News

3rd February 2024

Alternative survey shows 87% opposed to the Active Travel Scheme planned for the London Road in Guildford.

 

Because of the many concerns about the Surrey County Council Questionnaire, particularly the leading nature of some of the questions, a local group known as the London Road Active Travel Survey Group set up an alternative survey that went online on the 7th November 2023. Crucially this survey included the key question asking whether you were in favour of the scheme or not. This survey lasted for six weeks and closed on the 15th December to coincide with the end of the consultation period. The survey received a total of 1241 responses over a short six-week period and 87% of those responses were opposed to the scheme. Because the survey required respondents to provide a post code, we were able to tell that 91% of the respondents were from Guildford post codes and that therefore most of the responses came from residents who will be directly affected by these proposals (see below). These results were presented to Tim Oliver, Leader of the Surrey County Council, on 18th December in the presence of Angela Richardson MP for Guildford.

Alternative Survey Results
Alternative Survey Results.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.0 MB]

At the time the Surrey County Council’s online Questionnaire finally closed on 15th December, having been open for 13 weeks, their online survey had recorded a total of 762 responses. The results of this survey have yet to be published. A decision whether or not to go ahead with the Active Travel Scheme will be taken by Surrey County Council at the Cabinet Meeting on 27th February. The image is of the Dutch Style roundabout at Fendon Road in Cambridge which is similar to the style of the roundabout planned for the Boxgrove roundabout.

6th January 2024

Alan's Excellent Wassailing Thingy

 

Wassailing is a Twelfth Night tradition with pagan roots and has been practised in Britain for centuries. The original purpose was to encourage the spirits into ensuring a good harvest the following season. It usually takes place on the twelfth night after Christmas and in Guildford involves the local Mummers and random Morris Men and their enthusiastic followers visiting a total of five pubs starting at the Star Inn and progressing through the town to finish at the Royal Oak including the Angel Hotel with its iconic balcony. One of the traditions is the sharing of the Wassail Bowl which usually contains an eclectic mix of left-over beer, cider, wines and spirits - so a strong stomach is required. After the Star, the Abbotswood party headed for the Angel where they enjoyed the Mummers Play which included an all-action sword fight, a tall tale from The King of Misrule, and finally the marking of three chalk crosses on the beams (the mysterious apotropaic marks) that will ensure good luck and prevent the entrance of evil spirits in the coming year. In the Star this task was relatively straight-forward as a young girl was hoisted up to make the marks. But in the Angel, a plucky young lad had to be suspended upside down by two strong Morris Men over the minstrel gallery to make the marks. Alan wasn’t sure it would align with GBC’s health and safety directives - but it was certainly a highlight of the evening. Afterwards, pizzas at Zizzi went down a treat.

ar12th December 2023

The Unofficial AMEN Christmas Bash (UACB)

 

Once upon a time, in a land far far away called “Abbotswood”, there was a merry bunch of hobbits (that’s another word for a motley crew) who set out on a fantastic journey to find the magical “Anchor and Horseshoes”, a place renowned for its excellent grog and mystical stuff like “bangers and mash” - the very elixir of life. Along the way, they had to travel down the winding yellow brick London Road where apparently the Wicked Wizard of Surrey was planning lots of speed bumps and “Dutch style roundabouts” and all manner of dreadful stuff to upset the petrol heads of Guildford who would much rather just tootle along in their old bangers pumping out noxious fumes into the faces of passing cyclists (that’s all the political stuff out the way). Anyway, when they finally reached their destination, which obviously just happened to be at the end of a rainbow, they found themselves entering a wondrous grotto filled with fairy lights and Christmas trees and “steak and ale pies” with lashings of gravy – the very things they had been dreaming about, and they forgot all about the Wicked Wizard of Surrey and his dastardly plans for the London Road and they all slept happily ever after. Don’t ask me who the Tin Man was because I can’t remember. Happy Christmas.

8th November 2023

The London Road Active Travel Scheme

Your chance to have your say

 

As part of the government’s new Active Travel proposals which is an attempt to promote safer cycling routes within towns, Surrey County Council has decided to upgrade London Road, all the way from the York Road intersection to the roundabout at New Inn Lane, by incorporating segregated cycle paths on both sides of the carriageway and by upgrading the Boxgrove roundabout to a Dutch style roundabout which is designed to give preference to cyclists and pedestrians. Surrey County Council’s own Traffic Modelling Report concedes that this will significantly increase traffic congestion and inevitably divert some traffic onto adjoining residential roads like Tormead, Winterhill Way and Nightingale Road as they seek to avoid the congestion. Moreover, the only other Dutch style roundabout in the UK at Cambridge has recorded a significant increase in accidents following its installation. Many people accept that the Questionnaire set up by Surrey County Council on Commonplace is couched in a such a way as to encourage only favourable responses by asking questions like “How important to you is it that the updated proposals for the scheme contribute to increased safety for cyclists and pedestrians?” A group of local residents have therefore set up an alternative questionnaire to allow people to voice their honest opinions regarding these proposals.

Please have your say and complete the questionnaire at  https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/a3100ats/

8th October 2023

Enquiries on the Abbotswood website

 

Some of you may wonder whether I ever receive any enquiries on the website from beyond Abbotswood. Well, I do occasionally get random enquiries about Arts & Crafts architecture and about conservation areas generally. You may be interested to hear that I also get enquiries from people whose families once lived on Abbotswood. I had an enquiry the other day from someone who believed that their great grandparents once lived on Abbotswood and had an old photograph of the house which they sent me (see above). I was able to confirm that that the house they lived in was indeed Woodways (formerly known as “The Hurst”) and it was fascinating to see how little the house had changed – except that the window frames were originally painted white and there appear to be curtains hanging on the sleeping balcony - or maybe some temporary boarding. I had another enquiry from a lady who believed that her godmother was evacuated to Guildford as a young child during the war and lived with someone called Mrs Smith who, at the time, was the Mayoress of Guildford. Unfortunately, we were never able to pin down the actual house. If any of you have any old photos of Abbotswood which you could let me scan, I would be most grateful as I’m thinking of setting up an archive – houses, gardens, street scenes, people, cars – anything about Abbotswood from the early 20th century.

16th October 2023

The Annual AMEN Curry Night Bash (AACNB)

 

The Annual AMEN Curry Night Bash has clearly become a bit of an institution. You haven’t lived until you have experienced the Rajdoot in Burpham on a chilly October night. Well – you probably have – but not to such a thrilling extent. It must be our sixth year at the Rajdoot and we still can’t pronounce any of the items on the menu - but they all taste delicious. The highlight of the evening had to be listening to various attempts at “unintelligible Glaswegian accents” – pure Billy Connelly – particularly after a few pints of Cobra. Just to be clear, we all love our friends north of the border - kilts, bagpipes and all. Next year we plan to do the whole thing in fancy dress just to give it a bit more of an edge. The "full alligator outfit complete with goggles and flippers" will barely get you through the door (I think we’ve heard that one before Niels). A big thank you to Graham for organising the whole thing – working out the bill – finding our coats – and herding us all safely back home. I think herding is a fairly accurate term.

11th September 2023

London Road Active Travel Scheme

 

The public consultation stage for the Active Travel Scheme for the London Road commenced on Monday 18th September and will run for eight weeks. Six Drop-In events are planned where the public will have the opportunity to view the designs and comment on the proposals.

