Plans for 124 homes around cathedral dismissed

The outside of Guildford Cathedral
Guildford Cathedral is often referred to as the people’s cathedral [Getty Images]

Plans to build 124 new homes on land around the cathedral featured in the 1976 horror film The Omen have been dismissed on appeal.

An application for the Guildford Cathedral plans was rejected by the borough council in March 2023.

A government's planning inspectorate has dismissed an appeal on the plans, which it had been said would financially support the cathedral.

Developers Vivid, who submitted the application along with the cathedral, said it was disappointed by the decision.

Tom Bristow, the inspector, described the Stag Hill location as a "dramatic feature" in the landscape, highlighting the "drama" of the cathedral's western approach which was used in The Omen.

The cathedral was completed after a "buy a brick" campaign launched in 1952, when more than 200,000 people symbolically bought a brick for 2s 6d.

Mr Bristow said: "The cathedral is therefore often referred to as the people’s cathedral."

The inspector also said trying to fit 124 homes on the site, including 94 flats, "would have little affinity with the prevailing characteristics of the area".

With works needed on the building, the inspector said proceeds from the sale of the land were anticipated to generate about £270,000 per year.

But, he added: "Irrespective of the outcome of the scheme, the cathedral will continue to be predominantly reliant on other sources of funding for upkeep."

Tristan Samels, group development and new business director at Vivid, 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.

"The cathedral team will now decide on their next steps."

Interim Dean, the Venerable Stuart Beake, said it was unlikely the cathedral would be able to "operate in the same way" it had previously and an additional £150,000 was needed each year to cover the shortfall in day-to-day costs.

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."

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