The Village Guildford closure: A potted history of Guildford Borough Council’s doomed £1.2m pop-up venture

December 7, 2017
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It was with warmth and enthusiasm plans to bring a Shoreditch-esque pop-up boxpark to Guildford were met the best part of 18 months ago.

While suggestions, or even fears, of a hipster enclave arriving in the town centre were unsurprisingly wide of the mark, it’s fair to say the proposal was welcomed within the town.

Over the following 17 months, the village was built, opened to some fanfare, temporarily closed, rebranded, reopened and finally – binned, for good.

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has decided it cannot continue to bankroll The Village, which has struggled to attract shoppers and cost council taxpayers more than £1.2 million to date.

The Village will be shut permanently on Christmas Eve, while the popular ice rink has already closed after Blue Martini Group pulled out leaving a decidedly sorry looking puddle.

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The Village Guildford axed

Councillor David Bilbe, GBC lead member for economic development and tourism, said The Village’s “achievements so far” were “not enough to justify continuing with this new enterprise”.

The council will now look at what else the land can be used for.

You can take a look back at the history of the controversial venture with our timeline.

Time Line

The Village Guildford


  1. June 26, 2016

    Guildford Borough Council announced plans to build a ‘pop-up village’ by October 2016.

    A council spokesman said: “It will benefit the whole town centre – pop-up villages in other towns and cities have been successful in supporting new businesses and shops and attracting more visitors.”


  2. June 28 2016

    The ‘pop-up’ village was provisionally approved by the borough council.

    The council anticipated that a 30-container scheme would generate a total income of £695,000 over a two-year period based on an average 80% occupancy.


  3. August 2016

    Surrey Police raised concerns about the staggered design of the containers creating “hotspots for antisocial behaviour.”

    “Due to the lack of natural surveillance this would make the rear of the container vulnerable to attack,” the police response states.

    Despite this, the pop-up village gained planning permission.


  4. November 2016

    The opening date of the eagerly awaited pop-up village was announced.

    The council was confident it would open on November 28.


  5. December 2016

    Guildford Pop-Up Village was opened by the then Mayor of Guildford Gordon Jackson.

    The grand opening was delayed by three days due to bad weather.

    Councillors were confident it would stimulate the town’s economy.


  6. January 2017

    The council announced plans to close the pop-up village temporarily, after concerns were raised about a distinct lack of visitors.

    It said that Guildford Pop-Up Village would reopen in the Spring after various improvements were made.


  7. June 2017

    It reopened as The Village Guildford after being rebranded.

    The reopening event featured a giant puppet called ‘Eartha’ Queen of the earth and characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass.

    More than 5,000 people attended the reopening event.

    The council said it would no longer be described as a pop-up village as it would offer long-term opportunities in a “flexible, different space” for retailers and traders.


  8. June 2017

    It was revealed that the council had spent £90,000 on rebranding The Village Guildford.

    The council also admitted another £149,000 could be spent on the project.


  9. November 2017

    A council report said estimated levels of income and expenditure on the project were “unrealistic and unachievable”.

    The document also said the council decided to close The Village Guildford temporarily after “business deteriorated rapidly” in January.


  10. November 2017

    The council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended that an exit strategy should be drawn up.

    It was also revealed that the project had cost council tax payers over £1.2 million.

    One councillor described it as a “sunk cost” and said it was time to “cut your losses”.


  11. December 2017

    The council decides to shut The Village Guildford and withdraw all funding, just 12 months after it opened.

    The ice rink was also closed down, after the operator pulled out.

    Councillor David Bilbe said the “achievements so far are not enough to justify continuing with this new enterprise”.

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Article source: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/village-guildford-potted-history-guildford-14004776


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