On 26th May Surrey Research Park hosted the third “Guildford Forum”, a series of events organised by the Member of Parliament for Guildford, Angela Richardson MP.
The event saw members of the community come together to discuss issues affecting the town on a regional and national level, whilst also celebrating Guildford’s successes and looking to the future.
Angela Richardson and impartial Chair Peter Gordon were joined by senior representatives from the University of Surrey, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, to discuss the topics that matter most to the people of Guildford.
Cost of Living
One of the key topics of discussion was the cost of living, an issue affecting many parts of the country, and which has specific implications for Guildford and the surrounding area.
Businesses and members of the audience identified the need for affordable housing if Guildford is to attract and retain the talent that is vital for local employers and NHS services. Plans for a proposed community development in West Guildford at Blackwell were introduced. The placemaking project aims to address the lack of affordable housing and solve local traffic pinch points, while helping the area’s businesses to recruit and retain a talented workforce.
Another key topic for discussion was talent retention. While it was recognised that Guildford has a highly educated population with many graduates returning or moving to the town later in their careers there is a collective challenge to help incentivise the retention of younger graduates.
It was discussed that the cost of living is a key factor and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) talked about the impacts of this for the space sector, which has a highly mobile talent pool which could take advantage of locations which are more affordable to live in.
It was discussed that while Surrey remains a prosperous part of the UK, it’s growth over the last five years has been lower than any other county in the UK, with the suggestion that the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda may have overlooked Surrey as a county in need of support.
Inward investment and business growth were seen as key ways to boost wages and quality of life for Guildford residents, and Angela Richardson suggested local businesses should collaboratively bid for central Government funding and not assume they are ineligible.
SSTL also introduced the recent ‘Space South Central’ network, which will highlight the combined strength of Surrey and Hampshire nationally. The space sector is currently worth £16.5bn per year in the UK, and the new initiative will support the region’s growth as well as allow the existing significant regional capability to support supply-chains elsewhere in the country.
According to the Enterprise M3 (EM3) Local Enterprise Partnership, Surrey has an opportunity to become a market leader in Sustainability, as they introduced their vision for a ‘High Growth Low Carbon Economy’ for the county. EM3 will be offering a net zero business support service and supporting skills training to meet the high demand for green services.
The University of Surrey discussed plans for a solar farm to be built close to Surrey Research Park, forming part of the University’s partnership with SSE Energy Solutions, and their commitment to achieving net zero by 2030. The Guildford School of Acting also highlighted the steps they’re taking towards sustainability including joining the Theatre Green Book initiative.
The panel also discussed the University’s plans to launch a medical school, and it was recognised that this will have an important impact locally and is a significant announcement.
The University has worked closely with its local NHS partners who will be working alongside, providing clinical placements to enable Surrey graduates to complete their training.
The Guildford Forum will meet again in the near future, keep an eye on their Facebook page for details.