links to the Council web site.

http://www.guildford.gov.uk/newlocalplan

The draft documents are here:

EAB Draft – GBC Proposed Submission Local Plan – Report and Appendix A-G – 1 of 2_Red

Appendix H Maps with watermark_reduced

LAA 2016

These are prepared along with the officers’ summary to the Council meeting on 13th April.

Proposed Submission Local Plan Strategy and Sites

The Evidence Base can be accessed from here but is reproduced below as at 9th April 2016 (be aware many of these are large files and, whilst we have not listed the sizes here, the relevant page on the Guildford Borough Council website is linked at each heading):

Surrey Hills AONB Areas of Search Natural Beauty Evaluation

AONB_MAP_-_AONB_Boundary_Review_-_Recommended_areas_for_consideration

AONB_MAP_-_Draft_LCA_Landscape_Typologies_and_Character_Areas

AONB_MAP_-_Study_Area_and_Existing_AONB_and_AGLV

AONB_Natural_Beauty_Evaluation_Report_(Oct_2013)

Conservation Area Character Appraisals

CA_Abbotswood

CA_Abbotswood_Buildings

CA_Abbotswood_Townscape

CA_Bridge_Street_Area_Appraisal__2_

CA_Bridge_Street_Conservation_Area

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_1_2

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_3

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_4_5

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_6

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_6_maps-1

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_6_maps-2

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_6_maps-3

CA_Charlotteville_Cons_App_for_web_doc_6_maps-4

CA_Chilworth_cons_area_appraisal_for_web

CA_Chilworth_Conservation_Area_Map_boundary

CA_EastClandonCharacterAppraisal

CA_EastClandonMap

CA_Guildford_town_centre_6_Appendix_1_Characte_Areas_map

CA_Guildford_town_centre_6_Appendix_1_Character_Areas_map_1

CA_Guildford_town_centre_6_Appendix_1_Character_Areas_map_2

CA_Guildford_town_centre_6_Appendix_1_Character_Areas_map_3

CA_Guildford_town_centre_6_Appendix_1_Character_Areas_map_4

CA_Guildford_town_centre_CAA_low_res_ CA_OnslowVillageApprovedText

CA_Pirbright_Area_Map_all_info_layers

CA_Pirbright_Area_Map_Article_4_buildings

CA_Pirbright_Area_Map_old_and_proposed_boundaries

CA_Pirbright_Conservation_Area_1973_Boundary

CA_Pirbright_Conservation_Area_Appraisal_book_low_res1

CA_Pirbright_Map_1872_County_Series_Epoch_1

CA_ShereCharacterAppraisal

CA_ShereMap

CA_St_Catherines_Conservation_Area_Appraisal_full_book

CA_Waterden_Road_Conservation_Area_Appraisal_loe_res

Employment land needs assessment

ELA_Employment_Land_Assessment_2015

Guildford Renewable Energy Mapping Study

Energy_Guildford_Renewables_Mapping_Final Environmental_sustainability_and_climate_change

Green Belt and Countryside Study

Summary Document:

GBCS_Summary_Document_January_2013

Volume I plus Appendix I & II

GBCS_Volume_I_Guildford_Borough_Green_Belt_and_Countryside_Study

Volume II plus Appendix IV

GBCS_Volume_II_Guildford_Borough_Green_Belt_and_Countryside_Study

Volume II Appendix III

GBCS_BNL.0287_GBS_VOL_II_APP_III

GBCS Land_Parcel_A1

GBCS_Land_Parcel_A4

GBCS_Land_Parcel_B6

GBCS_Land_Parcel_C1

GBCS_Land_Parcel_C2

GBCS_Land_Parcel_E1

GBCS_Land_Parcel_E21

GBCS_Land_Parcel_E22

GBCS_Land_Parcel_E23

GBCS_Land_Parcel_E24

GBCS_Land_Parcel_H1

GBCS_Land_Parcel_H2

GBCS_Land_Parcel_J2

GBCS_Land_Parcel_J3

GBCS_Land_Parcel_K2

GBCS_Land_Parcel_K5

GBCS_Land_Parcel_K6

GBCS_Land_Parcel_K7

GBCS_Land_Parcel_K9

GBCS_Sustainability_Assessment_Key

Volume II Addendum

GBCS_Volume_II_Addendum_17_04_2014

GBCS_Addendum_to_GBCS_Volume_V_brief

GBCS_Appendix_1_Green_Belt_Purposes_Schedule

GBCS_Appendix_2_Green_Belt_Sensitivity_Map

GBCS_Appendix_3_ECA_Schedules

GBCS_Appendix_4_ECA_Mapping

GBCS_Appendix_5_Sustainability_Walking_Distances

GBCS_Appendix_6_Sustainability_Schedules

GBCS_Appendix_7_Residential_Capacity

GBCS_Appendix_8_PDAs_for_Urban_Areas

Volume III plus Appendix V, VII

GBCS_Volume_III_Guildford_Borough_Green_Belt_and_Countryside_Study

Volume III Appendix VI

GBCS_BNL.0287_GBS_VOL_III_APP_VI GBCS_brief_2009

GBCS_Chilworth

GBCS_East_Horsley_and_West_Horsley_(North)

GBCS_Effingham

GBCS_Fairlands

GBCS_Flexford

GBCS_Normandy

GBCS_Ockham

GBCS_Peasmarsh

GBCS_Pirbright

GBCS_Ripley

GBCS_Send

GBCS_Send_Marsh_Burntcommon

GBCS_Shalford

GBCS_West_Clandon_North_and_South

GBCS_West_Horsley_(South)

GBCS_Wood_Street_Village

Volume IV

GBCS_Volume_IV_17_04_2014

GBCS_Appendix_VIII_Village_Insetting

Volume V

GBCS_Volume_V_17_04_2014

GBCS_Section_17_Adjoining_Borough

GBCS_Section_18_Area_of_Outstanding_Natural_Beauty

GBCS_Section_19_Countryside_Beyond_the_Green_Belt

GBCS_Section_20_Major_Previously_Developed_Sites

GBCS_Section_21_Major_Village_Expansions

GBCS_Section_22_New_Settlement_at_Wisley_Airfield

GBCS_Appendix_IX_Potential_development_areas_surrounding_urban_areas_and_villages

