20120925 Masterplanning – the alchemy of urban design

It is very often the case that we all have some idea of what needs to be done to fix urban issues but we have been schooled in the art of the possible – limited by what we know and affected by what we fear.

Masterplanning is the once-in-a-generation re imagining of the urban space to make the impossible seem possible and the possible achievable.

All it takes (and it is not exactly a small thing) is vision… Oh yes, and a wedge of cash!

But when it starts, a whole new energy is created and the community is able to come together to agree, disagree, put forward ideas, comment on others’ brainwaves, consider a few hairbrained scheme and put it all together in the glaring light of publicity to arrive at a democratically accountable masterplan with a vision, a clear set of priorities and an outline of the steps to make it deliverable.

What is clear is that towns and cities such as St Albans and Stratford upon Avon are already beginning to benefit from their masterplanning process and that towns like Guildford, with its traffic congestion and disconnected spaces and infrastructure, are starting to recognise that a masterplan could deliver solutions.

Guildford Vision Group is pressing the Local Authority to embrace a masterplanning exercise and have had excellent advice and support from Allies & Morrison who are holding a drop-in workshop at St Marys church in Quarry Street, off the High Street, from 11.00am to 1.00pm on Saturday 29th September at which everyone is welcome.

Allies & Morrison were responsible for masterplanning the Olympic Park and we all know how well that worked out. What we should all understand from that exercise is that masterplanning is not only worthwhile, it is also essential.

20120923 So what if we lose our orchestra?

In 1946 the far sighted Councillors of Guildford’s Municipal Council set up a Municipal orchestra. Those who were experiencing post-war rationing and hardship were able to enjoy some community cohesion and were able to enjoy the classical music played by professional musicians.

By the time I was attending concerts with my parents in the mid to late 1960’s the orchestra was fêted across the country as a top division professional orchestra and at the time Guildford Council directly employed the musicians and the phenomenal conductor and musician Vernon (or ‘Tod’) Handley was making a name for himself and for Guildford at the cutting edge of English music. The modern programmes were not always the crowd-pullers that would have underlined the success of the orchestra, but hundreds if not thousands of young people were inspired through his Proteus Choir to perform at a remarkably high level – in the process learning about teamwork, camaraderie, musicianship and a great love for English song.

The model of employed musicians was under strain for a long time before the retained conductor position was removed (Sir Charles Groves being one of the last holders of the post) and with it the in house musicians. Continue reading 20120923 So what if we lose our orchestra?

20120914 PropertyWeek Opinion Piece

Retail-led Regeneration of Guildford?

Locals question the thinking behind Guildford’s retail plans

The new National Planning Policy Framework of April 2012, and the Localism Act of 2011, should encourage local Councils to fully engage with knowledgeable and interested local residents.

Apparently this is not the case in Guildford.  A single-issue campaign group is calling for a properly established, professional masterplanning process.  The Guildford Vision Group (GVG) was formed in March 2012 by, among others, John Rigg (Director of Savills Commercial) and Gerald Bland (former property partner of Herbert Smith) in response to a poor plan for Guildford, a thinly-disguised prospectus for the sale of a number of Council-owned properties.

GVG has been trying hard to engage with Guildford Borough Council (GBC) who can easily afford a proper professional master plan which should more than pay for itself.  GBC makes (£6m per year from its car parking and the cost of a comprehensive masterplanning process is likely to be between £500,000 and £1 million – a few weeks of revenue. Continue reading 20120914 PropertyWeek Opinion Piece