 

The proposals now cover the entire length of the London Road from the New Inn Lane roundabout in Burpham to York Road. These proposals should attempt to improve matters for road users by making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. In reality, because there is insufficient space, the proposals are likely to make it more hazardous for cyclists and pedestrians and are likely to increase traffic congestion and therefore air pollution in the area. The Consultation Period has now been extended to Friday15th December. The six drop-in events are as follows: 

 

Saturday 23rd September              George Abbot School                                 10.00 am – 2.00 pm

Wednesday 4th October                 Burpham Church, New Inn Lane                  6.30 pm – 9.00 pm

Saturday 14th October                   Guildford High School                                10.00 am – 2.00 pm

Wednesday 8th November              Guildford High School                                6.30 pm – 9.00 pm

Saturday 18th November               George Abbot School                                 10.00 am - 2.00 pm

Wednesday 6th December              George Abbot School                                 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm

 

The problem with the proposal to provide segregated cycle paths along the London Road is that there simply isn’t enough room. There are three separate pinch points where the width is severely restricted: (1) outside the Guildford High School (2) for at least 100 metres in both directions outside the Emporia and (3) by the Kingpost Shopping Parade. In each of these areas there is insufficient space to provide even the minimum widths for cycle paths therefore SCC have reverted to pavements shared between cyclists and pedestrians which, according the LTN 1/20, should only be used as a very last resort. Moreover, the Dutch Style Roundabout (see above) proposed for the Boxgrove roundabout is, in my view, only likely to increase traffic congestion.

 

For a more detailed and comprehensive appraisal of the Active Travel Scheme please refer to:

Concerns about the London Road Active Travel Scheme
Concerns. website version.docx
Microsoft Word document [18.7 KB]

19th August 2023

AMEN/AWIT Summer BBQ at the Steven's

 

So finally, we had a glorious summers evening to enjoy - just in time for the annual barbeque. Carol’s garden looked stunning, and the guests looked – well to be fair - just like the usual motley crew (except for all the women who looked very elegant I can assure you). Obviously, there was much talk about the “Lionesses” and the possibility of winning the World Cup. It took me right back to 1966 and London in the “Swinging Sixties” and the Beatles singing "Paperback Writer" – and me and a red Lambretta with an awful lot of spotlights (what on earth was that about?) living on beer and cigarettes (no change there then) thin as a rake and not a care in the world - and we won the World Cup for heaven’s sake! Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Geoff Hurst - could it happen again? Come on Russo! Leaving football aside for the moment, my abiding memory of the evening was just the warm glow of being amongst good friends and neighbours – or maybe I was just sitting too close to the barbeque having had a few too many glasses of Merlot - or maybe it was just a happy combination of the two? who knows. A big thank you to Bernard and Carol for a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable evening, and to everyone else for just being lovely people. And finally, a big welcome to David, Melanie, Rafferty and Liam who have come to join us on Abbotswood and are living at “Thistledown”. 

16th August 2023

The latest proposals for North Street 

 

St Edwards have submitted a planning application for an alternative scheme to be considered in parallel with the appeal on the basis that they will withdraw the apppeal if this scheme is accepted. The significant difference between the original scheme and this alternative scheme is a reduction in the tallest block from 14 to 12 storeys. However, the density and number of dwellings remains essentially the same. Regarding the appeal, the Guildford Society have submitted an objection to the Planning Inspectorate on the following issues:  

 

Design - According to the NPPF, proposals are required to incorporate high quality design that should contribute to local distinctiveness. It is surprising then that a housing development of this scale has been designed by a single practice. Historic towns are made up from a collage of sites developed over time resulting in a variety of architecture. Projects of this scale would normally be designed by a collaborative team of architects led by a lead architect in order to achieve some architectural variety.

Massing and height - The proposed North Street Development has residential blocks that vary in height from eight to fourteen storeys which compares to heights of typically only four storeys to be found in the adjacent conservation areas. The scale, massing and height of this development is bound to adversely affect the setting and character of this historic market town.

Overdevelopment - The original site allocation in Policy A5 covered a total area of 3.47 hectares which included the Friary Shopping Centre, No1 Onslow Street and Norwich House with a total housing allocation of 400 dwellings. The proposed scheme is based on an area of only 1.25 hectares which excludes the Friary Shopping Centre, No1 Onslow and Norwich House but attempts to cram in an astonishing 473 dwellings.

Density - The National Model Design Code considers that a typical dense city development may have over 120 dwellings per hectare compared with 376 dwellings per hectare in the current proposals. The proposed development at 376 dwellings per hectare compares with only 235 dwellings per hectare as first outlined in Policy A5 in the Local Plan. A density of 376 dwellings per hectare is similar to an urban residential scheme you would expect to find in central London.

16th July 2023

AMEN trip to the Wood Street Jazz Festival

 

Once again Bernard hosted the AMEN trip to the Wood Street Jazz Festival which, as you can see, was as popular as ever. The jazz concert was fronted by Ronnie Scott’s alto saxophonist Steve Long and there were variety of other artists who also played stuff - but I’m afraid Bernard wasn’t very specific about the details. Curry was provided by the Shahin Restaurant which was very good indeed I'm told, and there was also a good choice of local ales - which is important at these events. As it turned out, the weather was fine, so the gazebo was surplus to requirements - but it all added to the atmosphere. To pass the time, Bernard and his guests chatted with Guildford MP Angela Richardson and Mayor Masuk Miah who just happened to be in the adjoining gazebo (I seem to remember that happening last year). So generally a good time was had by all. This annual event raises funds for the local charity “Challengers” which provides play facilities and much needed support for local disabled children and their families. The image of Woodstock is just my little bit of fun - it's nice to be reminded of where it all began.

12th July 2023

Update on the Active Travel Scheme for the London Road

 

The next meeting of the STRG is scheduled for 19th July which will involve discussions about the best means of presenting traffic management plans to the public during the construction of the cycle lanes along London Road.

 

Stakeholders have been promised details of these plans at least one week in advance of the meeting. However LRAG will not be surprised if details are vague, as, similar to the withholding of fully dimensioned drawings, much of the scheme, according to SCC, “remains under development and therefore subject to change”. It is not hard to detect the irony of this when, only eight months ago, fully-formed traffic management plans had been made and comparison of drawings published then with those available now show virtually no change.

 

Two examples of a differing approach to sharing advance information by SCC have been noted:

  1. An invite has been received from Surrey CC for a session with their transport modelling team. There have been many outstanding questions on traffic modelling since a meeting between LRAG and SCC in February. There is a clear difference of opinion about the effects of the installation of cycle lanes between local residents who observe borderline gridlock on numerous occasions, and SCC’s theoretical assessment that reducing carriageway widths and inserting many additional pedestrian crossings will have a neutral effect on traffic.
  2. A Freedom of Information request for more precise design details of the modifications to London Road has been refused on the grounds that “It is considered that the greater public interest … lies in not providing the information at this time. In coming to that conclusion, the public interest in providing the information has been carefully weighed against any prejudice to the public interest that might arise from withholding the information. In all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information”. In other words, SCC do not want the public to have access to information yet that might allow the public to actually analyse and criticise the scheme.

The public engagement for London Road Active Travel Scheme will start on the 18 September for an 8-week period. The engagement will include four in person drop in sessions held locally.

12th June 2023

Architectural Guided Tour of the High Street

 

If you remember, sometime last year, it was my turn to entertain you all by giving you an architectural guided tour of the High Street – but mercifully it got postponed. Well - because I couldn’t bear the thought of not inflicting this on everyone – I decided to give it another go. As before, we thought it would be fun to combine it with a tour of some of the more venerable taverns in Guildford. So we started at the Three Pigeons at the top of the High Street and then progressed to The Royal Oak at the back of Holy Trinity, ending up at The Star at the bottom of the High Street - if I can remember rightly. The planned nightcap at the King’s Head in Quarry Street got lost in the mists of time. I know that some of you who were expecting a proper architectural guided tour did listen attentively at the top of the High Street but - as predicted - it all went downhill from there. To be fair, we did get to see some lovely old buildings along the way. Sometimes it is better to travel in hope than not travel at all. The next AMEN outing is “Jazz at Wood Street Village” on Sunday 16th July with Bernard as your host - so you can blame it all on him.

8th June 2023

The Annual General Meeting

 

The Abbotswood AGM was held at Peter and Yuko’s house on Thursday 8th June. Peter set the scene by updating us on the active travel scheme planned for the London Road (for regular updates see the LRAG website), some minor planning issues, and their desire to include younger families in future social events. Dee updated us on their plans for re-wilding the Paddock and the post box island but reassured everyone that the re-wilding would be “managed” - so no brambles (if Dee had her way, she would re-wild the whole world - and I mean that in a nice way). The formalities were followed by an entertaining Q & A session with our local councillors George Potter and Jane Tyson, both Liberal Democrats. George explained that the Liberal Democrats “believe in a fair, free and open society, in which they seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. Well, he didn’t actually say that – but something along those lines. He did say that height restrictions in the town centre were probably a good idea but didn’t wish to be drawn on the subject. He also said that the merger with Waverley was still ongoing but had yet to reap the rewards of improved efficiencies and that they were still subject to budget constraints which they had inherited from the previous administration – an assured political response. Altogether it was a very well attended evening. I’m sure everybody would like to thank Peter and Yuko for their kind hospitality and for hosting what has become a very enjoyable annual event. I can also reassure you that no small furry animals were harmed during the course of the evening.

1st June 2023

Burpham Community Association visit to Abbotswood

 

Following a talk I gave last winter at the Burpham Village Hall as part of their Winter Lecture Series, I was asked if I could arrange a visit to see some of the houses on Abbotswood. Well on Thursday, fifteen residents from the Burpham Community Association visited Abbotswood where I gave a brief talk on the young architect Alfred Claude Burlingham who designed most of the houses on Abbotswood while still in his twenties. This was followed by a tour of some of the best houses on Abbotswood including the Queen Anne style “Abbotsmead”, where Peter and Yuko kindly laid on refreshments; Eileen’s house “Greystones” with its stunning garden; Melissa’s house “Woodways”, where we were invited in to admire the magnificent hall; the wonderful old "Stoke Park Farm" which dates from the 15 century; and finally "Abbots Lodge" which was Burlingham's homage to Lutyen's "Goddards". The tour ended with a guided tour of Carol’s beautiful garden at “Ardenholme”. I would like to say a huge thank you to Peter, Eileen, Melissa and Nicky for allowing us to visit their homes and a special thank you to Carol for showing us round her beautiful garden.

27th April 2023

AMEN outing to William Medcalf’s Bentley workshops.

 

OK – so now I know what it feels like to get up-close and personal with a 1924 4.5 Litre Bentley. The AMEN outing to William Medcalf’s Bentley workshops was truly memorable. I had imagined that we might see about half a dozen old Bentley’s in various states of repair - but not a whole workshop full of them. It turns out that William Medcalf is the Mecca for Bentleys throughout the known universe. We even saw a mechanic restoring the engine block of the original Speed 6 that actually won the Le Mans back in 1924. Imagine doing 138 mph around Brooklands without any power steering or seat belts because that was what one of these achieved in 1932. I loved the way they said they could supply a “support team” if you fancied doing the Peking to Paris in your old Bentley so you wouldn’t need to worry about changing the tyres if you got a blow out in the Gobi desert – I wonder at what price? As they say – if you need to ask the price – you can’t afford it. Next time I must remember to ask for a test drive.

12th April 2023

Tours around West Horsley Place

 

Just a reminder that, if you have a bit of time on your hands this year, you could do no better than to book yourself a "Nooks and Crannies Tour" around West Horsley Place. This amazing old building dates from the mid-15th century and has had some very distinguished visitors in its time including Queen Elizabeth 1 who stayed for a week in 1558. The brick facade you see today was added much later in 1645 to bring the house back into fashion. The "Nooks and Crannies Tour" lasts for about two hours and is absolutely fascinating and can be booked online. It costs about £20 each. Some of you may know that this house is used as the location for the popular TV series called "Ghosts". If any of you do decide to take a trip in the near future, do let me know as I might join you for a second visit. The AWIT group would thoroughly enjoy it.

13th March 2023

Update on the London Road Active Travel Scheme

 

Surrey CC have confirmed the timescale for their new engagement plan. Their intention is to form a Consultation Reference Group who will provide guidance on who should be consulted from the local community and on the terms of reference. The first gathering has been scheduled for 29th March. The Reference Group will comprise about 10-12 stakeholders, whose role “will be to co-produce the community engagement about the scheme to ensure all those who wish to have a say can do so in order to seek views on both the design and how we build the scheme.” Simply seeking to revisit opinions about the principles of providing improved cycling facilities must no longer be the main issue for consultation. Previous adverse public reaction was probably due, primarily, to a feeling of having been excluded from the opportunity to express a view, about the method of delivery (road closure), followed closely by opinions that several aspects of the design were so flawed as to be dangerous. The public consultation is planned on “taking the form of a survey for households within the catchment of the whole scheme, a number of drop-in sessions at an accessible venue … as well as further digital and print communications.” Defining the terms of reference for the stakeholder group may prove interesting. I understand that, if the Active Travel Scheme does go ahead, it is unlikely to sart on site until 2024. For regular updates you can go to the LRAG website https://lrag.weebly.com

3rd February 2023

London Road Active Travel Scheme - latest news

 

Surrey County Council has just published another update on their website, in which they acknowledge that their stated accident rate for London Road (89 since 2017) was a recording error.  According to their website, if you include the roundabouts at each end, there were just twelve accidents involving cyclists.  If you ignore the roundabouts and just consider London Road itself, there were just eight accidents involving cyclists, with 9 casualties but none serious – quite a climb down from eighty nine accidents.

 

They have also published some “swept path analysis” drawings showing the paths swept or occupied by various vehicles as they travel along the new active Travel Scheme with its reduced carriageway widths. Alarmingly the paths of buses travelling in opposite directions appear to actally overlap at certain points along the route.

 

The other news is that the scheme is now unlikely to start construction much before the summer holidays. Surrey County Council have now agreed to consult local residents and stakeholders on all three phases of the Active Travel Scheme all the way from the Aldi roundabout to York Road. They have also agreed to hold meetings with the London Road Action Group to consider the many concerns expressed by local residents regarding increased traffic congestion, increased air plollution, loss of business, unsafe carriageway widths, and non compliance with London Transport Note 1/20 regarding Cycle Infrastructure Design.

14th January 2023

North Street Development is refused by the council

 

You will be interested to hear that, at a full council meeting on Thursday, the Council voted to refuse the huge North Street development despite the Secretary of State Michael Gove having called in the scheme only two days earlier. The final decision on these proposals now rests with Michael Gove, and, with pressure on the government from the shires to concentrate new development in urban areas, I suspect it will eventually be given the go ahead. The developers, St Edwards, a joint venture between The Berkeley Group and M&G Real Estate, had recently exchanged contracts with Guildford Borough Council to transform the underutilised site into a contemporary new neighbourhood of approximately 500 homes with retail, leisure and landscaped space town squares. The bus station was to be reconfigured, modernised and retained in its current location. The retail floor space, originally proposed as 41,000 sq m plus 6,000 sq m for food and drink, had been shrunk to 6000 to 8000 sq/m. The local plan had originally proposed 400 dwellings. The current scheme proposes 475 new flats with some residential blocks up to fourteen storeys in height. Many people considered the development to be far too high in density, comparable with some of the highest densities in London, and that residential blocks as high as fourteen storeys would have transformed the character of Guildford not in a good way.

6th January 2023

AMEN AWIT Wassailing Night

 

Alan reports that a plucky band of eight AMEN and AWIT souls convened at the Star Inn to join a pub packed to the gunnels with the gaily coloured costumes of the Pilgrim Morris Men and their enthusiastic followers some of whom were quick to sample the contents of the wassailing bowl being passed around. This contains an eclectic mix of left-over beer, cider, wines and spirits so a strong stomach is required. After the introductory part of the Mummers Play, the Abbotswood party wisely headed for the Angel on the High Street where they strategically set themselves up on the minstrel gallery with a splendid view of the next part of the Mummers Play which included an all-action sword fight, a tall tale from The King of Misrule, a selection of familiar carols  with unfamiliar melodies and finally the marking of three chalk crosses on the beams (the mysterious apotropaic marks) that will  ‘ensure good luck and prevent the entrance of evil spirits in the coming year’. In the Star inn this task was relatively straight-forward as a young girl was hoisted up to make the marks. But in the Angel Inn the plucky young lass had to be suspended upside down by two strong Morris Men over the minstrel gallery to make the marks. Not sure it would align with GBC’s health and safety directives - but was certainly a highlight of the evening.

5th January 2023

Active Travel Scheme. London Road

 

A public meeting was held on the 5th January at the Raynham Hall at the George Abbot School attended by an estimated 500 local residents. There were so many in the hall that it was standing room only at the back and about fifty people were crowded outside on the terrace looking through the windows. The meeting was chaired by Anne Milton and the panel consisted of Tim Oliver, Lead Councillor Surrey County Council; Katie Stewart, Executive Director for Environment, Transport & Infrastructure and Roger Williams, Project Manager, Active Travel Scheme, London Road. The meeting opened with brief statements from George Potter and Fiona Davidson both County Councillors for Guildford East Division followed by an overview of the scheme from Tim Oliver. The meeting was then opened to the floor with a number of searching questions from the Burpham Neighbourhood Forum. Surrey County Council conceded that the consultation with local residents and businesses affected by these proposals had been woefully inadequate. By a show of hands it was clear that the vast majority, perhaps as many as 90% of the attendees, were opposed to the scheme partly due to the severe disruption to traffic during the implementation stage and partly due to the likely traffic congestion caused by the scheme itself. Surrey County Council undertook to carry out further consultations with local representatives over the coming weeks. The scheme has been postponed indefinitely.

28th December 2022

Tours around West Horsley Place

 

If you have a bit of time on your hands next year, you could do no better than to book yourself a "Nooks and Crannies Tour" around West Horsley Place. This amazing old building dates from the mid 15th centuary and has had some very distinguished visitors in its time including Queen Elizabeth 1 who stayed for a week in 1558. The brick facade you see today was added much later in 1645 to bring the house back into fashion. The "Nooks and Crannies Tour" lasts for about two hours and is absolutely fascinating and can be booked online. It costs about £20 each. Some of you may know that this house is used as the location for the popular TV series called "Ghosts". If any of you do decide to take a trip next year, do let me know as I might join you for a second visit. The AWIT group would thoroughly enjoy it.

12th December 2022

AMEN outing to the Anchor & Horseshoes

 

Graham reported that, due to illness, the weather and other events, a fairly modest contingent of Abbotswood menfolk braved the frosty conditions and met in the Anchor and Horseshoes on Monday night. The lively conversation was complemented by a virtuoso stand-up comedy performance from the lady behind the bar who also provided some free, but rather hot, pork scratching for the lads to taste. The conversation ranged from the upcoming work on the London Road (boo) current family news (ugh) politics (that’s the "trusted one" again) and the best places to visit in Scotland (a bit left field Graham!) with England’s recent football performance sadly relegated to a minor role. A thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all and it was good to hear some new views on things. It all made the short but cold walk back pass in no time.

3rd December 2022

Active Travel Scheme. Road Closures in the London Road.

 

Major roadworks are about to commence in the London Road. For a period of about five months from 9th January till 31st May, the London Road from the Boxgrove roundabout through to the roundabout by the Aldi store will be closed in a northbound direction while two segregated cycle lanes in each direction will be installed either side of the carriageway and all the existing roundabouts will be upgraded to provide safer crossings for cyclists and pedestrians. While the road will be closed to northbound traffic, it will remain open to southbound traffic with access maintained for residents and businesses as well as emergency services through the southbound route. The work had originally been anticipated to last for seven months but, by increasing the number of teams working on the scheme, they now have reduced this to five months. To find out more about the scheme, look at the plans and raise any questions, you can visit a drop-in session at Burpham Church in New Inn Lane on Saturday 17 December 2022 at 9.30am and 2.00pm. You can also monitor a dedicated webpage which will be updated regularly with all the latest information regarding this scheme using the following link https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roadworks-and-maintenance/roadworks/burpham-active-travel Both the Burpham Community Association and the Burpham Neighbourhood Forum have raised objections to this scheme on grounds of safety (the carriageways being too narrow) and disruption.

23rd November 2022

St Mary’s Wharf

 

I’m sorry to say that, last night, the council, after a three hour debate, voted six votes to five to approve the St Mary’s Wharf scheme despite strong objections from the Guildford Society and the GRA. Generally R4GV voted in favour while the Lib Dem’s voted against. The Conservatives abstained. The Guildford Society spoke against the scheme expressing concern about the height of the scheme and its scale and massing, saying it would present a dangerous precedent for future development in the town and noting that “Shaping Guildford’s Future” had envisaged four to five storey buildings on the site, not eight to ten storeys as submitted. They also reminded the council that Historic England still maintained strong objections to the scheme. John Harrison, on behalf of GRA, expressed scepticism on the viability issues saying the developers would undoubtedly value engineer greater profitability out of the scheme at the detail design stage. It is disappointing for Guildford and an opportunity lost on what is undoubtedly one of the most important sites in the town centre.

21st November 2022

AMEN Ten Pin Bowling Night

 

Graham, the host for the evening, reports that – “five of us braved the horrible weather to go bowling at Spectrum. That the performances were varied over the evening is I think a fair comment, with the person coming last in the first game, winning the second. More to the point is that there were no injuries, we did not destroy the equipment, much fun was had and a wide range of conversation enjoyed. We hope others can make it next time. The final AMEN event of the year is on 12th December at 8.00 pm in the local pub the Anchor and Horseshoes. Do put the date in your diary now”.

29th October 2022

Bulb Planting and Clear Up Morning

 

Some of you may wonder, as you meander around Abbotswood on a sunny Spring morning, where all these beautiful miniature daffodil-like thingies come from – perhaps they grow naturally on Abbotswood? Well no – I can tell you that it’s only because lots of your lovely neighbours are prepared to give up a Saturday morning in October to plant this stuff. Perhaps you may even be one of these lovely neighbours – in which case you may give yourself a gold star and a “Pride of Britain Award” complete with a fanfare from Coldplay as you go up to receive it.  But it’s not all about bulb planting. The main attraction – the highlight of the morning – is “Lunch at Eileen’s”. The conversation at lunch revolved around global warming (inevitably), Armageddon (alarmingly) and Liz Truss (dear oh dear). Anyway, having survived the pandemic, there was a lot of concern about how we would all survive this winter what with these escalating energy bills. As a suggestion, why don’t we set up an Abbotswood “warm space” in someone’s garage where we can all squeeze in and huddle up like a bunch of penguins and pretend none of this ever happened.

