Godalming Healthcheck Report

4 Economy

Summary of our findings

4.1 Key to understanding Godalming's economy is the town's proximity to Guildford. Unlike many market towns Godalming is not surrounded by a rural hinterland that it serves. Instead Guildford, a much larger town abuts Godalming to the northeast. This brings both benefits and disadvantages.

4.2 Godalming residents benefit from the employment opportunities and wide range of services offered by Guildford. However, the presence of a major shopping centre just three miles away has an adverse effect on Godalming's retailers who perceive that Guildford draws in shoppers who might otherwise shop in Godalming.

The Local Job Market

Business Parks

Waverley business parks and estates (click for larger version)

4.3 The proportion of Godalming's residents (of working age) in employment is higher than the national average for both genders and all age groups with, at the time of the Healthcheck, very low levels of unemployment [110].

4.4 Evidence suggests that of those Godalming residents that are employed 22% work within the town while 61% work elsewhere [111]. In 2001 10% of the population travelled between 40 and 60km to work [112] which is consistent with anecdotal evidence that a significant number of residents travel to London for work. 29% travelled between 2 and 10km to work. It can be safely assumed that a large proportion of this number travelled to Guildford.

Fry's Yard

4.5 Small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), employing 11-199 staff - total around 11% of Waverley businesses and account for 50% of employees across the area. Large organisations (with 200+ staff) represent less than 1% of Waverley businesses, but in Godalming this category includes such major national and international names as Winzur Wurth and WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature). Godalming is also home to the main offices of Waverley Borough Council, which is another major employer. 89% of businesses in the Waverley Borough employ less than 10 people [113] this last figure being consistent with the finding that Godalming shops tend to employ five or fewer staff.

Granny's Pantry

4.6 State and independent schools and colleges are also important local employers. The 2001 Census data showed that 10.6% of Godalming residents in employment were employed in Education compared with 7.7% of the working population nationally.

4.7 Median annual earnings in 2007 for residents of Waverley were £26,000 compared with a national median of £20,000. (There is no data for Godalming alone.) However, the mean annual earnings were significantly higher at £42,000 indicating that there are a lot of high earning individuals. [114] When the same national earnings data is analysed by place of work [115], it can be shown that generally speaking those people who work locally are not earning above the national average. By implication the Godalming residents who are higher earners are working outside the town.

Business Support

4.8 A range of support is available to local businesses including the Waverley Business Forum (WBF), the Godalming & District Chamber of Commerce and Business Link in the Southeast. Evidence suggests that these sources of support are not well used or well regarded by Godalming businesses [116] [117]. Only the banks were seen as giving good support [118].

4.9 Apart from the Godalming & District Chamber of Commerce, which has relatively low membership, there is currently no forum or any partnership organisation focused on the needs of the business economy in the town. Evidence from a survey of retail businesses indicates that these businesses look to the relevant local authorities, Waverley Borough Council and Godalming Town Council, to provide more support to businesses and felt that these authorities failed to do so [119]. Traders felt that business rates are too high, and still rising. They see little return.

4.10 To improve support for business 70% of respondents to the survey of retail businesses supported the creation of the post of Town Centre Manager, and 75% were in favour of more events being held in Godalming town centre [120]. The retail businesses also wanted to see improved car parking facilities for shoppers, i.e. more and cheaper car parking.


4.11 The whole town has access to broadband services through a range of providers. In 2008, free wi-fi internet access was made available as a pilot scheme throughout Godalming town centre. The scheme does not include Farncombe. Godalming Library provides free public internet access and runs "MyGuide" classes to basic personal computing skills.

Education, Training and Skills Development

4.12 There is a range of learning and training opportunities in the town. Godalming Sixth Form College was judged as outstanding at its last OFSTED inspection [121]. The Sixth Form College provides vocational and adult learning as well as its primary role of providing an academic education for the 16+ age group. A limited range for adult learning classes are provided by Surrey County Council in the town, at a variety of locations. The County Council closed Godalming's Adult Education Centre some years ago and it has been redeveloped as housing.

4.13 The town's proximity to Guildford means that there is easy access to further learning and training opportunities there: Guildford College, the Adult Education centre, Surrey University and a range of private providers.

