Godalming Healthcheck Report

1 Social & Community

Summary of our findings

1.1 One of the key findings of the Godalming Healthcheck process, though no surprise to the majority of its residents, is that Godalming is a very desirable place to live. 97.4% of residents surveyed indicated that they were satisfied with living in the Godalming area [4]. The town has a long and rich heritage and offers an attractive environment, a good range of family homes and a wide variety of local facilities including shops, services, leisure facilities, schools and churches.

HMS Pinafore

There is also an active community life with groups and organisations covering a broad spectrum of interests and activities [5].

1.2 More than 21,000 people live in Godalming (21,103 at the 2001 Census) with that number being equally split between men and women. The 2001 population figure represents a 5% increase on the 1991 figure and evidence indicates that the population is still increasing [6]. The 2001 Census figures suggest that at that time the age profile of the population was broadly in line with the national average except that the town had a lower proportion of young adults (18 to 24 year olds) though this seemed to be characteristic of Surrey as a whole [7].

Godalming College

1.3 Unemployment in the town is very low [8]. Compared with the national average Godalming has a significantly higher proportion of people employed in professional and managerial occupations and a correspondingly lower proportion employed in semi-skilled and unskilled jobs [9]. Educational attainment [10] and average earnings are both significantly higher than the national average [11].

Mill Medical Centre

1.4 On the whole the population of Waverley (and by implication Godalming) is healthier than average with local mortality rates for heart disease, cancer and strokes for people under the age of 75 years all being lower than the national average [12]. The population is also well served by General Practitioners with more than one doctor per thousand head of population being provided. Both GP surgeries in the town (one recently moved from Godalming High Street to Catteshall Mill and the other in Binscombe) are highly regarded.

1.5 Godalming is also one of the safest towns in the country - crime levels are low, although the fear of crime is higher than the actual incidence of crime [13].

1.6 However, it would be wrong to conclude that life in Godalming is idyllic for all residents. The statistics that, on the whole, reveal Godalming residents to be "healthy, wealthy and wise" show a much more mixed picture when analysed at a more detailed level.

The 2007 Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) [14] show that Godalming has a small area deemed to be the most deprived in Waverley and the sixth most deprived in the whole of Surrey (there are a further two areas with high levels of deprivation in the town). Where pressures exist in Godalming, or where facilities are poor or absent, it is often these more vulnerable parts of the community that are most adversely affected.

1.7 One of the drawbacks of being a desirable place to live is that not everyone who wants to live in Godalming can afford to do so. There are concerns about housing supply in the town. While, as already said, the town has a good range of family homes the costs of this housing are high [15] [16] [17]. There is an insufficient supply of lower priced accommodation in the owner occupied sector and a shortage of affordable housing either for rent or shared-ownership in the social housing sectors. In both sectors there is a particular shortage of two and three bedroom housing [18]. Evidence also suggests a lack of smaller good quality properties, close to facilities, suitable for older people.

1.8 Another pressure on housing is that a substantial proportion of the housing stock owned by Waverley Borough Council fails to meet the Decent Homes Standard and that the Authority continues to struggle to find the funds to bring the housing stock up to that standard [19].

1.9 Some significant community facilities that might be expected in a town the size of Godalming are missing; often this is explained by the town's proximity to Guildford where a wider range of facilities is provided. However, often those most in need of these facilities are those least able to travel to Guildford. For example Godalming does not have medical drop-in clinics or a community hospital [20] so that people are forced to travel to obtain many diagnostic and treatment services that, in other towns, are available locally. There are also significant gaps in the mental health [21] and sexual health services.

1.10 Also, while a comprehensive local authority sports/leisure facility is located at the Spectrum Centre in Guildford there is poor public provision of such facilities in Godalming - particularly when compared with the other three centres of population in Waverley.

Leisure Centre

The Godalming Leisure Centre provides a swimming pool (in need of some refurbishment), a gym and limited sports facilities. The Godalming Leisure Needs Study carried out in 1999 identified a need for an additional sports hall in Godalming. Many residents wish to see appropriate facilities, particularly for young people (in the 10-16 age group), provided within the town thus avoiding the need to travel [22]. Our work on the needs of young people also revealed that there is no safe and accessible venue of their own in which young people can meet (see the Youth Chapter).

