120421 Waitrose

Letter to Guildford Dragon

The travesty of the conflicting interests of the Borough Council when it comes to deciding how much of the gross capital receipts should be commuted for s106 and s278 agreements for highways improvements is that we have no traffic study or long term plan against which to measure the appropriateness of any allocation.

Indeed, Waitrose themselves (in the form of their traffic engineer at the exhibition at the Guildhall on Friday 20th) acknowledged that their modelling, based on a generic traffic modelling system, only analysed the traffic impact of their proposals on the York Road roundabout and York Road itself.

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120416 Philharmonic and SEMT

Guildford Philharmonic & South East Music Trust – FIRST DRAFT

GBC Scrutiny Committee 26th April 2012 – Julian D S Lyon MBA FRICS

Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra (under its previous guise of ‘[  ]‘) was founded by enlightened Councillors of the Municipality of Guildford in 1946.

South East Music Trust was founded in [  ] by a trust deed for the purposes of “[  ]“.

Over the past [15] years, the Council’s funding of the Philharmonic has come under increasing pressure and, since the old Civic Hall closed, Nicola Goold is to be congratulated for the way she has managed to string together seasons of concerts on a declining budget.

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120413 Master Plan

Letter to Guildford Dragon

Guildford desperately needs to address its traffic congestion (clearly confirmed by the meeting of 150 to 200 people on 21st March launching the Guildford Vision Group) and to create a vision for a better town to meet the needs of all its stakeholders.

The Council’s Draft Town Centre Masterplan, with minimal consultation over the busy Christmas period, has been widely criticised as “woeful”, “badly researched”, “lacking any vision” and “fundamentally flawed” – mainly because it did nothing to address congestion and the impact of traffic routes on pedestrian access between the station, the town, the river and elsewhere.

Perhaps having a plan approved by a Council Executive I have previously criticised for its lack of transparency, is more about selling off Council-owned (actually our) town centre sites, and triggering quick-fix solutions such as the Bedford Road bus station idea and the Waitrose supermarket land sale! (For those unaware, a sale of the Bellerby Theatre and surrounding land to Waitrose has been rushed through before the Council even had the chance to grant itself planning permission – although it did publish a planning brief to convert less lucrative residential use to a ‘preferred’ supermarket use without any reference to traffic generation or solutions).

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Guildford Vision Group the way forward

Guildford Vision Group showing the way to a greater future

Congratulations to the Guildford Society, supported by the various Residents’ Associations around Guildford, for the successful launch of Guildford Vision Group on 21st March 2012 in front of between 180 and 200 people.

Guest speakers included the former Director of Planning on Cambridge City Council, Peter Studdert; the former President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Mike Hayes CBE; and Allies & Morrison.  The focus was on Collaborative Planning, The Planning Process and Shaping Towns and Cities.

This initiative takes a much more significant position when seen in the context of the Localism Act, since Guildford Vision Group (GVG) could decide to apply to become a Neighbourhood Forum if it has public backing but is unable to secure proper engagement from the Local Authority.  Equally, the newly published National Planning Policy Guidance (NNPG) requires Local Authorities to put in place a Local Plan, and the Localism Act allows residents to apply to run local services; perhaps this process could be taken over by GVG.

One way or another, it is vital for the future operation, prosperity and environment of our great town of Guildford that a proper vision is put in place – after all, “The Vision is an expression of what a place could be like in the future. It is the foundation of the masterplanning process” (Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment – CABE).

It is to be hoped (but not to be taken for granted) that the Borough Council will engage and openly work with the community to agree what Guildford can be like in the long term.

More information will soon be available on the GVG website (www.guildfordvisiongroup.com) and I intend to discuss issues on the face of this blog over the coming months.

120116 Town Centre Masterplan

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

I am writing having read your article about the Guildford Society meeting about the Town Masterplan (Surrey Ad 13th Jan).

More than 100 attendees laid into the lack of vision and small-mindedness of the current consultation draft – I urge Guildfordians to express your views by 23rd January – and concerns that decisions are being made just days before the deadline that prejudge (or deliberately discount) the responses that may be received.

Three councillors from Ash, two from Clandon, a couple more rural councillors and a token member from a town ward make up an executive who seem to believe they do not need to hear the results of a public consultation before committing yet more of our money on flawed consultancy briefs.

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111207 Bus Station

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

I have read with interest the correspondence in your pages regarding the proposed bus station relocation.  I have also received a copy of the draft Town Centre Plan.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Town Centre Development Study (March 2010) noted (6.5.2) that “The bus station is run down and in a very poor state of repair…The level of integration between the main railway station and the bus station is…limited…resulting in a relatively small proportion of bus services stopping at the railway station.”  This finding is borne out by other contributors to this letters page.

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111122 Guildford Philharmonic

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

I now feel as though G-Live (“Garrett-Live” as the great Diva styled it) has at last been well and truly opened.

Congratulations to Nicola Goold and Clare Lister who have worked tirelessly over the past many years to bring concerts to different venues around Guildford.  This was a stunning concert by anyone’s standards and, as Stephen Bell (conductor) said, the Philharmonic is an Orchestra of which Guildford can be justifiably proud.  It ranks up there with any other professional orchestra and the programme (which I thought was a little like a sampler CD for a high-end stereo system) showed off the colour, technical excellence and professionalism of the orchestra to great effect – making use of, and bringing the acoustic qualities of the hall to the audience with astounding crispness and brightness.

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110703 G-Live

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

Councillor Mannings (Letters 1st July) set out reasons why we should celebrate G Live – I also hope it will be a great success.  He highlights how Guildford should be content that the subsidy is not at the level paid in Basingstoke.

The Anvil and Haymarket halls in Basingstoke are both run by the Anvil Trust (charity number 1034961) and the Trust received around £1.25 million in grants from Basingstoke & Deane Council in the year to 2010.  It operates the two halls and works in the community to produce more than 600 events per year and it sets its aims as “to present and support arts and entertainment in its two buildings The Anvil and The Haymarket; to create education and participation opportunities that include all members of the community; to present and create work that celebrates cultural diversity; for the benefit of those who live in work or visit the Borough of Basingstoke & Deane, the county of Hampshire and the wider region”.

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110617 G-Live

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

I very much appreciate Gordon Bridger’s analysis in your Letters page (Surrey Ad 17th June), but I have a little further financial insight as a result of my Freedom of Information Request (made in April).

It seems there is a total investment (net of the contingency of £1.1m, most of which should revert to the Council’s Capital Funds) of £25m.  There is a contribution of over £470,000 for the set up costs (on top of the £750,000 ‘we’ have paid for the fit out for HQ’s chosen internal layout, equipment and finishes – included in the £25m).  Then there is an annual subsidy of £325,000.

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110522 G-Live

Letter to Surrey Advertiser

Sir

Contrary to the correspondence trail in your pages (especially my part in it) I am pleased that Guildford will finally get a concert hall back.   I just disagree fundamentally with the way Guildford’s Leadership went about delivering it to us.  I have criticised the funding structure and, in conversation the other day, a parallel was suggested to me which I thought I would share with your readers.

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