GBCS_Appendix_X_Insetting

GBCS_Appendix_XI_Major_Village_Expansions

GBCS_Appendix_XII_GBC_Settlement_Hierarchy

GBCS_Appendix_XIII_Farncombe_Walking_Distances

GBCS_Appendix_XIII_Sustainability_Schedule_PDAs

GBCS_Appendix_XIV_Gomshall_Walking_Distances

GBCS_Appendix_XIV_Shere_Walking_Distances

GBCS_Appendix_XIV_Sustainability_Schedule_PDAs

GBCS_Appendix_XV_K3_Sustainability_Schedule

GBCS_Appendix_XV_K3_Walking_Distances

GBCS_Appendix_XVI__Burntcommon_Walking_Distance_B14

GBCS_Appendix_XVI_Burntcommon_Walking_Distance_B12_13

GBCS_Appendix_XVI_Normandy_Flexford_Walking_Distance_H12

GBCS_Appendix_XVI_Send_Walking_Distance_B16

GBCS_Appendix_XVI_Sustainability_Schedules_PMDAs

GBCS_Appendix_XVII_Key_Environmental_Designations

GBCS_Appendix_XVII_Key_Local_Plan_Policies_Guildford

GBCS_Appendix_XVII_Key_Local_Plan_Policies_Waverley

GBCS_Appendix_XVII_Key_Local_Plan_Policies_Woking

Volume VI

GBCS_Volume_VI_Final_Version

Briefing Notes and FAQs

GBCS_Addendum_to_GBCS_Volume_V_brief

GBCS_BNL.0287_GBS_VOL_III_APP_VI GBCS_brief_2009

GBCS_Brief_for_Volume_V

GBCS_Briefing_note_and_FAQs

GBCS_Note_from_Lead_Member_for_Planning_and_Governance

Maps

GBCS_Maps_Appendix_X_Insetting

GBCS_Maps_Appendix_XI_Major_Village_Expansions

GBCS_Maps_Potential_development_areas_surrounding_urban_areas_and_villages

Planning for open space and green infrastructure

GOS_Main_Report

GOS_Appendix_1_Policy_Background

GOS_Appendix_2_S106_Contributions

GOS_Appendix_3_Map_of_Wards

GOS_Appendix_4_Survey_Sheets

GOS_Appendix_5_Consultation_Review

GOS_Appendix_6_Vision_for_Open_Space

GOS_Appendix_8_Quantitative_Data

GOS_Appendix_9_Quantitative_Data_and_NPFA_Standards

GOS_Appendix_10_Qualitative_Data

GOS_Appendix_11_Discussion_of_Findings

GOS_Appendix_12_Proposed_Standards

GOS_Appendix_13_List_of_all_sites_audited

Retail and Leisure Study

GRLSU_Final_Report_and_Appendices_25-09-15

Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA)

HRA_briefing_note_and_FAQs

HRA_July_2014_-_Main_Report

HRA_Screening

HRHRA_A_July_2014_-_Figure_1_-_Location_of_Thames_Basin_Heaths_SPA_within_Guildford_Borough

Infrastructure

Infrastructure_1491_Guildford_borough_Infrastructure_baseline_1307011

Landscape Character Assessment

LCA_Borough_Mastermap_V01_120ppi

LCA_Countryside_Character_Areas

LCA_Landscape_Character_Assessment2007_029

LCA_Rural_Assessment_Master_Copy

LCA_Rural-Urban_Fringe_Assessment_-_Master_Copy

LCA_Townscape_Assessment_Master_copy

Sustainability Appraisal

SA_Guildford_Local_Plan_SS_Interim_SA_Report

SA_Guildford_non_tech_summary_SA_Local_Plan_SS

SA_Initial_SA_Aug_2013

SA_Responses_to_SA_scoping_report

SA_Scoping_Report_FINAL_ISSUED_July2013

SA_Site_assessment_criteria

Settlement hierarchy

Settlements_Guildford_borough_Settlement_profiles

Settlements_Settlement_hierarchy_May_2014

Strategic Flood Risk Assessment

SFRA_Appendix_A_Catchment_overview

SFRA_Appendix_B_Flood_defences

SFRA_Appendix_C_Flood_risk_from_rivers_-_1

SFRA_Appendix_C_Flood_risk_from_rivers_-_2

SFRA_Appendix_C_Flood_risk_from_rivers_-_3

SFRA_Appendix_C_Flood_risk_from_rivers_-_4

SFRA_Appendix_C_Flood_risk_from_rivers_-_5

SFRA_Appendix_D_Flood_risk_from_surface_water_1

SFRA_Appendix_D_Flood_risk_from_surface_water_2

SFRA_Appendix_D_Flood_risk_from_surface_water_3

SFRA_Appendix_E_Flood_risk_from_groundwater_1

SFRA_Appendix_F_Flood_risk_from_sewers

SFRA_Appendix_G_Flood_Risk_from_Artificial_Sources

SFRA_Guildford_Borough_SFRA_Summary_Document

SFRA_Guildford_Borough_SFRA_Volume_1_Decision_Support_Document

SFRA_Guildford_Borough_SFRA_Volume_2_Technical_Report

Land Availability Assessment (LAA)

SHLAA_for_publication_1_May_2014(1)

SHLAA_FULL_SHLAA_June_2014

Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA)

SHMA_Briefing_note

SHMA_Final_West_Surrey_SHMA

SHMA_West_Surrey_SHMA_Brief

SHMA_West_Surrey_SHMA_Summary_-_Guildford

Sites of Nature Conservation Importance

SNCI_evidence_base

Surface Water Management Plan

SW_Ash_SW_Study_-_Appendix_F_-_Action_Plans_for_Hotspots_(2)

SW_Ash_SW_Study_Revised_Technical_Report_Rev_4

SW_AshLodgeDrive_CatchmentBoundary

SW_AshStationArea_CatchmentBoundary

SW_Guildford_SWMP_Appendix_G_-_Action_Plans_for_Hotspots_(2)

