Native Land receives approval to transform Guildford Debenhams site into 300,000 sq ft mixed-use destination

Native Land has received approval for one of the most sought-after housing sites in the South East: the 300,000-sq-ft redevelopment of the 1.7-acre former Debenhams department store site in Guildford into a new, sustainable destination, to be called St. Mary’s Wharf.

The permission unlocks the potential of this riverside site to deliver the highest quality housing alongside lifestyle amenities for both residents and the wider community. St Mary’s Wharf will comprise 185 private and affordable homes, 21,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space, and almost an acre of newly created riverside public realm. The buildings will be all-electric and net zero carbon in operation.

Guildford Borough Council took the decision to grant planning at a meeting last night. Its decision followed extensive consultation and discussion with the Council to achieve the best development proposal for the site.

St. Mary’s Wharf is part of Native Land’s strategy to acquire opportunities to reposition former retail assets in fundamentally strong UK towns and cities.

The development will feature two new buildings, designed by architects Squire & Partners to respond to the surrounding heritage of the area. It will also unlock publicly accessible spaces including a new civic square, pocket park and a riverside walk giving access from the High Street to the River Wey for the first time in more than 50 years.

St. Mary’s Wharf will provide new fossil-fuel free buildings with zero emissions in operation, and a biodiverse environment for the long term. This will replace the Debenhams building, which offered limited and poor public realm, and was constructed when environmental standards were substantially lower than demanded today.

Native Land has also committed £1m to riverside infrastructure spend, which could include the provision of a new footbridge bridge for Guildford.

By providing new, centrally located homes, St. Mary’s Wharf will help to alleviate pressures on the surrounding Green Belt and reinvigorate Guildford town centre.

The development will repurpose brownfield land and offer a range of new 1-3 bed homes. Native Land anticipates strong demand for St. Mary’s Wharf, conveniently located a 7-minute walk from Guildford railway station – which is around 30 minutes by train to London Waterloo.

Robert Harris, Managing Director Acquisitions, at Native Land said:

“Our plans for St. Mary’s Wharf will inject new life into Guildford town centre by transforming a redundant retail asset into a vibrant mixed-use destination. By reconnecting the town centre with the riverside, the scheme will provide new stimulus for the High Street. St. Mary’s Wharf exemplifies our strategy to create high-quality, sustainable developments which reimagine high street locations in the face of continued challenges from online retail. We see great potential for Guildford, with its well-respected university and excellent transport connections.”

Native Land is actively seeking further city centre opportunities as part of its acquisition strategy.