1.11 There are many recreation grounds and open spaces provided within the town; however, the standard of maintenance of these facilities is variable and many require modernisation and refurbishment.

Bowerings Recreation Ground

Canon Bowerings Recreation Ground

The Holloway Hill Recreation ground (in Busbridge) and the Phillips Memorial grounds (in the Town Centre) are examples of well maintained facilities while Bowerings field (in Farncombe) is an example of a neglected open space [23].

Community Centre

1.12 There is a plethora of community meeting places, of differing sizes and quality, distributed throughout the town; despite this some groups report difficulties in securing premises at a reasonable cost and at certain times of the day. In particular performance groups report a lack of venues with appropriate facilities at a reasonable cost [24].

Community Centre

Community Centre, Broadwater Park

1.13 Many of the state schools in the town, including the Sixth Form College, are good or excellent, but some are not. This inconsistency in the standard of state education provision in the town creates tension with some schools being oversubscribed and others struggling to maintain role numbers. Some young children travel to schools a significant distance from their homes [25].

1.14 Our work identified a range of cultural activity and events within the town but also showed insufficient sources for communicating information about such activities and other community data [26]. A survey of residents indicated that for them the most important sources of local information were the local newspapers, the Surrey Advertiser, the Godalming Times (now the Surrey Times), and the Messenger and that notice boards and posters were particularly important for obtaining information about local events [27].

Town Council

Godalming Museum, Waverley Borough Council, Godalming Town Council, Godalming Library, Guildford Tourist Office and various retailers all provide some information about the town and events, but no one provides a comprehensive service. Godalming has no central information service or information point for residents or visitors.

1.15 There is no Community Legal Service in Godalming although the national service Community Legal Service Direct is available via a national help line and a website.

Citizens Advice Bureau

The Citizens Advice Bureau provides advice at a "general help" level but none of the many solicitors in Godalming have Legal Services Commission contracts. Presently the Legal Services Commission's strategy to improve access to justice and to combat social exclusion is making little headway in the town.

Crown Court

1.16 Our work also showed that few shops and businesses in Godalming comply with the access requirements of the Disability Discrimination Acts [28]. Whilst the town centre is relatively flat the streets there and elsewhere in the town are not wheelchair friendly [29].


1.17 As a result of our work on the social & community issues that affect Godalming we established the following principles with regard to the future of Godalming:

1.18 Recognise that "no change" is not an option. We say this knowing that many Godalming residents are so satisfied with life in Godalming that they are resistant to change. Change is inevitable and it is better for the residents of Godalming that together we should shape that change and improve our town rather than have change imposed upon us.

1.19 Agree that Godalming needs to be a sustainable community with all age groups and household types represented

1.20 Recognise that all housing in the town should be of a decent standard

1.21 That services and facilities in the town, particularly those provided by public authorities, should be of high quality, meet the needs of service users and be accessible to all.

1.22 These general principles are developed from detailed research contained in the Healthcheck Social & Community Worksheets (see "About this Report" for details of how to obtain copies of the worksheets and copies of the detailed evidence). From these principles and supported by our detailed evidence we recommend the following action points:

Action Points


SC.1. To increase the supply of social rented houses

SC.2. To ensure that social rented houses meet the Decent Homes Standard

SC.3. To facilitate the construction of more two to three bedroom houses for the owner occupied and shared ownership sectors

SC.4. To facilitate the provision of a greater variety of housing types for the elderly

Community Legal Service

SC.5. To create a Community Legal Service providing timely and low-cost advice on legal issues that the Citizens Advice Bureau is not resourced to handle.


SC.6. To improve the availability of information to residents and visitors

SC.7. To create a central information centre

Young People

SC.8. To provide a safe centre in which young people aged 10-16 can meet and to facilitate an appropriate activities programme.

Health Services

SC.9. To provide a drop in clinic for offering a range of diagnostic and specialised treatments and providing support for mental and sexual health problems.

SC.10. To provide improved respite care, especially for the mentally ill.

Sports & Leisure Facilities

SC.11. To provide a performance centre in the town centre

SC.12. To rebuild the Godalming Leisure Centre on the current site to provide appropriate sports and leisure facilities for the town.

This page updated on 6 Jul 2009