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Guildford Borough Council

Proposed Submission Local Plan: strategy and sites 2017

Proposed Submission Local Plan: strategy and sites 2017 - Part 1: Policies

Policy E7: Guildford Town Centre

Retail and Service Centres


4.4.64 Our hierarchy of retail and service centres of differing scale and functions serve as a central focus for our communities. These They provide places to buy everyday necessary goods, necessary and services such as post offices, launderettes and takeaways, and places such as pubs and restaurants where people can meet up and socialise.

4.4.65 The hierarchy of centres in the borough is shown in Table 1Appendix B, and consists of a single town centre in Guildford town, one urban and two rural district centres, and 20 21 local centres across our towns and villages. The role and function of each centre relates to its position in the hierarchy and its size and mix of uses. Policies E7 Guildford Town Centre, E8 District Centres and E9 Local Centres are set out below.

Policy E7: Guildford Town Centre

4.4.66 Guildford's retail and service centres are the heart of our communities. They serve as a focus for community life, with Guildford serving a wide catchment that extends beyond the county. Within the borough, we have a range of centres of different scales, which serve different functions.

Policy E7: Guildford Town Centre

4.4.67 Guildford town centre has a unique setting and historic character and is the largest retail, service, administrative and commercial centre in the county of Surrey county (measured by floorspace and number of units[1]). With good transport accessibility by rail and road, it is one of the key town centres in the South East outside of London.

4.4.68 The town centre is centred on two linear features, the River Wey, and the High Street that rises up the valley side from Town Bridge. Related to this, the centre has striking topography, with attractive views to the surrounding countryside south and east of the town centre. It is renowned for its picturesque historic High Street and lanes off it, known as "'"gates" ' which link the High Street, the Castle and the other key shopping street, North Street. The setting and the historic street pattern in the central area of the town centre are a vital part of its special character as is the range and concentration of heritage assets.

4.4.69 Guildford town centre is lively and economically resilient. It has proved to be one of the most resilient centres in the country in times of economic downturn[2] , primarily due to its largely affluent catchment population and attractive environment.

4.4.70 Nevertheless, centres are constantly changing. As how we shop and spend our leisure time changes, and nearby similar sized centres such as Kingston upon Thames and Woking improve, so must Guildford town centre. As well as providing for shopping and employment needs, we must improve the overall experience for people visiting Guildford town centre.

4.4.71 Improvements needed include the leisure daytime and, early evening and night time economy, the built and natural environment in certain areas (including the riverside) and the dominance of traffic congestion and surface car parks. These will help to ensure that by 20343, Guildford town centre is as described in the spatial vision. Vision below, which is from the Guildford Town Centre Vision document 2015.

4.4.72 Guildford town centre, its ground floor primary and secondary shopping frontages and its primary shopping area are shown on the Guildford Town Centre InsetPoliciesMap. Its shopping frontages are listed in Appendix B.


Guildford town centre has a unique setting and historical character, and is at the centre of one of the most prosperous counties in England. We will protect and build on these assets and insist that all new development will be of the highest design and environmental standards. We will be proactive in building a great town centre which connects to the amenity of the riverside. We will invest in creating high quality public realm. We will put people above traffic and we will promote new high quality retail and business development. To achieve this we will develop innovative funding and delivery bodies. As we embark together towards this exciting future we pledge that we will continue and extend an active dialogue with our residents and other stakeholders.


4.4.73 The town centre will be the focus for developments of town centre uses of a scale appropriate to the centre's role and function that generate a large number of journeys. New retail development will be directed to the primary shopping area. Outside of the primary shopping area but within the wider town centre, a variety of town centre uses will be encouraged, including food and drink, leisure, and cultural uses that add to the liveliness, attractiveness, and economic resilience of the centre.

4.4.74 The role of Guildford town centre as the key retail and service centre for Surrey county will be reinforced, and it will become a more attractive place to live, to visit and to work in. We will ensure the public realm is enhanced and insist that all new development will be of the highest design and environmental standards. We will also take opportunities to reconnect the town centre to the amenity of the riverside.-

POLICY E7: Guildford Town Centre

(1) By 20343, Guildford town centre will have:

(a) a new retail-led, mixed-use development of 45,00041,000 sq m (gross) of additional comparison goods floorspace on the North Street regeneration site within its primary shopping area.

(b) developments of other town centre uses that contribute to the liveliness of the town centre including food and drink, more gyms and cinema screens.

(c) approximately 1,172 1,300 new homes, particularly on upper floors as part of mixed use developments;

more varied uses during the evening and night-time, including along the riverside, with residents and visitors feeling safe;

active use of the riverside and the river;

more effective routes within and across the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists

new public squares and other informal meeting areas.

(2) Retail and leisure proposals over 500_sq m (gross) located outside of Guildford town centre, local or district centres, and where the site is not allocated in this Plan, must be supported by a retail impact assessment.

(3) Within the Primary Shopping Frontage as defined on the Policies Map proposals for change of use of existing ground floor shops (Class A1) to other uses will not be permitted.

(4) Within the Secondary Shopping Frontage defined on the Policies Map, planning permission for the change of use of ground floor shops (Class A1) to Class A2, A3, or A4 or A5 will be permitted where all the following criteria are met:

(a) the additional uses result in no more than two permitted ground floor non-retail uses adjacent to each other; and

(b) the additional use results in no more than one third of this section of the defined street level frontage (as defined in Appendix B) in permitted non-A1 Use Class; and

(c) the use will does not result in loss of amenity in terms of noise, disturbance, smell, litter or traffic generation; and

(d) the proposed use will not be detrimental to the shopping function or character of the town centre.

