The Twentieth Century Society has welcomed a decision by Guildford Borough Council to turn down a planning application to build more than 130 new homes on the slopes around the Grade II* listed Guildford Cathedral.
The Cathedral claimed the proposed development would provide a multi- million pound endowment and help secure its financial future.
Tess Pinto, Conservation Advisor to C20 Society, said: ‘We are sympathetic to the Cathedral’s financial situation, but an over-scale and poorly designed housing development is not the right solution. It would have caused irreversible harm to the setting of this magnificent landmark, and so we are pleased that councillors have made this decision.’
In its rejection statement, the council said the proposed development was of “poor quality” and would be harmful to significantly important short and long distance views of the Cathedral and that the resulting public benefits, including the financial circumstances of the cathedral, did not outweigh the harm that would be caused. It was also in contravention of a number of local planning policies.
Guildford Cathedral was designed in 1932-3 by Edward Maufe and built between 1936-1965. It sits in a commanding position on top of Stag Hill and visually dominates the skyline.
The Cathedral originally submitted plans for the development in early 2016 and C20 Society lodged objections. Despite slight modifications, the C20 Society said the revised plans still encroached excessively on the open green space and trees which currently form the impressive landscape setting for the Cathedral and that the form and density of the new development would cause harm in both close and longer views, drawing the eye away from the Cathedral and diminishing its commanding presence. The C20 Society recommended refusal of planning permission; there was also strong local opposition. Historic England had supported the scheme.
The Cathedral wants to sell the land on Stag Hill to Linden Homes for £12 million. The further sale of two houses in Cathedral Close would bring in an additional £2 million. The Cathedral says this would create an endowment to secure annual income for the day to day running costs and to fund longer term repairs.
The case was aired on Radio 4’s religious affairs Sunday programme when church leaders claimed the Cathedral would have to close without the funding this development would provide. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has also issued a statement in support of the scheme.
The C20 Society, however, is urging the Cathedral to find an alternative solution to raise funds which would not permanently sacrifice the setting.