SW_Guildford_SWMP_FINAL_Technical_Report_(2)

Access and transport

Transport_GLD Transport Strategy Annex 24.11.2014

Transport_GLD Transport Strategy Main doc 24.11.2014

Transport_GOTCHA_Technical_Note_1_-_Appendices_A_to_C_-_Issue_1_1109151

Transport_GOTCHA_Technical_Note_1_-_Note_-_Issue_1_110915

Transport_GTAMS_Appraisal_of_Interventions_Report_-_Final_Updated_March_2015

Transport_GTAMS_Baseline_and_BAU_Report_-_Final_Updated_March_2015

Transport_GTAMS_CouncilReport_pdf36

Transport_GTAMS_Strategy_Report_-_Final_Updated_March_2015

Transport_OGSTAR_(SCC_Jan_2014)

Transport_OGSTAR_Addendum_1

Traveller Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA)

Traveller_SHLAA_June_2014_update_published_version

Guildford Local Plan and Affordable Housing Viability Study

Viability_Guildford_Borough_Residential_Appraisals

Viability_Guildford_Development_Viability_Study_2014

 

 

Draft MasterPlan to be Reviewed by Scrutiny Committee

The draft Guildford Town Centre Master Plan documents have been published today – all 200Mb+ of them!

Without any commentary from us at this stage, and because the GBC website seems to be unable to cope with the file sizes, they can be downloaded from this site (below):

Draft Town Centre Master Plan

Item 04 Appendix 2 Scenario 1 (29Mb)

Item 04 Appendix 3 Scenario 2 (29Mb)

Item 04 Appendix 4 Viability Report

Pages 1-61 of Item 04 Appendix 1 Town Centre Masterplan – the report.compressed (62Mb)

Pages 62-138 of Item 04 Appendix 1 Town Centre Masterplan – the report.compressed (116Mb)

 

Comments welcomed.

NPPG amended to reflect new household numbers

Change in NPPG ensures both that new data should lead to updated numbers in Local Plans

NPPG
Reference ID: 2a-016-20150227
Methodology: assessing housing need

New version

How often are the projections updated?
The Government’s official population and household projections are generally updated every two years to take account of the latest demographic trends. The most recent published Household Projections update the 2011-based interim projections to be consistent with the Office for National Statistics population projections. Further analysis of household formation rates as revealed by the 2011 Census will continue during 2015. Wherever possible, local needs assessments should be informed by the latest available information. The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that Local Plans should be kept up-to-date. A meaningful change in the housing situation should be considered in this context, but this does not automatically mean that housing assessments are rendered outdated every time new projections are issued. The 2012-2037 Household Projections were published on 27 February 2015, and are the most up-to-date estimate of future household growth.

2012 Household Projections much lower

Updated 27 March 2015:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-household-projections

The early interpretation of data from today’s publication of the 2012 Household numbers is that the number of households in Guildford Borough expected to be required from 2012 to 2037 goes from 54,662 (2012) to 57,281 (2017) to 59,911 (2022) to 62,392 (2027) to 64,839 (2032) and finally to 67,145 (2037) – an average of an additional 500 households per year, and a period growth rate of 524 (2012 to 2017); 526 (2017 to 2022); 497 (2022 to 2027); 490 (2027 to 2032); and 462 (2032 to 2037).  For the plan period 2012 to 2032 the statistics show an average household need of 509 homes per year (Table 427).

As a sensitivity analysis this shows a reduction in the number of households from 2012 to 2021 is 6,574 to 4,262 (from 731 to 474 homes per year) before adjustment for local factors (2012 population numbers based on 2011 household formation rates – Table 429b).

On the face of it this looks promising.

The period increase for Woking, Waverley and Guildford is 10,377 in the 2012 data set versus 15,448 in the old data set.

We should guard against premature enthusiasm.  These figures do not take account of other factors that have surprised us before.

GL Hearn will need to rework their numbers but it was clear that employment numbers were driving the higher household numbers in the most recent draft SHMA.

