What's happening now?
St Edward, a private property developer, has submitted a new planning application for the private re-development of North Street in Guildford town centre.
A previous application for the development of the site was rejected by the council's planning committee in January 2023. The developer has lodged an appeal will also be appealing against that decision, but have said they will withdraw their appeal if their new application is approved.
What is in the new application?
Full details of the new application can be found here on the council's planning portal, and contains changes from the original scheme in order to address the reasons for refusal. These changes include:
The original scheme was for 475 flats, with buildings up to 13 storeys in height, and included providing a new bus station and the partial pedestrianisation of North Street.
The new scheme includes 471 flats but with buildings up to 11 storeys in height. It includes a re-design of the new bus station, which includes keeping open the southern access to the bus station from the gyratory, but otherwise pedestrianising North Street up to Leapale Road. The proposed development would have 136 parking spaces (with EV charging) for residents, as well as 590 bicycle storage spaces.
Why was the previous application rejected?
The previous application was refused by the planning committee, in a tied vote, on three grounds:
What happens next?
The new application was submitted in July. Members of the public and local organisations are now able to formally comment comment on the planning application on the council's planning portal website.
The planning application will then come to the planning committee for a decision in October or November this year.
Separately, the developer's appeal against the council's refusal of their original application is being sent to the Planning Inspectorate. The appeal is likely to be allocated to a government Planning Inspector around November 2023, with the appeal hearing likely to begin early next year. A decision on the appeal will probably be made around March 2024.
How is Guildford Borough Council involved?
The council is involved with the scheme in two completely different, and separate, ways. As the local planning authority, the council has to decide whether to approve or refuse the new planning application.
Separately, the council owns some pieces of land which the developer needs in order to develop the site. The developer has a contract with the council which allows them to buy the pieces of land for £4.5 million if they are able to obtain planning permission.
The planning decision will be made by the elected councillors on the council's planning committee, who are legally obliged to decide applications based on planning policy alone.
How is Surrey County Council involved?
Surrey County Council is the transport authority for our area. It is their responsibility to assess the highways and transport impact of the new planning application to determine whether the reasons for their objection to the original application have been resolved or not.
What happens if the new application is refused?
If the new application is refused then the developer will go ahead with their appeal against the decision to refuse their original planning application. A government Planning Inspector would decide the appeal, likely by March 2024. If the developer loses that appeal, then they would still be able to appeal against the refusal of their new planning application.
What about building height limits in the town centre?
Right now there are no planning policies placing a hard limit on building heights in the town centre, or anywhere else in the borough. Instead there are planning policies requiring detailed appraisal of the appearance and visual impact of any proposed tall buildings. There are also planning policies which designate certain 'protected views' into, from and across Guildford, which new developments are not allowed to harm.
Largely as a result of the lessons learned from the North Street scheme, the council is now starting work to develop much more robust planning policies on building heights, and more details on this will be announced, we hope, later this year. However, it will not be possible for any new planning policies to be brought in in time to have any impact on the North Street application, as the law requires all new planning policies to go through a lengthy process of consultation before they can be adopted.
Where can I find out more information?
Information about the new proposals for North Street can be found on the developer's website: www.northstreetregeneration.co.uk
Full details of the submitted planning application can be found on the planning portal on the council's website: publicaccess.guildford.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=_GUILD_DCAPR_203812
Additionally, the Guildford Society has published an overview of changes to the bus station design here: www.guildfordsociety.org.uk/GuilfordBusStation.html
The Planning Committee reasons for refusing the original North Street application in January 2023 can also be found online.