Stakeholders and developers need to find common ground on housing and development before Guildford is left stranded in the 20th century.
That’s the view of commercial property agents Bruton Knowles, who are working with developers and local authorities to find solutions to the town’s ‘fast developing development crisis’.
Steve Pozerkis from the firm’s Railton Road office said the new Guildford Town Plan – designed to shape development until 2033 – had triggered criticisms of ‘growth gone mad’ from residents’ groups across the area.
He said the borough council had faced a thankless task trying to balance development imperatives given intense opposition.
“But the businesses and individuals we are speaking to recognise the new Local Plan must be flexible enough to encourage and maintain development to provide new homes – and employment - for future generations.
“The town council has to balance the development needed to guarantee Guildford’s future as a thriving and attractive town for new generations, without compromising its character – and its support from stakeholders in the existing communities.
“But with house prices averaging £340,000 and almost ninety per cent of the borough falling within the Green Belt Guildford it is fast running out of options – and running the risk of being branded anti-development.”
Bruton Knowles has backed nationwide calls to develop every viable Brownfield site in order to ease pressure on the countryside – but Steve Pozerskis said they will only deliver a fraction of the new homes Guildford requires – even if the developers can be found to take on these borderline sites in the first place.
“Far from being ‘growth gone mad’ Guildford is in danger of seeing no growth whatsoever.
The Local Plan is, from the developer’s point of view, all about viability.
“Time is money, and endless planning disputes and appeals cost time and jeopardise further investment.
“That could see towns like Guildford fall further and further behind the curve – which might be just fine for the people looking to ensure development remains very strictly limited in scale and scope - but is bad news for businesses looking to move out from the capital or new families looking for a place to live.”
He said: “Businesses and developers we speak to as part of our work across the region are saying local residents and stakeholders need to recognise that some measure of development into areas of the Green Belt previously held to be sacrosanct is inevitable if we are to cope with current - let alone future - levels of demand.
“While the Guildford area possesses an adequate supply of high quality rural homes. smaller houses and apartments are few and far between and ‘affordable homes’ are practically unheard of.”
Steve said planning appeals elsewhere in the country were turning on the question of whether the benefits of the new homes outweighed the harm to the Green Belt.
“We believe we have reached the point where the answer to that question will, in many cases, be yes.”