 

JDSL 27/2/2015

 

West Surrey SHMA keeps numbers high

On 18th December the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for the West Surrey Housing Market Area (HMA) was published.

Summary Report:

20141218_West_Surrey_SHMA_Summary-FINAL

Full Report:

20141218_DraftSHMA_HMA

IT IS WORTH REMEMBERING THAT THIS IS A CONSULTANT’S OPINION and whilst this will be adopted by the three local authorities (Guildford, Waverley and Woking) it is merely GL Hearn’s version of an Objective Assessment of Need (OAN).

The next stage of the process is to establish whether we can actually provide sufficient supply to meet the need, and this will require us to take a good look at the triangle of forces (housing, economy and infrastructure) restricted by availability of land and the constraints of Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Thames Basin Special Protection Areas (SPA), Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Flood Risk Areas and Cross-Boundary issues to name but a few.

It is not enough to simply say ‘No’ to development because NPPF requires us to plan positively.  Equally, it is not appropriate (based on the previous consultation process) to simply say ‘Yes’ to development which cumulatively meets the target number provided.  These next few months are critical to strike a balance (not necessarily a compromise) between going out, up or maintaining existing constraints.

Two images from the report is consistent with the criticisms of the dataset that have been made on this site and by others:

20141218_SHMA-fig16

and

20141218_SHMA-fig17

These charts show that, despite the Office for National Statistics protesting that their figures screen out students (by using their non-term-time addresses, there is very much a spike at undergraduate student age (Figure 17).

When that is applied to the data behind Figure 16, it seems there is still an expectation that, over a twenty year period those inward migrants have fallen in love, set up homes, and had children – a perfectly natural cycle but one which still seems exaggerated as a phenomenon.  It is also at this age when the gap between earnings and house prices is at its greatest, placing more urgency on providing affordable housing.

It will take much more reading than this to analyse the impact but the long and short of it is that GL Hearn consider there is minimal adjustment to make for the student demographics effect and arrive at a ‘draft conclusion on the overall need for housing’ in Guildford Borough at:

620 to 816 Homes per Year

…that is equivalent to 1.5 to 2 Solums in town every year or a Wisley every there to four years out of town.

It is now time to talk urgently about our CONSTRAINTS because very few people think we could actually cope with growth on this scale without completely changing our character and probably forfeiting a large portion of our quality of life.

 

 

Local Plan Consultation Initial Feedback

The Council has published the first look at the types of comments received in response to the Draft Local Plan.

The sheer volume of responses means that it will take some time to assimilate them all, but the initial summary is available via the link below:

20141024_Initial_feedback_on_the_draft_Local_Plan_consultation

The Local Plan timetable has been reviewed and it is expected that the next iteration will not be available for public review until the second half of 2015.

Guildford 5-yr Housing Strategy

Guildford Borough Council has launched its five-year housing strategy consultation (ends 16th December 2014)

A link to the consultation page is here and the documents are attached below:

Draft_Local_Plan_consultation_questionnaire_and_monitoring_form

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_1_-_General_statistics_Nov14

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_2_-_Updated_guidance_on_rents_and_affordability_Nov14

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_3_-_Affordable_housing_stock_in_the_borough_Nov14

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_4_-_Rural_housing_needs_surveys_Nov14

Other documents referred to are:

Housing_Needs_Assessment_Report

Housing_Strategy_Interim_Statement

Homelessness_Strategy_2013_-_2018

There is perhaps some irony that the Lead Member for housing, Cllr Sarah Creedy, sets great store by the ambition to “maximise the proportion of affordable housing” provided, and yet the development company she owns with her husband was apparently unable to provide a commitment to a single affordable unit in a conversion to nine flats of a building in Central Guildford.  It may be we are not in possession  of all of the facts but here was an opportunity for Cllr Creedy to commit to, say, one of the homes being rented out at 80% of market rent or sold on an equity share basis without substantially diluting their return.

