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Comment: After the Lockdown, What Would Make For a Great Guildford?

Published on: 4 May, 2020
Updated on: 7 May, 2020

Bill Stokoe

by Bill Stokoe

the chairman of Guildford Vision Group appeals for the views of Dragon readers on our town’s future

Our group has been debating our goal of a regenerated, vibrant Guildford. So after the lockdown finishes, what would make for a better Guildford? What would be the top 10 changes for our town to turn us into a more compelling place to work, live in and visit? What would constitute the features of a great day out?

We have drawn heavily on the views and opinions of our supporters. In our latest newsletter, we ask them to set out their top 10, bearing in mind their lockdown experiences and reflections.

What Do Dragon Readers Want to See?

These are questions and opinions we also want to pose to Dragon readers. What do you want to see and experience? What should change in the centre to give it more resilience, be they from climate change, economic trends or future pandemic threats?

The High Street has long been seen as Guildford’s leading attraction, along with its rich heritage assets. Will that remain the case? Do we make enough of our surrounding countryside? Is public transport and infrastructure up to scratch?

How will our High Street and our town look after the crisis?

Shaping Our Town

GVG believes we must reflect on and react to the effects of the virus and lockdown. Retail was already under notice to change, because of the online revolution. Hospitality is now under the microscope, caused by the lockdown. Other aspects of town life will also inevitably face the consequences of its impact. What’s missing from our centre and what should we ditch or diminish?

Going for Goals

GVG, in lobbying for a masterplan to re-energise the centre and help sustain our town’s economy, set itself six goals at the outset:

  • Enable full pedestrianisation in the town centre;
  • Recover the riverside;
  • Make place-making a priority;
  • Increase town centre housing;
  • Deliver an integrated transport hub and interchange; and
  • Reunite east and west Guildford.

But if full pedestrianisation is to bring benefits, more footfall, then the centre needs to improve its offer as a destination.

Resilience in the Mix

The offer has to have resilience and not just rely on retail to bring people in. There has to be a rich mix of retail, heritage, arts, leisure pursuits and engaging public space, including the riverside and our lovely surrounding countryside.

Do we need to do more to encourage and sustain commercial life? Is the centre the best place for offices and start-ups? If it is, what pro-active steps should we take to encourage commercial activity beyond providing appropriate space?

Woodbridge Road Traffic

The Climate for Cars

The climate agenda has come to the fore since GVG was born. Everybody must have noticed the air quality improvement since car journeys have been banned or discouraged, especially in the centre. Is this the time to restrict, even ban, cars in the centre? What could be the implications of a ban for public transport? Should the bus and rail services be interlinked in a different way?

Moving People

What other infrastructure improvements do we want to see? Over the next 10 to 15 years there’s the prospect of more than 17,000 new homes in and around town. What will need to happen in the centre to cope with the inevitable uplift in the number of people coming into town? Should we look at innovative ways of moving people in and out of the centre?

North Street. Plans for a major retail-led development are no longer viable.

Sites and Sights in the Centre

There will be considerable new housing in the centre itself. Where’s the best place for that? Woodbridge Meadows? Should we build over the railway? With North Street destined to be a residential-led development, how many storeys will you be happy to see it go up? Five? Eight? Ten? Or more?

Please Help Us

Please post your top 10 suggestions for a greater Guildford here or email info@guildfordvisiongroup.com. And do include what you don’t want to see, or to see less of, say, traffic or more 10-storey buildings.

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test 3 Responses to Comment: After the Lockdown, What Would Make For a Great Guildford?

  1. David Wragg Reply

    May 5, 2020 at 11:53 am

    Well, an integrated transport hub sounds fine in theory, but the railway station is some way from the shopping centre.

    Would bus routes be changed to serve both the bus station and the railway station? There would be a cost for that as extra buses and drivers would be needed on those routes that arrive from north of Guildford or from the south as well.

  2. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 5, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    It’s obvious from the past six weeks that the large majority of us can work and shop from home, additionally, we have all seen the struggles of getting food and supplies. So, all of the planning that has been done recently for Guildford needs to be re thought, especially our food-growing fields, road upgrades and retail allocation.

    We need to put much more effort into creating leisure spaces and a street coffee and attractions culture, think of Covent Garden on a smaller scale. To do that you would need to move the retailers away from the steep cobbled hill onto flatter ground, perhaps around Millmead, Millbrook at out towards the electric theatre.

    However, logistically, how can that be achieved when that area is surrounded by noisy, dirty traffic?

    A brave, step-change in our planning is needed.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    May 8, 2020 at 10:36 am

    My humble contribution to the solutions of traffic issues of Guildford, bus routes and bus station relocation, Walnut Bridge etc posed in these comments can be found on my website. Please do visit it and its associated website that has various sketches describing possible solutions.

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