Guildford Cathedral skyline saved as 124 home plan refused for a second time

Guildford Cathedral and northern lights
-Credit: (Image: MatSnaps)

Plans to build 124 homes around Guildford Cathedral have been thrown out by a planning inspector. The inspector sided with Guildford Borough Council planning chiefs who originally refused the proposals in March 2023.

Developers Vivid Homes appealed against the council's decision but a government planning inspector has ruled the homes would cause a negative impact on the distinct character and history of the iconic building. Cathedral bosses along with the developers had wanted to demolish the existing staff housing and create 124 homes in a mix of flats and housing - 54 of which would be affordable properties - on undeveloped woodland.

Interim Dean of the Cathedral, the Venerable Stuart Beake, had previously said the development was crucial for the cathedral's finances. But Planning Inspector Tom Bristow concluded the proposal would result in a “clear adverse effect” to the historic cathedral’s “lofty, dominance” and “imposing” character.

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Guildford Cathedral homes plan from developer's planning documents
Guildford Cathedral homes plan from developer's planning documents -Credit:Surrey Live

Concerns were also raised that the homes, including 94 flats, “would have little affinity with the prevailing characteristics of the area". In his refusal, Mr Bristow gave great benefit to the community value of the Grade II listed grounds as locals said it was a “well-used public space”. He added that the “semi-natural and rugged state” of the cathedral grounds was “distinct and rare" in comparison with more formally landscaped, maintained land in the area.

Tristen Samuels, group development and new business director at Vivid Homes, said: “We remain proud of the proposals we put forward to deliver highly-sustainable new homes in Guildford – including 40% affordable which is so desperately needed. We will consider the findings of the Inspector’s report in the coming days.”

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The inspector also found the money generated from the development would bring in just over a third of the £3,570,000 the cathedral needs for building repairs. Mr Bristow said: “Irrespective of the outcome of the scheme, the cathedral will continue to be predominantly reliant on other sources of funding for upkeep.”

Following the decision, Interim Dean Beake said the way forward was “challenging” and cast doubt on if the cathedral would be able to “operate in the same way”. He said an additional £150,000 was needed each year to cover the shortfall in day-to-day costs at the cathedral.

He added: "Whilst naturally disappointed by the outcome, the cathedral chapter is determined to carry on delivering the mission of the cathedral in the community."

The original plans submitted to the council prompted 286 letters of objection from the community. Friends of Stag Hill made representations on behalf of campaigners against the plans at the planning appeal.

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