Situated at the heart of Surrey, Guildford has everything a town can offer, with a busy train station providing an easy commute into London, a multitude of boutiques, restaurants and a thriving arts and craft community. It’s also a shopaholics dream and was hailed as the “luxury shopping capital of the UK” by Experian a few years ago. Retaining its ‘cobbled’ High Street (a £1m project was undertaken in 2016 to relay its 1860s setts) and many of its key historic features such as the 17th century Guildhall clock, the medieval castle, Guildford House Gallery and Abbots Hospital, it’s no wonder Guildford featured in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide in March this year, and has often been voted the “best commuter hotspot”.
Surrounded by beautiful countryside and with the River Wey running through its heart, Guildford is a picturesque and productive hub that is a bubbling base for a huge number of state-of-the-art technology companies and a leading hub for gaming companies in Europe. It’s also home to the internationally important 5G Innovation Centre located on the University of Surrey Campus, which is driving future mobile technologies and Internet of Things applications.
Guildford’s economy is one of the most vibrant outside London, featuring regularly in the top five in various economic league tables. Given its presence just 30 miles from London and good connectivity to London Heathrow and Gatwick airports, the Borough attracts a strong network of entrepreneurs and investors.The economy has grown from one with a relatively high public sector and manufacturing element to one with a much higher proportion of high growth sectors such as gaming, cyber security, life sciences and telecoms.
The total number of jobs in the Borough stands at just over 70,000 with a total of 7,440 businesses. Between 2012-2017, the business base grew by 15% with a high proportion of these defined as high growth and with good survival rates.
Cllr David Bilbe, Lead Councillor for Enterprise and Economic Development said: “The value of the Borough’s economy is now worth over £5 billion per annum this year and has a number of notable corporates head quartered in the town including Colgate Palmolive, Phillips, Allianz Insurance, EA Games, BOC and BAE Systems (Applied Intelligence). The town also has a significant cluster of business and financial services companies and law firms, and has an impressive survival rate for new business start-ups at 72% (source UK Business Counts – Enterprises).
“We work hard to create a positive environment through investing in public realm, for example, our regeneration of the historic Tunsgate area together with the opening of the new Tunsgate Quarter is proof that investors and developers are ever keen to invest within Guildford. Our award-winning Tourist Information Centre encourages visitors to the town and we host large-scale events such as a regular Farmers’ Market and annual Innovate Science Technology Engineering and Maths Festival.
“We encourage sustainable and proportionate economic growth to provide the jobs that local people need. Through leading innovation and promoting Guildford’s high value clusters, we will create employment opportunities in knowledge-based and high-growth industries. Also, by ensuring that development is directed and supported by the required infrastructure and community facilities we will deliver high quality design, renewal and regeneration of our urban and rural areas whilst protecting our special natural landscapes and heritage.”
Fancy a local summer tipple?
Located on the Duke of Northumberland’s Albury Estate, on the banks of the beautiful spring-fed Silent Pool, sits the Silent Pool Distillers, producers of Silent Pool Gin and Vodka and who use the Pool’s crystal-clear water in their distillery process.
Things you might not know
The name Guildford is not derived from the word ‘guild’ but from ‘gold’. The reference to gold may be attributed to either the golden flowers or the golden sand at the ford.
Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, wrote Alice Through the Looking Glass whilst he was living in the town. A sculpture of Alice and the looking glass is located in the castle grounds.
A scene from the supernatural thriller The Omen, whose plot revolves around a boy believed to be the Antichrist, was filmed at Guildford Cathedral.
The University of Surrey, voted UK University of the Year in 2016 by The Times, contributes over £1bn to the economy and has been the driver for much of the local area’s growth.
Guildford has ambitious plans to regenerate parts of the Borough and invest significantly in infrastructure going forward, with the Council adopting the Guildford Town Centre Regeneration Strategy in January 2017. Current projects include:
The Slyfield Area Regeneration Project. This is a major redevelopment of the Slyfield area of Guildford. The project comprises of the relocation of the existing Thames Water Sewage Treatment Works to an old landfill site, the relocation of the Council’s Operational Services Depot, the relocation of the County Council’s Waste Transfer Station, and building of up to 1500 new homes on the brownfield land available from the relocations. The project brings back into economic life the old landfill site.
North Street Development Project. The Council has a long-standing stated aim to re-develop North Street. The submission of it’s proposed Local Plan, December 2017, which has recently been the subject of an examination in public, notes that the North Street site of around 3.5ha has the scope for a mixed-use development incorporating new retail and leisure space plus a substantial number of residential units with supporting infrastructure including servicing, residents parking and enhanced public realm.
Walnut Bridge. The replacement of the existing pedestrian and cycle bridge with a new pedestrian and cycle bridge. The new bridge will be wider and facilitate two-way cycle flow. It will lie on a more obvious alignment, to encourage use by new and infrequent users. This will aid the development of both the station and Bedford Wharf Development Sites and provide an improved, sustainable, link between the station and town centre.
Guildford West Railway Station. This is a proposal for a new passenger railway station on the North Downs Line, to the west of Guildford mainline station. This will provide a vital rail link for one of the most economically active areas of Guildford, embracing the Royal Surrey County Hospital, University of Surrey and the Surrey Research Park. It will also help to regenerate the Park Barn area of the town.
Redevelopment of the Bedford Wharf and Mary Road area to provide new leisure, office, civic and residential uses as well as community space and a park.
Places to Visit
Watts Gallery - Artist’s Village
Located at Down Lane, The Artists’ Village features beautiful Victorian paintings and sculptures situated in the historic Watts Gallery, where you’ll discover the artwork and the lives of G F and Mary Watts at Watts Studios. Visitors can tour the artists’ home, Limnerslease, before sauntering down to the nearby Watts Chapel to experience the stunning surrounding woodlands.
The Electric Theatre
The Electric Theatre is a not-for-profit community arts venue housed in a former electricity works, and is financed and managed by the Academy of Contemporary Music. ACM work with the local community to deliver a diverse and engaging programme of activity for this creative sanctuary. Open for the local community, ACM produces state-of-the-art live music events, creative workshops, comedy nights and dance shows.
Don’t miss …. The Innovation Awards
Now in its second year, Guildford’s Innovation Awards take place on Monday 3rd December and celebrate inspirational innovation across a spectrum of sectors building on the theme of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in the Borough. There are nine awards judged against a variety of criteria including, Degree of Innovation; Commercial Potential; and Degree of Social or Economic Impact. For further information and to enter please visit: