Guildford Labour is shocked at the decision from the Planning Inspector to allow Solum’s proposed development of the Railway Station to go ahead. We are now faced with the prospect of having an ugly, oversized megalith in place of a more thoughtful, sensitive and attractive development more in keeping with the special character of the town.
Listen to Brian Creese discuss the decision on BBC Radio Surrey:
Disgracefully, we are looking at yet another example of developers pulling the “viability” card to wriggle out of their commitment to include a fair number of affordable homes. In this case a lucrative development of 438 flats, numerous shops restaurants and offices in a prime location, and yet Solum propose to build a paltry 45 “affordable” homes. In other words, slightly more than 10% of the total when the council's current target for new developments is 40%.
The Government have a policy of localism, yet time and time again we see them riding roughshod over local views. All parties were united in turning down this planning application for many reasons, including the chronic lack of affordable housing, its inappropriate design and disruption to the skyline of Guildford blocking views of the Cathedral for many residents.
Guildford is an historic market town with a special character arising from its rich pre- and post-industrial past. You don’t have to walk far around the town before you start to feel its history and personality seeping up from the setts, alleyways and ancient buildings as you pass by. This is not understood by those who don’t live here, and that much is apparent in the approval of a development that is aesthetically mute, functionally bland, ridiculously oversized and fails to contribute to some of the council’s key objectives.
Guildford Labour Party are not NIMBYs, it does not oppose all new developments and champions the provision of affordable housing in the borough. We recognise that market forces are necessary to drive development and construction, but also believe that developers looking to work in the town must also actively exhibit a social conscience when drawing up their plans and support a minimum of 40% affordable homes in all developments.
The Conservatives in Surrey are constantly working against each other – Government against County, County against Borough and now Government against Borough. This decision - that will have an irreversible deleterious effect on the town and may well open the door to other large scale and inappropriate developments - will be a shock to Guildford residents and will put an end to the idea that having Tories in power locally will help ensure our views are heard in Whitehall. Honest Tories must now be thinking hard about where they belong in politics.