24th August 2022

Dawn raid on house in Abbotswood

 

According to the National Crime Agency's website - "two men have been arrested on suspicion of guns and drugs offences in North Surrey. The pair were arrested in simultaneous raids on Tuesday 23rd August as part of Operation Venetic. The NCA have been leading the UK response following the takedown of the encrypted platform EncroChat in 2020. NCA officers arrested a 44-year-old man at his home in Abbotswood, Guildford on suspicion of importing cocaine, heroin, cannabis, conspiring to supply class A and B drugs, possession of a prohibited weapon and money laundering. The Home Secretary Priti Patel was in attendance to observe the early morning strike. A second suspect, aged 40, of Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to import class A drugs, supplying class A and B drugs, possession of a prohibited weapon, conspiring to sell ammunition and money laundering. Both properties were searched as well as a third property in Walthamstow, north east London. The men remain in custody for questioning. It is believed the organised crime group has international links to offenders involved in high level crime". 

 

Who would have believed that ? What on earth are you all up to ? Is that you with a fuzzy face in the background GrahamJust to be clear - this is fake news. But it is actually what appears on the NCA website.

24th August 2022

The North Street Development submitted for Planning

 

St Edward, a joint venture between The Berkeley Group and M&G Real Estate, has recently exchanged contracts with Guildford Borough Council to transform the underutilised site into a contemporary new neighbourhood of approximately 500 homes and retail, leisure and landscaped space. Following a final public exhibition held at Somerset House, a new planning application has now been submitted 22/P/01336 with construction anticipated in summer of 2023. There are several significant changes compared with the Policy A6 adopted in the Local Plan. The site for development is now much smaller shrinking from 3.47 hectares to 1.23 due to the current Friary Centre remaining largely unchanged, Sanofi House no longer being part of the scheme and several sites like Barclays Bank and Norwich House no longer being acquired. The bus station is to be reconfigured, modernised and retained in its current location. It will remain an open area partly because the northern end of the Bus Station is over an underground car park which restricts building. The retail floor space originally proposed as 41,000 sq m plus 6,000 sq m for food and drink, now looks as if it has been shrunk to 6000 to 8000 sq/m. The local plan had originally proposed 400 dwellings. The current scheme proposes 473 new flats with some residential blocks up to fourteen storeys in height. For an interesting opinion in the Guildford Dragon by Martin Giles see https://guildford-dragon.com/opinion-in-my-heart-i-knew-it-was-a-forlorn-hope/

20th August 2022

AMEN Summer BBQ at the Cordingley's

 

The AMEN (Abbotswood Men) annual summer barbeque at Nick and Sarah’s has clearly become the flagship event of the year. A warm dry evening with wonderful food (thank you Nick and Sarah) and excellent company (I say this to make sure I’m invited next year). You may wonder why some of the participants look suspiciously female at an AMEN do. Well that’s because all the WAGS (wives and girlfriends) were invited. Actually what is particularly nice about the evening is that all the family are invited and it’s great to see the younger generation rubbing along with some of us old codgers (I speak for myself). It was also delightful to see some of our former neighbours like Sedat and Alev who used to live at “Courtlands”. As you can see from the photos everybody had a lovely time and the food was just brilliant – so eat your heart out if you didn’t go – you were all invited. Anyone interested in joining the Abbotswood (AMEN) men’s group should just click on the left hand side to find out more. You just need to be a bloke to qualify. The same goes for AWIT - but that’s strictly for the birds (being deliberately provocative).

17th July 2022

AMEN outing to the Wood Street Jazz Festival

 

Once again Bernard organised the annual AMEN trip to the Wood Street Jazz Festival. Thoughtfully Bernard had pre-booked a gazebo to protect the guests from the usual torrential rain but, as it turned out, it provided much needed shade on what was to be one of the hottest days of the year so far. The afternoon was blessed with a light breeze accompanied by melodious sounds from the award winning sextet of Nigel Price, paying homage to the great Wes Montgomery, and the Claude Deppa Latin Salsa Band – and also from a guest singer Rosie Stevens (daughter of our very own Mr Bernard and Mrs Carol Stevens no less) who by all accounts was fabulous (that’s Rosie being fabulous – not Bernard). The excellent curry was donated by the Shahin Restaurant with a choice of chicken tikka masala or vegetable tikka masala, both perfect on a sunny afternoon. The mayor of Guildford Dennis Booth, and the chair of Surrey County Council, Helyn Clack happened to be in the very next gazebo and, for some unaccountable reason, wandered in for advice from members of AMEN ! Obviously the men of Abbotswood are a force to be reckoned with and have some political clout. All the money raised from the day goes directly to a very worthy local cause “Challengers” helping to continue to break down the barriers to play for local disabled children and their families.

30th June 2022

The 2021 Census proves that housing targets for Guildford are overstated

 

The current housing target in the adopted Local Plan for Guildford is 562 dwellings per annum. This represents an uplift of over 80 % over the demographically led housing need of 313 dwellings per annum because, in order to arrive at a housing target, the demographically led need is also boosted by factors to allow for economic growth, affordability and growth in student numbers. To make matters worse, the total site allocations in the Local Plan, which include 1200 hectares removed from the Green Belt, have the potential to deliver 14,602 homes over the life of the plan, which contrasts markedly with the total housing requirement of 10,678 homes, representing a very substantial oversupply of land for development and questions whether there are sufficient, or indeed any, “exceptional circumstances” to justify the release of so much land from the green belt. G L Hearn, the consultants employed by Guildford Council to assess the housing target for the adopted Local Plan, based their housing forecasts on the 2014 Sub National Population Projections. These projections forecast a population for Guildford of 154,000 by the year 2021. According to the ONS Census 2021 released on 28th June, the actual population for Guildford in 2021 was in fact 143,600 which is significantly less than that which was originally forecast and on which the housing target of 562 per annum was based. On a pro rata basis the housing target should be adjusted to 249 dwellings per annum which would mean that there would no reason to remove any land from the Green Belt. The picture is of Blackwell Farm, formerly green belt but now designated for development in the Local Plan.

7th June 2022

Guildford Society visit to Abbotswood

 

At the beginning of June, Abbotswood was honoured by a special visit from members of the Guildford Society. Members of the Design and Heritage Group gathered at "Abbotsmead" for coffee and biscuits and a presentation on the history of Abbotswood and the young architect Alfred Claude Burlingham before enjoying a guided tour of some of the more memorable houses on the estate including “Greystones” where they learnt about a very early example of central heating and “Woodways” where Melissa very kindly invited them in to admire the oak panelled central hall. The party also visited the old “Stoke Park Farm” which dates back as far as the 14th Century when domestic dwellings still had open hearths in the middle of the central hall, and finally “Abbots Lodge” where they admired a very early example of a “motor house”. The Guildford Society wish to express their gratitude to each of the owners who so generously allowed them access to their properties and beautiful gardens.

30th May 2022

AMEN outing to the Rogues Bar

 

Irrespective of the somewhat inclement weather, a plucky band of Abbotswood men-folk assembled at the post box island suitably clad in anoraks and sensible shoes for a pub walk to the Rogues Bar in Guildford. The journey along the north side of Stoke Park included an unscheduled ‘chat’ with one of the travellers emerging in his spanking new 4X4 from their recently acquired caravan park in the middle of Stoke Park. At the Rogues Bar they settled in to a comfortable outside space with sofas or armchairs for all, replete with an external gas heater and, with a good choice of beers and lagers, lively conversation soon flowed. The conversation ranged from Graham’s recommendation of a film about Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman, in which he explained the real meaning of ‘kicking the bucket’ to somewhat lighter topics of discussion including the latest shenanigans of the likes of Boris Johnson, Trump and Prince Andrew – always good for a laugh. The garden at the back of the Rogues garden is an interesting space elevated above the pub - although promises of a distant view of Guildford is probably a bit optimistic. It might be of interest to those with a particular thing for chimney stacks. Many thanks to Alan for organising the outing.

