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Bus Station Tops Concerns in North Street Developer Consultation

Published on: 16 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 17 Mar, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford’s bus station is seen as the “most contentious” issue in the six-week public consultation by North Street developer St Edward that started in December last year.

Aerial view of the North Street site.

There was a strong call for affordable homes and improved links between the High Street and the railway station.

Jack Nicholson, St Edward land and development director, said public feedback will mean the project will be influenced “by the ideas of people who live, work and visit Guildford”.

The Guildford Society said they were glad the consultation “engaged the population of Guildford” but they were concerned about so few details on architecture. They also stressed there had to be integration between the two teams involved in the North Street development and the Town Centre Masterplan.

A new bus station is proposed in Leapale Road, moving it further from the station. It will be temporarily located in the Portsmouth Road car park during construction.

The bus station proposed on Leapale Road, and building heights of between five and 10 storeys, apparently attracted the most criticism. Of more than 1,300 comments received, 79 were negative about the proposals, the developer said (see the St Edward consultation feedback report).

St Edward, a joint venture between main site-owners M&G Investments and the developer Berkeley Group, said: “The bus station is by far the most contentious issue. The rationale perhaps is not sufficiently understood.”

The developer assessed 87% of the comments as neutral, with 93 comments supporting the way the consultation was being done and with the design proposals in general.

A view from Woodbridge Road. People were relieved that the site was being developed after being empty for so long.

A “significant proportion” of the positive comments supported the bus station proposals and also expressed relief the site was being developed after being derelict for so long.

The call for affordable homes was clear in the feedback. In December, the developer had told The Dragon they were unable to commit at the time to the 40% of affordable homes target in the Guildford Local Plan.

The people also showed a clear preference for a traditional style of architecture (56%), contemporary and warehouse styles both having 22% of the votes.

St Edward said there were some “great ideas”, the most popular favouring affordable homes followed by improvement to the pedestrian links between the High Street and the railway station. Other ideas included encouraging independent retailers and providing a “green and open realm”.

Mr Nicholson said the consultation was “the most far-reaching and comprehensive period of consultation” on any project St Edward had done.

In the spring, public input will be sought again when the detailed design has been completed. Planning application is expected in the summer, with construction starting in autumn next year.

The bus station and the first homes would be delivered by 2025, with project completion expected by 2030.

Cllr Susan Parker

Cllr Susan Parker (Send, GGG) said: “My feeling is that the nature of town centres will be changing post-Covid. We need to change the focus of our towns from retail to residential, and we want to avoid huge monolithic blocks.

“We do urgently need a working bus station, and I would be keen on traditional architecture for the urban area, with residential properties above the bus station.

“For the last twenty years the heart of Guildford’s shopping centre, behind the iconic High Street, has been progressively eroded by repeated land accumulation from property developers so that the historic North Street and the area behind it is now a wasteland.

“I’m inclined to say get on with rebuilding Guildford’s dead heart – but please do it without destroying what is left.”

Updated: Bill Stokoe, chair of the Guildford Vision Group, said: “The most significant feedback is what people want for our town; improved traffic/gyratory, town centre regeneration, pedestrian connectivity and improved use of the riverside.

“These are masterplan themes, along with more town centre housing, that GVG has been lobbying for over the past 10 years. Clearly North Street can help deliver on three: regeneration, connectivity and housing.

“We are still to see key detail regarding the North Street proposals but the developer’s consultative approach is encouraging. I look forward to the next steps.”

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test 8 Responses to Bus Station Tops Concerns in North Street Developer Consultation

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 18, 2021 at 9:54 am

    It is encouraging that public consultation is taking place and hopefully suggestions would be explored.

    I would like to draw readers’ attention to my post outlining a holistic approach to various issues here in Guildford-Dragon https://guildford-dragon.com/2021/02/23/letter-other-ways-to-augment-the-future-for-guildford/

    Architects of the Debenhams site are considering opening up a riverside pedestrian route on the west and the south side of the site, so happily my comments in this regard would no longer be relevant.

    As Guildford Society has said, this development and Town Centre Masterplan must be progressed together with addressing traffic issues, gyratory congestion, the bus station and the railway station coming closer and forming a transport hub.

    Yet we see a statement from the developer like, “The bus station and the first homes would be delivered by 2025, with project completion expected by 2030.”

    How can they be consulting still as they appear to have taken the decision already to relocate the bus station within the site? I would be interested to see the views of Guildford Borough Council regarding the relocation of the bus station.

  2. Robert Porter Reply

    March 18, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t understand why Guildford needs a bus station, just a string of bus stops to allow buses to pull in/out with no massive waiting around. Look at Oxford where this works really well. It would mean that buses can stop and go at the railway station to provide connectivity and then carry on their route.

    North Street would be perfect for this if you got rid some of the parking spaces there, and instead provide a covered market place nearby for the stallholders when the market happens.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      March 18, 2021 at 4:17 pm

      The idea of a series of terminal bus stops has often been included in various transport studies by GBC/SCC and interested qualified residents like Bibhas Neogi.

      Some of them even summaries the pros and cons of the layout in Guildford.

      Another broader aspect of the proposed option of the bus station position is that it still doesn’t show a direct 24-hour safe route to the rail station.

      However, the worse part is the imposed route and change to North Street. Effectively all parking bays are lost along with the nearly 100 surface spaces.

      But the fundamental is that all bus routes from the North or East of Guildford will be passed west along York Road to enter Bus Station. Will the roundabout cope?

  3. Brian Creese Reply

    March 19, 2021 at 10:35 am

    Prior to the last GBC elections, Guildford Labour Party did a small survey of bus users in Guildford. We received around 250 responses.

    The most notable result was that support for keeping the bus station where it is was almost universal. I had thought moving it closer to the train station would be a better idea but it was clear that those who actually use buses like the bus station where it is.

    Brian Creese is chair of the Guildford Labour Party

    • George Potter Reply

      March 19, 2021 at 4:18 pm

      The problem is that such a survey is rather tautological. If you ask someone on a bus to the Friary whether they’d like to continue travelling to the Friary then they’re likely to say yes.

      If, on the other hand, you asked the people who don’t use the bus which location for the station would make them more likely to use the bus then you might get a very different response.

      Earlier this week I had to travel to the office for the first time in a year to pick up some equipment. It took two hours each way using public transport, and 20 minutes of that was the need to change at the Friary and then walk to the rail station before buying a ticket and waiting for my train.

      My journey might be a non-standard one, but if people are faced with a £5 bus fare just to get to the Friary, and then a potential walk in the rain just to get to the rail station, then it’s not surprising so many choose to travel by car.

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

      • Howard Smith Reply

        March 20, 2021 at 2:43 pm

        I suppose there is a strange logic that is at play when Liberal Democrat councillor George Potter argues that the bus station should be moved next to the railway station when his own council is proposing to move it further away.

        Howard Smith is vice-chair of Guildford Labour

    • Jim Allen Reply

      March 19, 2021 at 6:37 pm

      Therein lies the problem. Ask bus users and they fail to change perceptions of those providing the services.

      It is time a full borough-wide survey was undertaken to assess travel needs, destinations and times from each postcode area.

      Too often decisions are taken devoid of rational information.

  4. Stephen Dunn Reply

    March 19, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    Where is the integration of bus and rail? Almost everyone I know in Guildford who commute into London in the course of their work is forced to drive to one of the car parks near the railway station because there are no buses to take rail passengers to and from the railway station to the residential aerial of our town.

    Nobody wants to face a fairly considerable walk in bad weather or in the dark, between the railway station and bus station. This is a chance to address this issue and it would appear that the chance is being squandered.

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