Aim 1.8 sets out the following: “Ensure that the mix of new affordable homes on any development is appropriate for the proposed locality taking account of the existing supply and local need

Of signifcant interest in the Local Plan process is the section on HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) on page 36 of the main document:

“Houses in Multiple Occupation
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) or shared houses provide flexible accommodation for a range of households within the private rented sector. They comprise a significant part of the private rented market in Guildford.
We carried out a mapping exercise in 2011 to identify the extent of HMOs. This indicated that there were approximately 2521 in the borough, of which 1417 were in the Guildford town wards of Friary and St Nicolas, Westborough and Onslow. Moreover, there are likely to be many more HMOs created in the borough since then, due to the introduction of permitted planning rights in 2010. These rights allow a change of use of a house or flat from being occupied by a single household to a HMO for between 2-6 people.
The necessity for HMOs is accepted as an inevitable result of the lack of housing, house prices within the town, and the popular and expanding higher education institutions. While there is often an assumption that HMOs in Guildford are lived in by students, this is often not the case.
Many young professionals who are unable to afford to live in the town without sharing occupy HMOs. For some tenants it is the accommodation of choice. Furthermore, the cost of transport from outside the borough can outweigh rental costs so many people who live in HMOs are working in the Guildford area to avoid commuter journeys, or because of the close proximity to the borough’s rail stations.
The expansion of the private rented sector and HMOs in particular has given rise a number of perceived issues which are affecting residents.
They are the impact of having a high concentration of HMOs in parts of the town can contribute to:
 Poor housing standards in HMOs and non-compliance with housing standards
 Poor neighbourhood relations, including antisocial behaviour
 Nuisance from noise, rubbish and parking

The aspirations in the document (from a cursory read) do not seem misplaced but it is important to recognise that this is a key opportunity to ensure that one of the principal inputs to the Local Plan (demand side) has been reviewed.

As always we welcome comments and feedback.

 

Guildford Society Local Plan Submission

Set out below is the Guildford Society Local Plan Submission made on 19th September 2014.

The full (rather large) submission includes the previous representations made to the earlier consultations:

20140915_GSOC_LPResponse_FINAL-full (ca 55Mb)

This is made up of:

Cover Letter

20140917_LTR_BarryFagg-LPresponse

Submission

20140915_GSOC_Response_to_ConsultationDraftLocalPlan_FINAL

Site by Site Analysis

20140917_Site-by-Site_Response_FINAL

Sustainability Appraisal Responses (Jan 2013)

20130122_ScopingDocument-Response_GVG

Issues and Options Response

20131129_GSoc_LOCALPLAN_CoverLetter

20131128_GSoc_LOCALPLAN_Submission

Strategic Housing Market Assessment

20140220_LTR_CarolHumphrey-SHMA

20140220_SHMA-Response

Guildford Society Population Analysis

20140221_PopulationAnalysis

Guildford Society Analysis of Middle and Lower Super Output Areas

20140904_LandUses-MSOA-LSOA_FINAL

The response is substantial and follows a major consultation exercise by the Guildford Society where six public meetings have been held and the Guildford Society approach and views have been explained.  Not everything in the response is likely to please everyone but the intention is to be as objective as possible whilst trying to ensure the outcome is the best the can be achieved for Guildford.

 

Julian D S Lyon MBA FRICS

18th September 2014

Summary of Local Areas

Having criticised the absence of core data for individual areas in the Borough, here is a summary of the demographics and multiple deprivation indices for each so-called Lower Super Output Area across the Borough.

The file is around 20Mb but it does contain a lot of data!

20140831_LandUses-MSOA-LSOA

The Guildford Society will be including it as part of its response to the Draft Local Plan.

Time running out for comment

The Consultation Period ends on 22nd September and the Guildford Vision Group and Guildford Society talks on Town Centre Vision (3rd September at the Millmead Centre) and Local Plan Submission (15th September at the Trinity Centre) are coming up fast.

The Clock is Ticking – or is it a Time Bomb?

Julian D S Lyon MBA FRICS
 
The Consultation Periods for the Town Centre Vision and the Draft Local Plan both end on 22nd September.
 
Guildford Vision Group and Guildford Society talks on Town Centre Vision (3rd September at the Millmead Centre) and Local Plan Submission (15th September at the Trinity Centre) are coming up fast.
 