12th May 2022

The Annual General Meeting

 

There was a big turnout for the AGM – unmasked and face to face again after all these years (well three years to be excact) - the excitement was palpable. Seriously though, Peter gave an overview of the previous year’s events explaining that the core principles of the residents association remained to foster a sense of community by organising social events and to raise awareness and protect the interests of the conservation area. Dee gave a brief account of the income and expenses incurred by the committee during the year and explained that the committee had elected to move the bank account to a new bank to avoid unnecessary charges. Dee also introduced the new subcommittee whose chief aim was to raise awareness of the ecology and the threat presented by global warming. No doubt we will hear more from them over the years to come. The guest speakers included David Cope from the Guildford Environmental Forum who gave a talk on the simple measures we can all take to mitigate the effects climate change. Finally Joss Bigmore, Leader of the Council (and our own councillor for Christchurch Ward) gave a very interesting account of his party’s vision for Guildford and some of the many constraints and difficulties that present themselves in trying to realise and implement change. Altogether it was a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable evening.

28th April 2022

AMEN reducing their carbon footprints

 

Talking about global warming, eight stalwarts from Abbotswood met up at the Anchor and Horseshoes last Monday to talk about how they could save the planet. The staff had reserved a table where it was a bit quieter and away from the TV (our hearing isn’t as good as it used to be). The conversation covered a wide range of topics (we'd like to think some light hearted banter about Kierkegaard or Voltaire) but, after a bit of arm wrestling, they did finally get around to talking about energy conservation both from an environmental perspective and from a cost point of view. One Abbotswood resident had just been quoted about £8,000 to fix the price of his energy usage for the year ahead! Another resident was quoted £60,000 to put heat pumps in his house. Needless to say he did not take up the offer! It was interesting to hear that a number of people in Abbotswood have already installed heat pumps either to heat the house or to heat the pool - so there is a lot to be learnt from their experience. Clearly moving to more sustainable technologies can be a tricky process. Nevertheless good humour and whit abounded and a good time was had by all. If you would like to know more about what you could do reduce your carbon footprint, there is plenty of information on heat pumps, solar panels, thermal insulation and hydrogen boilers and the various grants available on this website on the Useful Information page at Design Guides for Energy Efficiency.

26th April 2022

SCC's Delivery Plan for Climate Change

 

Surrey County Council has published its Delivery Plan for the next five years as the first steps on a thirty year plan to get to Net Zero. The SCC plan recognises that climate change is a reality and that its effects are already being felt worldwide. Surrey will be impacted due to global warming by affecting both the health, wellbeing and finances of Surrey’s residents, businesses, landscapes, and biodiversity. SCC intends that Surrey plays its part in reducing dependency on fossil fuels by declaring a climate emergency and setting a target for Surrey to become net-zero carbon by 2050. The Delivery Plan sets out what needs to happen over the next five years. SCC believes that ideally a reduction in carbon emissions of 36% is necessary but likely to be impossible unless fundamental changes in national policy and funding levels occur. At the end of the day it is up to us all. 95% of Surrey’s carbon emissions are generated from heating our buildings and powering our vehicles. Individuals, homeowners, landowners, and businesses will have to work together to achieve results by:

  • changing the way we travel and by using public transport
  • reducing waste and using less of everything
  • creating much more energy efficient buildings
  • maximising sources of local renewable energy
  • offering low-carbon goods and services to residents
  • supporting community energy schemes
  • planting trees and protecting green spaces

If you would like to know more about what you could do reduce your carbon footprint, there is plenty of information on heat pumps, solar panels, thermal insulation and hydrogen boilers and the various grants available on this website on the Useful Information page at Design Guides for Energy Efficiency.

12th April 2022

Guildford Park Road

 

Guildford Borough Council owns the Guildford Park Road Car Park adjoining the west side of the rail tracks just north of the station. In 2017 GBC secured consent to create 160 new homes and a five-storey multi-storey public car park with commercial space on the ground floor.  Some preparatory work has been conducted, including constructing a new road, removal of garages and diverting some important service infrastructure. GBC has since determined that the size of multi-storey car park in the consented plans doesn’t support efforts to tackle the climate emergency, or to reduce traffic and congestion. GBC have therefore revamped the scheme to accommodate 240 homes rather than 160 currently consented and to reduce parking space. This will deliver much needed new housing, including affordable homes, and make better use of this site. The target is to have 40% affordable homes on site. The remaining homes will be sold to fund the overall project. Initial designs propose a range of building types including apartments, houses and duplexes. About 120 parking spaces will be provided. The new site layout is a total redesign and removes the wall of buildings along the rail line.

6th April 2022

Ward boundary changes in Guildford

 

At the next local elections in 2023 some significant changes to ward boundaries take place in Guildford. Abbotswood, Ganghill and Boxgrove Road will be merged with the Burpham Ward while the whole of Christchurch Ward merges with Holy Trinity. This means that our councillors will no longer be Joss Bigmore and Dennis Booth, both representing the R4GV party. The current councillors for the Burpham Ward are George Potter and Ted Mayne, both representing the Liberal Democrats.

 

The Burpham Ward has the dubious distinction for once having had Monica Juneja as their local councillor. Monica had claimed to be a barrister specialising in Planning Law and was appointed by Leslie Mansbridge, the then Leader of the Council, to be Deputy Leader of the Council with overall responsibility for the Local Plan. It later transpired that Monica Juneja had actually flunked Law School. In May 2015, she appeared at the Old Bailey in London and was later given a 14-month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to three forgery charges, obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and pretending to be a barrister. It also transpired that Leslie Mansbridge and Monica Juneja were joint directors of a company known as One Hit Consultancy Ltd which didn’t actually trade but just sat there waiting to receive fees for unspecified consultancy services. You couldn’t make it up. That’s local politics for you.

11th March 2022

North Street Development

 

Guildford Borough Council and the St Edward joint venture between The Berkeley Group and M&G Real Estate have exchanged contracts to develop the North Street site in the town Centre. It will be the first step to deliver the new Friary Quarter neighbourhood of 500 homes and ground floor retail, leisure and amenity space. A new planning application is expected to be submitted sometime this summer with construction commencing 12 months later. 

 

There are several significant changes to the scheme compared with the Policy A6 adopted in the Local Plan. The site is now much smaller shrinking from 3.47 hectares to only 1.23 hectares due to (1) the current Friary Centre remaining substantially unchanged (2) Sanofi House no longer being part of the scheme and (3) several sites including Barclays and Norwich House, which were originally included in the development, are no longer being acquired. The bus station is to be reconfigured, modernised and retained in its current location but re-routing buses away from North Street. The development includes the full pedestrianisation of North Street, new pedestrian routes through the development and new town squares. Finally the retail content, which was originally proposed as 41,000 sq m floorspace plus 6,000 sq m for food and drink, has now been shrunk to a far smaller area of approx 6000 to 8000 sq m. A full presentation of the latest proposals is now available on www.northstreetregeneration.co.uk at Community Webinar April 2022. There is also a Feedback Form which allows you to express your views on every aspect of the scheme should you so wish.

18th February 2022

The Sun Voyager

 

Because I’m a bit stuck for news items (not much has been happening what with the pandemic) I thought I’d do a little piece on one of my favourite bits of sculpture. The image is of the “Solfar” (which means Sun Voyager in Icelandic) which overlooks the harbour at Reykjavik. The sculpture is by the Icelandic artist Jon Gunnar Arnason and it is meant to depict the spirit of a Viking long boat. It is truly remarkable when you think that the Vikings from Denmark and Norway sailed in open boats as far as the Shetlands, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and on to Newfoundland as long ago as 1000 AD – five hundred years before Christopher Columbus. I also love the fact that a type of wireless connection is often described as “bluetooth” after one of these intrepid explorers - men who were prepared to sail away over the horizon – to lose all connection with the land. It must have been absolutely freezing onboard one of those long boats. What on earth possessed them? And how on earth did they navigate? It must have been a bit like hurling yourself off into space without knowing where you will end up – completely bonkers.

