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Guildford’s MP Supports Vision Group’s Call for Reassessment of Station Scheme

Published on: 24 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 24 Apr, 2016
Artist's impression of the latest plan for a redeveloped railway station from Solum.

Artist’s impression of a redeveloped railway station from Solum.

Members of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) are calling for a reassessment of Solum’s Guildford railway station scheme.

The Rt Hon Anne Milton MP

Anne Milton MP

In a meeting arranged by Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton, with a government minister and representatives from Network Rail and developers Solum, representatives from the group continued to argue for a comprehensive appraisal of its “bridge option”.

The government minister, Claire Perry, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, agreed with others present at the meeting, held at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday, April 20, that the station area was ideal for redevelopment that would bring much needed new town centre housing.

GVG  believes a new bridge would allow redirection of traffic away from the current gyratory. The group claims its bridge would better separate traffic from pedestrians in the town centre, creating a safer, less polluted environment and better foot and cycle connections with the heart of the town and riverside.

The minister recognised that any redevelopment should benefit train travellers through better facilities, including shops, whilst also releasing land for housing.

But in a press release following the meeting GVG said: “The current Solum scheme does not include lifts or escalators to improve platform access, especially for those with mobility difficulties.

“With the scheme designed to produce £25 million towards station improvements, there is a case for a ‘value for money’ reappraisal. The current Solum scheme, if approved in June, would also avoid any Community Infrastructure Levy compared to the Town Masterplan potential of £10 million-plus.”

Anne Milton, a regular railway commuter, said: “I want all transport options catered for so that all rail users get better facilities from the station redevelopment.

“I want to see Solum involving local people to discuss the options. It’s important that any scheme reflects the aims of the town Masterplan and local people’s expectations.

“It’s a big site and any redevelopment must be of the right design. The current plans do not address this. The meeting was a very positive step and I’m grateful that there was a general acceptance that another look at the scheme’s features and benefits is worthwhile.”

Bill Stokoe, Guildford Vision Group

Bill Stokoe, Guildford Vision Group

Bill Stokoe, a director of GVG, said: “Any development has to chime with our community needs.

“The station should become an integrated transport hub and provide an altogether better travel experience for visitors, business people and residents. It should build on its ‘halfway house’ location between Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

“A more exciting approach to development, especially our bridge, would allow improved connection with east and west Guildford, better linking the station and town with the university, research park, Royal Surrey County Hospital and the cathedral.”

GVG said it wanted to emphasise its pro-growth approach, giving as evidence its successful campaign for the town centre Masterplan, recently approved by Guildford Borough Council.

The approved Masterplan includes more affordable housing at the station with a mixed redevelopment on a smaller, lower scale that nonetheless would deliver a significant surplus towards station and wider town infrastructure improvements.

Solum is a joint development venture between Kier Developments Ltd and Network Rail Properties, part of government-owned Network Rail. Their planning application is due to be considered at the GBC planning committee in June.

Ten storeys high and stretching 360 metres along the east side of the tracks on Network Rail land, the scheme offers 438 apartments, of which 10% are “affordable”.

See also: Opinion – The Latest Station Design From Solum is a Disgrace.

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Responses to Guildford’s MP Supports Vision Group’s Call for Reassessment of Station Scheme

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    April 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    A concourse and a new entrance to the station, located over the tracks, was Guildford Society’s proposal around 2009. It was part of a one-way loop for the traffic so that a traffic free pedestrian route out of the station on to Bridge Street could be created.

    This however did not find favour with Network Rail. Presumably the disruption to trains that such a construction would have caused and the safety issues of building over live tracks, not to mention the location of supports between the tracks, were unacceptable.

    Guildford Vision Group’s (GVG) current proposal for a four lane bridge is in fact Guildford Society’s proposal that grew out of my initial proposal of a bridge in 2010 as the replacement of the one-way loop and located some 100 metres north of the station entrance.

    This was conveyed to Network Rail during their initial consultation complete with suggestions of how such a bridge could be launched without causing any disruption to the trains. Network Rail included this in their initial feedback on consultation but have made no further mention of this in their subsequent feedback reports.

    My proposal at the time was to locate the approach ramp to the bridge on one side of the station car park site in order to avoid affecting private properties en route but, like the GVG proposal now, I extended mine on a flyover to Mary Road, together with a one-way loop connecting it to Woodbridge Road via Leas Road.

    The proposal is for a bridge that would take the main east-west traffic, not the entire traffic of four lanes as proposed by GVG. This would be achieved by taking traffic from east of the river over the Town Bridge to join Portsmouth Road traffic and then over Farnham Road Bridge and Guildford Park Road, both widened to four lanes and finally on their new bridge over the tracks and the flyover to Woodbridge Road. I believe disruption likely to be caused by such a scheme would be quite considerable.

    In my proposal I suggest traffic is kept to the east of the river and lowered into ground in a short tunnel-like structure. This would allow the creation of a largely traffic free Millbrook and part of Onslow Street and a pedestrian friendly town centre. It would also keep Farnham Road Bridge and Guildford Park Road as two lane routes not requiring any disruptive widening.

    GVG did not say how the transport hub at the railway station fits in if there is no proposal to relocate the bus station. My proposal includes relocation of the bus station to the Mary Road area and redesigning the bus routes to serve the town centre and the railway station equally well.

    My website (can be found by searching for ‘revamp guildford gyratory’) and sketches linked to it describe the holistic approach to traffic, buses and awaiting areas, pedestrians and cycle routes into the town centre.

    I believe GVG’s proposal needs further development to address these issues. If they already have them, would they post them here please?

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    May 1, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Holistic approach to Guildford’s traffic problems, relocation of the bus station, a bridge over the railway tracks, widened footways for pedestrians and possible cycle routes to the town centre were in a document of Guildford Vision Group’s website contributed by me in May 2012.

    Some ideas have changed and some new ones added. For example, a proposal to put Millbrook and Onslow Street stretch of the A281 in a tunnel-like structure, continuing the road over the railway on to a flyover to Mary Road instead of coming down to station car park area, a new bridge over the river from Walnut Tree Close (WTC) and a one-way loop through the west edge of Jewson’s Yard (safeguarded by Local Plan 2003) connecting up with Station View and continuing up northwards through the narrow part of WTC and joining the two-way link over the new river bridge.

    Piecemeal development of these issues would be just as disastrous as piecemeal development of various sites in Guildford ahead of the Local Plan.

    If not already doing so, the councils should seriously consider looking at the bridge options over the tracks and the road continuing over the station car park area and associated improvements to the road network so that Solum’s regeneration development plans do not compromise such a route.

    The sooner the decision to build such a route is taken and the route safeguarded in the Local Plan, the better. If this opportunity is missed, it would cost a great deal later to implement such a scheme. Large scale demolition of newly built properties might be needed if Solum’s plan is approved now and that would be a terrible waste.

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