Location and Availability of Business Premises

Godalming Business Area

4.14 Businesses in Godalming are clustered in Farncombe and Godalming retail centres and on the business parks along Catteshall Lane [122]. There are some 200 business premises in Godalming town centre123 with a further 50 or so in Farncombe village centre. Other significant business locations include Mill Lane, Godalming and Green Lane, Farncombe.

4.15 Godalming and Farncombe have a comprehensive range of shops, services and catering establishments, with independent retailers in the majority. This is because there is a predominance of small retail units in the town that are unattractive to "multiples" [124] and better suited to independent traders. Businesses report that rents are high and a number of retailers are known to have closed following upward rent reviews, notably the Surrey Bookshop which closed in 2007.

Good food

4.16 The town has two large supermarkets, Waitrose and Sainsbury's both of which attract shoppers from outside the town, particularly from south Guildford. A range of smaller specialist stores bring people into the town, for example "Ballet Hoo" selling dancewear. Many retailers suggest that the town has a disproportionate number of charity shops [125] (8 in Godalming & Farncombe) and there is anecdotal evidence that by being able to pay higher rents, charity shops have displaced other retailers from Godalming town centre [126].

4.17 A range of restaurants and public houses keeps the Godalming town centre active in the evening and attract non-residents into the town.

4.18 There is a general market held every Friday in Godalming town centre on land to the rear of the High Street between Great George Street and Moss Lane. A regular Farmers' market is held at Secretts in Milford on the third Sunday of each month. Occasional French and Italian markets are held in Godalming town centre and an assortment of traders open occasional stalls in the Undercroft of the Old Town Hall known as the Pepperpot.

Farncombe shops

Farncombe shops

4.19 At any one time there are a handful of vacant shops in Godalming town centre but these are normally re-let within the year with new businesses entering the town centre regularly. In the centre of Farncombe the re-let times are longer and there is a tendency for planning applications to be made requesting change of use A1 (retail) to other use [127] and from business use to residential housing.

4.20 Some retailers complained that the move (in the late 1990s) of Waitrose from its position in the centre of the High Street (in the building currently occupied by Fitness First, The Slug and Lettuce and The Jack Phillips) to its present home at the end of Bridge Street has had a detrimental effect on trading in the High Street [128]. Certainly the move has changed the dynamics of Godalming town centre, with Bridge Street becoming a more significant retail street. Businesses in Church Street report that their street has become quieter since the move and a number of premises in the upper High Street have changed from retail to catering.

Binscombe shops

Binscombe shops

4.21 Outside of the retail sector there have been changes in use, over time, from manufacturing and engineering premises in Godalming to light industrial, office and retail use (for example the RFD factory on Catteshall Lane, closed in 1987 when the firm relocated to Northern Ireland, and the Alan Paine knitting factory, relocated to Wales in 1990). The pressure to change employment land to residential use is ever present because of the high prices that housing land fetches Recent examples include: The Ram Cider House at Catteshall, parts of Blackburn Mill on Catteshall Road and small business premises on the Godalming Key Site.

Tourism and Visitor Services.


4.22 There are significant levels of tourism in Godalming - but this is predominantly people visiting family and friends in the area and business people rather than holidaymakers. A range of agencies provide tourist information about the town and its surrounding area: Godalming Museum, Waverley Borough Council, Godalming Town Council and the Guildford Tourist Information Office.

4.23 There is no tourist information centre in the town. No one agency takes specific responsibility for providing tourist information for Godalming and information available to a visitor is inconsistent. When residents were asked whether Godalming needed a tourist information centre, 26% said "yes" and 46% said "no" [129]. Local retailers have shown more enthusiasm for a tourist information centre because more tourists would probably increase footfall in shopping streets.

4.24 Visitor accommodation in the town is limited, but has increased in recent years and is of good quality.

Action Points - Retail Economy

EC.1. Improve footfall in retail shopping streets, particularly Godalming High Street through a range of initiatives including:

EC.2. Improve car parking for shoppers (see also Transport Chapter T.19. & T. 20. above).

EC.3. Employ a Town Centre Manager to manage town centre events and to liaise with retailers

This page updated on 6 Jul 2009