22nd November 2021

AMEN at the Rajdoot

 

It has come to my attention that some of the brotherhood are not entirely happy with the portrayal of the men of Abbotswood as debauched drunkards and general layabouts. For instance, the write up of this event (which has now been deleted), although entirely fictitious and intended to be humorous, was considered by some of our members to be less than flattering and presenting a very poor image of our group. So let me make myself perfectly clear:

 

The sort of behaviour described in my previous write up is not remotely condoned by the men of Abbotswood. Smoking is very bad for your health. Please drink responsibly – that’s just one drink at a time ok - and no small furry animals were harmed during the course of the evening – not that I can remember anyway. Other curry houses are available. Any similarity with actual events or real people is purely coincidental.

 

So how’s the vindaloo Brian? – mmn – are they some small beads of sweat I can see on your forehead? –mmn – perhaps we ought to get the bill - I think it's time to get you home.                 

18th October 2021

AMEN at the Anchor & Horseshoes

 

AMEN, or should I say AOC (Abbotswood Old Codgers), or even AOF ? descended on the Anchor once again. You have to ask yourself what the Anchor has ever done to deserve this. The turnout included the usual suspects plus Clive - who should have known better. This time the banter revolved around the origins of Greek philosophy and eighteenth Century Lithuanian Poetry (I say this to put the girls off the scent). Why is it that men are constantly perplexed about married life and the rules of domesticity? – What is this obsession with emptying the dishwasher? What is wrong with leaving the spanners in the sink? and why shouldn’t we leave our wellington boots on the landing? That’s what landings are for. It is an empty available space entirely suited to wellington boots. On a different tack - I’ve often wondered why beer (or any alcoholic drink for that matter) tastes even better in the second round - and quite outstanding by the third. Anyway Graham is to be congratulated for dreaming up the idea of spending the evening at the Anchor. What an inspired and original idea – and it even sells beer.

16th October 2021

Autumn Clear Up Morning

 

It turns out that Eileen was entirely true to her word. Lunch, if you can call it that, consisted of a few slurps of thin gruel, stale bread and a rind of cheese. If you were expecting crisps, you had to bring them yourself. Imagine, if you will, a pathetic group of bewildered residents, huddled together in Eileen’s back garden, praying for warmth and sustenance - anything. I’m joking of course. Lunch, as usual, was delightful and Eileen is a wonderful host - but best of all was seeing everyone again after all this time - face to face – unmasked. The motley crew were back again – flushed from all that bulb planting and verge pampering and up for a few glasses of plonk – nothing new there then. Thanks to their heroic efforts, we can all look forward to lots more miniature daffodil like thingies in the Spring. I would particularly like to thank all those of you who tidied up your pavements and helped with bulb planting but were unable to come to lunch.

21st August 2021

The AMEN BBQ at the Cordingley's

 

The highlight of the AMEN (Abbotswood Men) programme for this year has to be the BBQ hosted by the Cordingley’s. The weather was good – better than wet, and, as well as the regular attendees, it was good to be able to welcome some new members who had just moved into the area. The Abbotswood Ladies’ group (AWIT), who had also been invited, were as decorative as could be expected (that’s a wind up). Although some of the organising group provided salads and puddings and did some of the cooking, the bulk of the work was done by Sarah and Nick who, despite having just given birth to a major new extension to their house, found time to set up the BBQ and arrange the tables and chairs so everyone could sit comfortably and chat over dinner. Because I didn’t attend, I am unable to confirm that there were no food fights, bickering or drunkenness - but I suspect there probably was. AMEN would like to thank the Cordingley’s for opening their home to us all and being such tremendous hosts. Anyone interested in joining the Abbotswood Men (AMEN) group just click on the left hand side. You just need to be a bloke to qualify. Is that Bernard doing his “jazz hands” thing again?

15th August 2021

Boundary review of the Surrey Hills AONB

 

Natural England has announced that it is starting a process to consider changes to the boundary of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (together with the Chilterns and the possible creation of 2 new AONBs). With regard to the Surrey Hills, consultants are being asked to identify an area of search which will not include sites allocated for major development.  The essential quality for inclusion is “natural beauty”. Land currently designated as Area of Great Landscape Value could well be added as there are a number of these around the fringe of the Surrey Hills.  Previous “Protected Landscape” boundary reviews have been ambitious in scope with the potential for bringing more extensive surrounding areas within the AONB such as nature conservation areas, common land, flood plains and character villages. The purpose of AONB designation includes the possibility of enhancement as well as conservation, so it may be appropriate to link an area of high landscape value to an area of a lesser quality landscape with potential for enhancement.  There will be a public consultation on changes to the boundary.                  

11th August 2021

St Mary's Wharf

 

Native Land, the developer of the Debenham Site, now known as St Mary's Wharf, have released a second presentation of their proposals which now include a number of visuals which show the development from various viewpoints. While it is fair to say that openning up the riverside to public access is to be applauded, the Guildford Society have expressed concern at the sheer massing and scale of the project which, at eight and nine storeys in height, will dominate the skyline and obstruct views of the surrounding countryside. It is estimated to be at least double the height of the existing Debenham's building. They have also expressed concerns that the proposal to demolish the existing building and rebuild from scratch will be very costly in terms of carbon emissions and a more sustainable solution would have made use of the existing structural frame and concrete foundations. This site is without doubt one of the most significant sites in the town centre and a rare opportunity to provide an outstanding urban environment.The public consultation goes on until Friday 13th August on their website so please have your say. 

4th June 2021

AMEN at the Anchor & Horseshoes

 

A massive turnout – well at least massive for AMEN – no doubt we were all sick of the tennis. Graham had reserved the marquee for us - complete with roses and fairy lights - it felt vaguely like the dregs of a wedding reception. Having negotiated the trip down to the Anchor without too many mishaps, much of the talk was about all the scams we are confronted with on seemingly a daily basis. Derek told us about a particularly scary scam involving a notice he received from someone who clearly knew one of his passwords saying that they had hacked into his computer and would send his complete browsing history to every contact on his mailing list unless he paid a zillion bitcoin into their account by noon. Now why that should bother him is a complete mystery to me. Anyway the behaviour was raucous and appalling as usual and by 10pm Bernard had clearly had enough. A big thank you to Graham for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The next event is the Jazz Festival at Wood Street Village on Sunday the 18th July when we will be in the safe "jazz hands" of Bernard.

27th May 2021

AMEN walk to the Rowbarge - Safari 2

 

The “Wey kissed towpaths of Bellfields” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the “sun kissed Costas of Spain” but it’s a dog walker’s paradise and, on Thursday 27th May, it was home to the AMEN Wanderers, that happy band of senile old buffers (maybe that's a bit harsh) short of two shillings and in need of a pint. The route, now familiar to those of us with any reasonable long term memory, took us across the Paddock and down through the bowels of Thorneycroft Woods to the bridge under the A3 - then along past the millstream to Stoke Lock where the motley crew manfully posed on the bridge for a team photograph before striding off into the sunset and on to the Rowbarge -  Safari 2, as I said, but with extra swans. At the Rowbarge it was like suddenly being dumped in some bizarre TV game show where you had ten seconds to work out how to order a pint. This involved scanning a thingy glued to the table, downloading an app (whatever that is) and then entering your date of birth, weight in ounces, colour of eyes and preferred sexual orientation. Unfortunately the app didn’t allow you to order a wench - or even order which wench would bring you your beer. But we watched the swans and the beer was still and tepid just as we like it - so thank you to Alan for a lovely outing.

