Councillor John Rigg’s areas of responsibility include: Town Centre MasterPlan; Infrastructure; Major Projects; and Strategic Asset Management.
The Chair introduced the Lead Councillor for Regeneration and reminded the meeting of Councillor Rigg’s areas of responsibility: the Town Centre Master Plan; infrastructure; major projects; and strategic asset management.
The following information, clarifications, and responses were provided during the ensuing discussion with the Lead Councillor for Regeneration.
· A member of the Committee asked for a summary of the current projects that the Lead Councillor for Regeneration was most worried about and those he was most pleased with. In response, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration indicated he was worried about several major projects: Ash Road Bridge at £37.7million; Weyside Urban Village Development at £350 million; Guildford Park Road at £100 million; Guildford West and Guildford East railway stations; North Street redevelopment at £250 million; and Walnut Bridge at £5 million. He stated that his worries related to outside agencies, internal resources, budgets, construction cost inflation, planning policies, and opposition to change. In addition, he advised the meeting he was concerned about the St Mary’s Wharf Development.
· With reference to Ash Road Bridge, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration informed the meeting of concerns and cost price inflation due to a delay in Network Rail approving a bridge design. The Lead Councillor for Regeneration stated that delivery of the Weyside Urban Village project was being affected by Surrey County Council’s delay in approving road improvements. With reference to the Guildford Park Road project as an example, he advised of difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff to project manage the Council’s major projects and questioned whether the Council should be acting as the housing developer of the site.
· The Lead Councillor for Regeneration advised that the current two-week delay to the Walnut Bridge project would increase, and he expected the project to be over-budget at £5.5 million and completed in July 2022. North Street development was put forward by the Lead Councillor for Regeneration as an example of a project he was pleased with.
· In reply to a question, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration updated the meeting on the flood alleviation scheme in Guildford town centre. He emphasized the importance of flood alleviation to Guildford town centre to protect existing homes and businesses and to release for development land that was currently used for surface car parking. The Lead Councillor for Regeneration praised the assistance of the Environment Agency and advised the Committee of a grant application to Surrey County Council for £480,000 from the empty homes fund towards modelling options. He indicated that the scheme would consist of upstream storage and flood defence walls, implemented in a zoned approach.
· A member of the Committee referred to the flooding responsibilities of Surrey County Council and asked which resources the County Council was targeting to Guildford. The Lead Councillor for Regeneration indicated that the Council was funding the flood alleviation plan in anticipation that Surrey County Council would contribute to its implementation costs.
· In reply to a question, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration undertook to provide Committee members with the Council’s expenditure on the flooding scheme to date. In addition, he agreed to provide to Committee members the cost details of external consultants and expertise procured for the Council’s major projects.
· The Lead Councillor for Regeneration informed the Committee that a shortage of resources at Network Rail was causing the delay in the Ash Road Bridge project
· The Chair questioned whether the involvement of the Council in matters that were the responsibilities of other organisations indicated a change in approach by the Lead Councillor for Regeneration.
· A member of the Committee observed that the bulk of the Shaping Guildford’s Future project appeared to be focused on a riverside corridor and asked what was envisaged for the rest of the town centre. The Lead Councillor for Regeneration spoke of the importance of including the historic core of the town centre, transportation routes and modes, and potential brownfield housing sites within the scope of Shaping Guildford’s Future.
· In response to a question about the deliverables from the next stage of the Shaping Guildford’s Future project, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration suggested that there was a lack of town centre policies aiming to deliver regeneration and agreed that a series of site allocations with supporting policies would be an outcome of the project.
· In reply to a query about the consultancy cost of the Shaping Guildford’s Future project, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration advised the meeting that phase 1 had cost approximately £1 million, phase 2 £1.5 million, with an additional £3 million allocated for next year. He indicated that outputs of the project would include flood studies and reports on infrastructure and land titles, and an updated Town Centre Master Plan. The Lead Councillor for Regeneration suggested that the project would identify sites with an overall capacity for 3,000 homes.
· With reference to a recent presentation given to Councillors by Grainger plc on a partnership between a private developer and the Council to deliver affordable homes for rent, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration indicated that this was part of a process of identifying housing options.
· In reply to questions about the redevelopment of the bus station in Guildford, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration stated that the operation of the station had been the first consideration and that the pocket park was the last element identified. In addition, he stated that the order and sequence of discussions about the redevelopment of the bus station was correct.
· In response to a request for the budget for the Shaping Guildford’s Future consultation, the Lead Councillor for Regeneration suggested that the information might be commercially sensitive but undertook to provide it to the Committee members.
· The Lead Councillor for Regeneration referred to the complexities and issues of the Weyside Urban Village project and indicated his satisfaction with the internal and external teams in place for the project.
The Chair thanked the Lead Councillor for Regeneration for attending and answering questions.