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Council considers next steps after Secretary of State decision

The Secretary of State earlier this week rejected the Council's application to reprovide Bellfields Road allotment holders with new facilities at North Moors and Aldershot Road allotments.

The allotments were a key element of the Weyside Urban Village project, which has been planned for over 18 years and formed a crucial part of the Council's adopted Local Plan. The new allotment facilities were designed to the highest possible environmental standards in close partnership with Guildford Allotment Society (GAS). The Council has worked with GAS and other members of the community for over a year to ensure that all allotment holders receive a new plot. This included three public consultation events - in October 2019 and February 2020 - as well as weekly meetings with GAS and numerous newsletters.

Weyside Urban Village proposes to cover 41-hectares of brownfield land at Slyfield to provide around 1,500 new homes. In addition to high-quality affordable and private homes, the proposals also included new community facilities, measures to lower carbon emissions, an improved access to a bigger, dedicated nature reserve and new work and commercial spaces.

The Secretary of State's decision may now have major implications for other parts of the project, which benefit the local and wider communities.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Caroline Reeves says: "We are disappointed with the decision, primarily on behalf of our residents, an overwhelming majority of whom have supported this project. We are reviewing the Secretary of State's decision and considering the project's next steps, and we will persevere to deliver the Weyside Urban Village Project.

"This decision will reduce the number of homes we are able to build by approximately 200, of which 90 would be affordable homes for local people, at a time when housing for all ages is one of the borough's most pressing requirements. Our plans for the North Moors allotments provided extra facilities and greater security for the existing holders, and featured sustainable measures including harvesting rainwater. It also means that we will now need to review the proposed new pick-up point for pupils of Weyfield Primary School, which will raise safety concerns amongst parents.

"The Weyside Urban Village is the most exciting and important infrastructure project in our borough, meeting the highest environmental standards and providing new community space, educational facilities, employment opportunities, and improved pedestrian and cycle paths through to the town centre. It will rejuvenate the site and its surroundings by putting the environment and our borough's residents' needs first."

Cllr Angela Gunning, Ward Councillor for Stoke Ward says: "Weyside Urban Village is an exciting project for my ward and will bring many benefits for the wider community. Residents have supported our plans enthusiastically, with 76% of those who responded in favour of the project, and it was great to see so many at our online information events. It is somewhat of a blow that this decision will mean the retention of the physical barrier between the new and existing communities and the river.

"The relocation of the allotments enabled a truly connected community and neighbourhood, and the potential loss of the new state-of-the-art allotments at North Moors, as well as the extension to the Aldershot Road Allotments, is very disappointing. We want to make Guildford great for everyone, and our emerging masterplan to regenerate the area considers all aspects from transport to homes, heritage and the environment.

"The new allotments at North Moors would be built to the highest environmental and security standards. We understand how passionate people are about gardening in Guildford and were delighted to work closely with the Guildford Allotment Society on their plans for the new facilities. The health and wellbeing benefits of allotment gardening are huge, and the relocation of Bellfields Road's allotments would secure our status as a leader in environmentally-friendly community gardening projects."

Published on Friday 28 August.