26th May 2021

The Council has agreed to a review of the Local Plan

 

You may be interested to know that, about six months ago, the Warwickshire branch of the CPRE backed by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and five other local MP’s wrote to Sir David Norgrove Chair UK Statistics Authority asking for a review of the ONS Population Projections for Coventry which they believed were grossly inflated because they seriously underestimated the amount of international emigration from Coventry – particularly migration of students away from Coventry after their courses are completed. They were concerned that decisions to develop large areas of the Green Belt around Coventry were based on inaccurate data. In their subsequent report, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) raised some significant concerns particularly that the population estimates for some university cities such as Guildford did indeed seem to be inconsistent with, and potentially higher than local evidence would suggest. The GBC has now undertaken to carry out a review of the Guildford Local Plan which will include a full update and reassessment of the relevant evidence base used for the current Local Plan including the ONS Population Projections. If, as a result, the housing targets are reduced, there is a possibility that one or more of the strategic developments such as Blackwell Farm (pictured) on the green belt may be removed from the development plan.

24th April 2021

Great Halfpenny Farm

 

“This is My House”, a new TV programme on BBC 1 hosted by Stacey Dooley, in which four people claim to own the same house and a team of celebrity judges work together to decide who is telling the truth, has featured a house in Guildford designed by Alfred Claude Burlingham who designed most of the original houses on Abbotswood. The house in question is Great Halfpenny Farm on the south side of Martha’s Hill. I came across this house many years ago when I was researching all the other houses designed by Burlingham in the neighbourhood. A strange feature of this building is a concrete bunker recessed into the hill behind the house which contains the remains of a telephone terminal or switchboard. Positioned on a steep hill overlooking the valley, this house commands a spectacular view over the surrounding countryside and it is thought that the house was used as a local command post during the Second World War from which a defence action could be coordinated with all the numerous pillboxes in the area. To my knowledge, no less than five houses designed by Burlingham have now been featured on television within the last couple of years: Martha’s Lodge, also on Martha’s Hill, was featured in a play called “The last Weekend”: Abbotsmead (Peter and Yuko’s house) was featured in a pilot comedy programme not so long ago: The Gatehouse (No 1 Abbotswood) was featured in an Aldi Christmas add, and a lovely little cottage in Orchard Way, Burpham (also designed by Burlingham) was featured in that same add for exterior shots.

23rd April 2021

AMEN Are Back in Action

 

You will be pleased to hear that AMEN will shortly be reinstating outings for the men of Abbotswood. There will be a full fixture list which is rumoured to include a “bog snorkelling” event against AWIT in the River Wey finishing at the Rowbarge – weather permitting of course. Flippers and other cheating devices are to be encouraged. Full fancy dress will of course be mandatory. We recommend a full alligator outfit complete with goggles and flippers (where have I heard that one before?) or a clown outfit would be quite acceptable. Seriously though, we are all looking forward to meeting up with you again down at our local pubs and hope to see a few new faces too. Anyone interested in coming along to an AMEN event can just click on the tab on the left hand side to find out more. You just need to be a bloke to qualify. Face masks and social distancing will be observed at all times - drink responsibly etc etc.

7th January 2021

Weyside Urban Village

 

An outline planning application has just been submitted for the Weyside Urban Village. The Weyside Urban Village (or the Slyfield Area Regeneration Project as it was formerly known) is one of the strategic sites in the Local Plan and will eventually deliver 1500 new homes in the form of flats and houses together with a new shopping precinct and 6,500 square metres of commercial development. This major development is located just across the river from the Riverside Park on the site of the existing council depot, sewage farm and the council recycling centre. Although the development is due to start within the next few years, as it will involve the replacement of the existing council depot, sewage farm and the recycling centre, which will all need to be relocated and fully operational before the existing facilities can be decommissioned, the new development will be carried out in stages starting with the Bellfield allotments in 2022 and finishing with the redevelopment of the sewage farm itself over a period spanning 2027 – 2034. Although it is very early days, and far too early to see what the housing will actually look like, the initial concepts feature a new village centre in the area of Stoke Lock and extensive landscaping to screen the new development from the river.

17th October 2020

Autumn Bulb Planting

 

Bulb planting, socially distanced and in full PPE, is tricky - let’s be fair. Nevertheless a number of you gave it a go, so maybe there will be some beautiful crocuses in the verges to look forward to in the springtime. Eileen wants to thank all of you who helped out and she would give you all a big hug if she was allowed to. Following my suggestion, I did receive a number of phone calls in the afternoon from neighbours in various states of inebriation. I shall treasure the recordings for many years to come. The photo is of Sue and Eileen in pre-covid days. I've added a few slides of various social events over the past few years  to remind you all of happier times and that, even under lock down, we are still a community.

 

23rd August 2020

AMEN at the Wood Street Jazz Festival

 

Apparently ten men and their dog went to the Wood Street Jazz Festival from Abbotswood this year with the dog properly kitted out in full PPE and trained to be socially distanced - in case you were wondering. Paul, wearing a fashionably battered old cap but still wearing his cycle clips (somebody needs to tell him), was grooving away as only Paul can, and such was the brilliance of Lesley’s white jacket that Shan had to resort to sunglasses – or maybe she was just trying to look cool and groovy as well? Despite some early showers, everybody had a groovy time. In fact, “grooving” seemed to be the order of the day (that’s something our generation can still do and we’ll keep doing it while we’ve still got a pulse). The entertainment was provided by the Nicholas Meier Quartet and “Jazz at the Movies” featuring the voluptuous Joanna Eden (see the photograph). All proceeds go to “Challengers”, a worthy local cause, and let’s give a big thank you to Bernard for organising the whole trip - groovy baby.

21st August 2020

Riverside Park

 

I expect most of you are aware of the little rural gem we have on our doorstep, but for those of you who don’t, here is a brief introduction to the Riverside Park which was created when the A3 bypass was built back in the 70’s. To reach the park you must go to the entrance to the Paddock on the London Road and follow the path down across the Paddock into the woods. Once you are in the woods, follow the path through the woods for about half a mile till you come to a T junction with a stream right in front of you. Here you turn right under the big concrete road bridge and follow the path beside the river till you come to a set of gates. This is the entrance to the Riverside Park. Here you will find a map of the park on a board nearby. You can either go up the hill and across the grass meadow to the lake or you can follow the path beside the stream till you reach Stoke Lock. At Stoke Lock you can either follow the tow path for a mile until you reach Bower’s Lock at Burpham or you can follow the board walk across the wetlands. If you study the map of the Park by the entrance, you will see that there are a variety of different walks which take you round the lake or across the board walks or along the tow path by the river.

20th July 2020

AMEN at the Rowbarge

 

Exactly four months since lock down, Bernard led a small expeditionary force to check out the lie of the land at the Rowbarge. The good thing to report is that the Rowbarge is still there, intact and largely unscathed, and still serving warm pints of beer. Punters are now required to enjoy their refreshments al fresco, socially distanced, and at benches spaced in an orderly array along the river bank. Feeding the ducks is allowed but only if you hurl the bread from at least two metres. Otherwise it’s pretty much back to normal - except that the barmaids are off limits. AMEN outings will resume but only for those of you who can provide a certificate of non infection. Face masks and visors will be mandatory, as will gloves when handling the crisps. We are still working on the rules for socially distanced table footy. Anyone interested in joining AMEN (Abbotswood Men) should just click on the tab on the left hand menu to find out more. You just need to be a bloke to qualify.