(5) Exceptionally loss of shopping area uses (Class A) at ground floor level will be permitted, subject to the above criteria, where the proposed use is appropriate to a town centre shopping frontage.

(6) Proposals for new food takeaways within 500m of schools will not be accepted - because of the potential negative impact on the health of school children.


Reasoned Justification

4.4.75 The Plan defines a prime shopping area along the lower High Street where a concentration of the retail multiples are represented. This prime area has the highest proportion of A1 (shop) uses, the highest Zone A rental values, and the highest pedestrian flow levels in the whole town centre. In order to protect its liveliness and economic resilience, changes of use from shops (Use Class A1) to other uses will not be permitted. Town centre uses that are complementary to retail, will be permitted in the surrounding secondary shopping frontage.

4.4.76 The cumulative impact of concentrations of restaurants, take-aways, bars and pubs can cause problems for town centre residents. The amenity of residents in the town centre will be protected, both by this policy and other Local Plan polices concerned with protecting residential amenity. As we are encouraging more people to live in the town centre, we must ensure that new food and drink uses do not harm their amenities.

4.4.77 As the most sustainable location in the borough, Guildford town centre is the most suitable location for the larger developments of town centre uses, and for housing. We will ensure that large scale developments of town centre uses are located within the town centre, wherever possible as part of mixed-use developments including housing. Large scale retail will be located wherever possible within the primary shopping area.

4.4.78 Guildford Retail and Leisure Update Study 2014Addendum 2017 calculates the likely future need for retail and leisure floorspace for the whole borough over the plan period to 20343. Calculations are based on 20142 ONS population projections and the likely future increase in expenditure, based on national data and a household survey. The figures also take into account changes in special forms of trading, such as increased proportion of expenditure on internet sales.

4.4.79 The headline figures for comparison retail need (gross floorspace), assuming Guildford town centre retains a constant market share, are 14,3491,614 sq m to 202019; 15,664 23,694sqsq m to 20254; 40,28946,955sq m to 2030 29; 56,747sq m to 2031 and 46,66466,298 sq m to 20343. These figures are cumulative. Due to changing retail spending patterns and other variables, there is greater certainty in retail needs assessments for shorter time periods. Sites have therefore been allocated to meet identified needs to 203029, by when we will have reviewed needs again.

4.4.80 The anticipated proportion of retail sales made via the internet is increasing, and mobile phone retailing is growing. It is becoming increasingly clear that the successful large bricks and mortar retailers are increasingly becoming multi-channel retailers (selling through bricks and mortar stores and online), which is changing the pattern of shopping habits.

4.4.81 The vast majority of the comparison floorspace will be provided in one development, on the site fronting North Street. This will provide a significant amount of new retail floorspace, flats, food and drink, and leisure floorspace, and improvements to the environment and appearance of this area.

4.4.82 The need for convenience retail (gross floorspace), assuming constant market share, is 1,8691,436 sq m to 203029, and 2,5032,477 sq m to 20343. These figures are cumulative.

4.4.83 These retail need figures do not include the needs of new strategic development sites included in this plan, which are quantified separately in the Retail and Leisure Update Study 2014.

4.4.84 Consumer habits are changing and to be a successful town centre in the future will involve strengthening the retail offer and diversifying to include other town centre uses. The town centre will become more important as a focus for our leisure time, and the enhancement of the riverside, buildings and public spaces between them will contribute to this diversification.

4.4.85 National planning policy sets out two tests, the sequential use and impact assessment. In considering proposed developments of main town centre use on sites outside of designated centres on sites that are not allocated for such uses, the sequential assessment must be applied. Retail and leisure proposals over 500sq m on unallocated land outside of designated centres must be accompanied by a retail impact assessment. This will help to preserve the liveliness of our centres, and to protect them from significant adverse impacts from new retail and leisure developments in less suitable locations.

4.4.86 River flooding risk is currently a significant constraint in redeveloping Guildford town centre. Several prominent riverside sites that have no building footprint cannot be allocated for redevelopment because of river flooding. Flooding issues aside, additional sites would be suitable for main town centre uses such as food and drink, leisure and offices. Work is continuing to try to resolve these flooding issues, including considering technical solutions to remove the sites from the floodplain. This work is taking place outside of the Local Plan process, because of the time it takes and the uncertainties.

4.4.87 We will work with our partners to deliver the Local Plan, and to progress further opportunities highlighted in the Guildford Town Centre Regeneration Strategy draft Town Centre Masterplan. Partners include Experience Guildford (Guildford's Business Improvement District), major land- owners including the North Street Regeneration site, Surrey Country Council as local highway authority, the Environment Agency, and the National Trust as owner of the River Wey.

Key Evidence

  • Allies and Morrison, draft Town Centre Vision 2015
  • Allies and Morrison, draft Guildford Town Centre Masterplan 2015
  • The Guildford Town Centre Regeneration Strategy (Guildford Borough Council, 2017)
  • Carter Jonas, Guildford Retail and Leisure Study Update 2014 (Guildford Borough Council, 2015) and Addendum 2017
  • Guildford Borough Council land use surveys, to 20152016


Monitoring Indicators



Data source

Amount of retail floorspace (A1) approved permitted and completed within the town centre, edge of centre, and out of centre


41,000 sq m (gross)

planning applications and appeals and building completions data

Amount of food and beverage floorspace (A3,A4) permitted and completed within the town centre

6,000 sq m (gross)

planning applications and appeals and building completions data


1. Experian [back]
2. Second most credit crunch resistant retail centre in the UK (Source: CACI Retail Footprint Study 2010/11) [back]