The plea is intended as common ground to be accompanied by local matters as appropriate. In any discussion with candidates, the following context may be helpful:
– The 652 housing figure we express concern about is the “target” used in the draft Plan. The “target” figure we propose of 300-345 was agreed jointly by the Guildford Society, GVG, CPRE and GRA taking account of need and constraints.
– We are fully aware that the “target” figure is not the same as the so called “need” figure of 620 – 816 homes a year (2011-31) identified in the draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA). There is a move by GBC Councillors and officers to suggest we do not need to worry about the “need”/SHMA figure because constraints will bring the “target” figure down. We do not accept this. The SHMA figure will be a major driver against which the many major development proposals across the borough will be judged by inspectors and is an artefact of a formula that is ill-suited to the circumstances of a Green Belt and London commuter belt, university town. The Mayor has successfully rejected use of the standard formula to estimate “need” in London. We should be clear the formula is equally inappropriate in our circumstances. For Guildford, both the way “need” is assessed and the “constraints” matter.
– In a Green Belt settlement there is a case for saying you should not expect the housing target to increase dramatically in the long term. You should expect housing growth to remain relatively steady and to decrease as a proportion of the population over time as the settlement comes up against its boundaries while finding innovative ways of meeting priority housing needs through character-enhancing redevelopment opportunities.
– “Crammed” is used in our Plea as distinct from potentially well-designed, high density which could be appropriate in some locations if it avoids harming the valued established character of an area.
– The Plea does not refer to any of the proposed major development sites in protected countryside. There is a danger of missing somewhere out! The list of development proposals is growing. Each RA will be well aware of sites of particular local concern and the third plea demonstrates common ground. (It is notable that the Community Infrastructure Levy consultation, issued after the Leader’s statement regarding a pause to assess constraints, refers to the strategic sites and indeed proposes a reduced charge for development in these Green Belt sites.)
– The University’s approach to housing students has an effect across the whole of Guildford and a major influence on housing “need” assessments. We suggest the University of Surrey has a special responsibility, as a university in a Green Belt, commuter belt town, to minimise its impact on our housing stock. The target of 60% of university students being housed on campus is far too low in these circumstances. The University is currently making a case for a Green Belt development of over 3,000 new homes although it has planning permission for 2,350 bed spaces that it has not built on land released from the Green Belt in 2003.
– Insufficient attention has been given to unifying Guildford which is not only a constrained gap town but also physically divided due to the limited options for crossing the river, railway and A3. Some options for the town centre currently being assessed involve moving crossing points (eg a major new road bridge at the bottom of the High Street) rather than increasing options and capacity. The Solum proposal could block some options or make them unaffordable if land is not safeguarded.
– The reference to an A3 ‘tunnel’ in our Plea is more an indication that a significant long term strategy for managing the impact of the A3 needs to be agreed and implemented rather than a specific solution. We are looking for leadership on this issue which should not be ducked.
– Currently, the Council is proposing a single sustainable transport corridor (a route for buses, walking and cycling) between Blackwell Farm and Gosden Hill/Slyfield via the University/hospital and station/town centre. There was no origin and destination study to inform this. It is also suggested that we no longer have a bus station, just bus stops on Onslow Street. We are saying Guildford needs a state of the art central bus interchange with sustainable transport radiating in all directions (a “star” not a “snake”) given the geography of Guildford, transport needs and the importance of enticing commuters from their cars.
Hope this is useful and look forward to learning what discussions take place.