The Town Centre Vision is a vital component of the Local Plan – a once in fifty to a hundred year opportunity to reclaim the riverside from traffic and create a fabulous environment in which to live, work, study and play.  The Surrey Advertiser (Friday 29th September) gave a glimpse of the GVG concept plan to reroute the traffic to the west of the town centre and to create pedestrian priority around the river and between the town centre and the station, university and cathedral.
 
A viable and vibrant town centre needs plenty of people living in the town, and yet much of the town centre (believe it or not) scores in the most deprived 3% of local super output areas (‘LSOA‘s) in the country for outdoor living environment! Simply piling more housing into town without comprehensively resolving that issue would simply be wrong.
 
The Local Plan – if you had just arrived here and read the column inches in the media – would seem to be all about the complete devastation of the green belt and the imposition of an astronomic number of homes per year.
 
However much it may feel like that is the case, the reality is different.
 
The amount of green belt (in net terms) proposed for development is quite small and the housing numbers at 652 are high but our run rate to 2011 since 1931 averages 495 homes per year.  Recent press reports emphasise the pressures on our population numbers and the Government is trying to deal with a current housing shortage.
 
The approach has been wrong.  Perhaps some of the sites proposed are wrong.  The mathematics seem to be inexplicably wrong. The evidence base is a poor starting point for some fundamental changes to our spatial planning.  These are all good reasons to respond robustly to the Local Plan Consultation.
 
On the other hand, there are some major spatial planning issues that really need addressing:
 
We have (in this generally wealthy borough) thirteen LSOAs in the poorest 50% in the country and one in the poorest 25% nationally under the Multiple Deprivation Index.  This in itself seems like a small local area to work on but drilling down into details tells a different story. 
 
  • We have several areas in the most deprived 5% in the country for access to housing and services.
  • We have one particular area where, even in this generally well-educated borough, we are in the poorest 2.5% in the county for young person’s education and skills.
  • We have some wild extremes of performance across the borough in many of the other deprivation domains
 
Alongside this challenging set of statistics, we know our infrastructure has lacked meaningful investment for decades.
 
Guildford, as a second tier authority, cannot solve many of these issues alone – there needs to be a shadow unitary authority to actually get things done – but it can lay the groundwork by allocating land for solutions and delivering real vision and leadership through the Local Plan.  
 
There are many other issues that the Local Plan should seek to resolve.  Many of these issues will require major investment and, absent contributions from Government, we will need developments to help finance some of these solutions.
 
My experience tells me that small-scale developments will not fund such deficits and so, from the data I have examined rather than from reading the evidence base, I am persuaded that we need to think bigger than nibbling at the edges or pulling up the drawbridge.
 
Looking at the town centre again, we do need more people living in the town centre but we need them and the current residents to have better access to a great outdoor environment – designed for living in, not requiring a constant fight with traffic to get from A to B, without having to breathe in pollutants from traffic sitting in queues belching exhaust fumes into the air.  Town centre homes can reduce the pressure on the green belt but preserving one environment (green belt) whilst destroying another (Guildford Urban Area) would not be sustainable.
 

I do not think the Local Plan has got it right and the Guildford Society will be responding robustly.

 
Despite the personalisation of the public responses – born out of understandable frustration but, in my view, quite misdirected – I do believe that Cllr Mansbridge is the kind of leader who can make a difference.  We have two specific tasks in the next three weeks and thereafter:
 
  • submit our objective responses to the Draft Plan, the Town Centre Vision (Oh, yes, and the Habitats consultation and the upcoming Surrey County Council Transport consultation); and
  • follow up to ensure our respective comments are noted and reflected in the next iteration.
I hope we will finish up with a Local Plan that gets to grips with the issues, seizes the right opportunities and leaves the majority of the borough intact.  To paraphrase Cllr Mansbridge’s recent statement:
 
IN ORDER FOR MUCH OF THE BOROUGH TO STAY PRETTY MUCH THE SAME, SOME THINGS WILL HAVE TO CHANGE, and the Local Plan is about making those changes in the least impactful way.