Text of address given at the Post-Concert Reception on 22nd March 2013:
I wish to record my disappointment and regret at the (by now rather inevitable) passing of the Guildford Philharmonic after March of next year – as confirmed on 29th November by Guildford Borough Council’s Corporate Improvement Scrutiny Committee.
I recognise that I may not agree with decisions taken by the Council. I was angry, however, to learn of further misleading statements – this time by Councillor Jen Powell – who, I must say, had given me to believe she was better than that – and by the Interim Strategic Director. Their remarks, summarised and countered below, were unnecessary and gratuitous, given that The Surrey Advertiser had already heralded the sad demise of this institution, founded by much more forward thinking Councillors than those responsible for dismantling it. Continue reading
Guildford’s planners and planning committee last night signalled that it is open season in Guildford.
Far from giving Guildford the helping hand it needed to embark on a new strategic plan for the town, dealing with traffic chaos, the legacy of undeveloped sites in prime areas of the town and a chronic housing shortage, Guildford’s planning officers and committee have shown that developers only need to cherry pick the valuable town centre uses away from the town centre, make sure that queues are no longer than 400m and that traffic congestion does not suffer more than 20% increase in delays at peak hours and make sure there are a handful of affordable housing units (even if many more had previously been approved and the site could accommodate many more) – Oh yes, and do it quickly before all of the key evidence is compiled.
The Councillors’ prepared eulogies on a theme of “Waitrose at all costs” bore all of the hallmarks of predetermination of the decision – no matter the hundreds of objections on valid planning grounds. Guildford deserves better and we are determined to ensure long-term solutions are found even when our planners seem focussed on the Emperor’s new clothes.
Retail-led Regeneration of Guildford?
Locals question the thinking behind Guildford’s retail plans
The new National Planning Policy Framework of April 2012, and the Localism Act of 2011, should encourage local Councils to fully engage with knowledgeable and interested local residents.
Apparently this is not the case in Guildford. A single-issue campaign group is calling for a properly established, professional masterplanning process. The Guildford Vision Group (GVG) was formed in March 2012 by, among others, John Rigg (Director of Savills Commercial) and Gerald Bland (former property partner of Herbert Smith) in response to a poor plan for Guildford, a thinly-disguised prospectus for the sale of a number of Council-owned properties.
GVG has been trying hard to engage with Guildford Borough Council (GBC) who can easily afford a proper professional master plan which should more than pay for itself. GBC makes (£6m per year from its car parking and the cost of a comprehensive masterplanning process is likely to be between £500,000 and £1 million – a few weeks of revenue. Continue reading
On 12th July I submitted an objection to the Waitrose Planning Application in Guildford.
Basically, my objections are summarised as:
- The main thrust of my objection surrounds the impact of the development on the traffic system in Central Guildford and a failure to take into account other proposed developments set out in the Draft Guildford Town Centre Masterplan.
- I also object to the inappropriate choice of site for a supermarket, notwithstanding the oblique references in the Bellerby Theatre Planning Brief to a supermarket use being acceptable, including the loss of a logical town centre residential site and non-compliance with the Local Plan 2003.
- The application and decision is premature pending adoption of a properly constituted and engaged Town Centre Plan formulated in accordance with Clause 12 of the National Planning policy Framework.
- I believe the design is inappropriate in scale, character and materials when compared to the surrounding period housing and will also have an adverse impact on the street scene from York Road.
- Finally, I believe the application should be exposed to an independent planning inspector due to the perceived potential or actual conflicts of interest between the Council as vendor and its role as planning authority; and between, the council’s strategic retail consultants (Cushman & Wakefield) role in advising on the allocation of sites, their role as agents for the Council and their close agency relationship with The John Lewis Partnership.
The full explanation of my objections is in the document linked above.
To view the planning application please click here.
Address as delivered to the Guildford Borough Council Corporate Improvement Scrutiny Committee (26th April 2012)
My name is Julian Lyon, I have lived in Guildford for all of my 51 years and, of the things that make Guildford so special, its excellence in the provision of Arts ranks very highly.
I well recall many Sunday afternoons sitting in the back row of the balcony of the old Civic Hall with my parents and siblings from the age of five, listening to and watching the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra – including, when I was around 7, hearing the Philharmonic Choir (now Vivace) performing the seemingly unapproachable piece: Elgar’s The Kingdom.
I have to declare an interest this evening, therefore, because, according to the report in front of you, I have benefited disproportionately from the existence of the Philharmonic for 46 of its 67 years. I am also a trustee – following in my father’s footsteps – of the South East Music Trust and I have, in the past, sung in the Philharmonic Choir.
Last week Guildford Times reported the proposed addition of 40 car spaces and the extension of Platform One to accommodate twelve-carriage trains as part of a £200m redevelopment ofGuildford’s Mainline Station.
Local resident, Julian Lyon, who intends to stand as an Independent Candidate in the forthcoming local elections, believes the provision of a small number of extra car spaces hardly amounts to a cohesive transport strategy.
The proposed redevelopment of Guildford Mainline Station should include a full (personal rather than freight) inter-modal transit point according to Lyon who believes Guildford should be pressing hard for the creation of a fast rail link to Heathrow (connecting Heathrow and Gatwick via Guildford) and reinstatement of Thameslink services to Luton Airport; he adds: “We should also look to reorientate our public transport network so that most, if not all buses call at the station before reaching the terminus in the new Westfield development so that most people can get to and from the station easily without using their cars.”
In addition to providing Guildford with a great boost for tourism and helping with the longer term sustainability of the University and Cathedral,Lyon’s concept would help the various airports plan their Ground Transport Policy Papers in the context of their prospective growth under the SERA proposals. This approach would, however, necessitate a bold and aggressive change of thinking in terms of the transport infrastructure.
Lyon believes a holistic approach to transport and planning the built environment would also help solve many of the problems of capacity experienced on the One-Way system and he has put forward an outline proposal (which shows traffic/transport flows rather than specific routes) in the context of the station redevelopment that demonstrates how an inter-modal scheme might look. This proposal also provides a possible solution to the problems of theFarnham Roadbridge and the junction of Walnut Tree Close with the One-Way system.
Additional transport features could include a fixed link between the station and the Cathedral, University, Hospital,ResearchParkand park & ride sites, and a development of this kind would also provide the opportunity to create a gateway from the town centre and station to the University and Cathedral.
The Cathedral’s own ambitions for development to secure its financial future, and the University’s own expansion plans could be integrated into this exercise to create a high standard master plan for the ‘Cathedral and University Quarter’.
Lyon says “The lack of a unitary authority looking after Guildford’s wider interests prevents the current Borough Executive from tackling the wider issues of transport networks,” adding that “the unitary authority must be centred around Guildford and not a county-wide authority based on the inadequacies of the County Council”.
By addressing a broad range of issues there should be additional value created for the airports, Network Rail and the appointed developers of the station, Redrow Regeneration. The improved accessibility of the town and its amenities should help to reduce congestion in the town centre and should help to encourage the use of public transport and the proposed new park & ride facilities at ManorPark.