Fringe Box



Council Acquires Bedford Wharf Properties to Allow Part of Guildford’s ‘Transformation’

Published on: 17 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 17 Oct, 2018

Bedford Wharf from Walnut Bridge

Two major commercial properties in the Bedford Wharf area have been acquired by Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to help advance its plans to regenerate Guildford town centre. But spokesmen are remaining tight-lipped about the costs of the deal and the anticipated returns.

Cllr Paul Spooner

Council Leader Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), said: “I am very pleased to announce that the council has just secured the Odeon and former Old Orleans restaurant buildings as part of our plans to open up the riverside and the Bedford Wharf area.

“High-quality placemaking is one of our stated key aims and this supports our integrated and holistic approach to transforming Guildford town centre.”

Matt Furniss, deputy leader and lead councillor for infrastructure and governance, added: “This is fantastic news, which will help us improve and invest in the public space that provides an important approach from the station and river to the rest of the town. It also forms another key section of the sustainable transport link for pedestrians and cyclists.”

According to a council press release the Odeon cinema will continue to operate in the same building and “more details will follow as this exciting project progresses”.

Cllr Spooner concludes: “Making sure that Guildford is a great place for residents, workers and visitors is critical for our borough’s success. Our town is a popular and high-performing regional centre and acquiring properties like these give more opportunities to enable our ambitious vision for the future.”

When asked by The Dragon: what did the acquisition cost?; what returns in the form of revenue for GBC are expected? and; what is envisaged for the area designated for “office space and a civic hub”? – a council spokesperson responded: “The Council’s acquisitions at Bedford Wharf involved taking a surrender of leases by way of a commercial agreement.

“The terms of agreement, and price, are commercially sensitive and subject to confidentiality obligations, so we are unable to comment or release any further details.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Caroline Reeves, leader of the Liberal Democrats at GBC, and ward councillor for Friary & St Nicolas in which Bedford Wharf is located, commented: “The Old Orleans empty building has been an eyesore for years, a waste of what had been a busy restaurant and enjoyable outside area. I’ve lost count of the number of complaints I have had about it.

“The purchase of this and the Odeon will enable a proper, high-quality landscaping of the whole Wharf to create a new community space. The cinema is obviously an asset we need to keep, and with a new tenant in the Old Orleans site, at last, this area can be part of the reconfiguration of Bedford Wharf and the wider area.

Cllr Susan Parker

Susan Parker, (GGG, Send) was glad that the acquisition had been made public: “I’m glad that we can now discuss this.  This decision was made by councillors in camera – the papers were secret “pink sheets” that we aren’t allowed to reveal.

“As a result, this proposal has not been subject to any public consultation or scrutiny.  I do hope there will be full consultation on the use of this area now.

“Councillors were informed that this acquisition was required in order to build our replacement footbridge. The footbridge design is hideous – I opposed permission. I would have hoped Guildford could have designed something better. The motorway footbridge style is inappropriate in our historic town.

Although pleased that progress was being reported, Brian Creese, a spokesperson for Guildford Labour had reservations: “We are delighted to hear that at long last there is some progress at Bedford Wharf.

“The GBC press release, however, leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What did the acquisition cost council tax payers? Why have they ruled out updating the Odeon? Why do they continue to talk about a sustainable link for cyclists when the new bridge doesn’t have a cycle lane?

“According to the Town Centre Masterplan the area is designated for “office space and a civic hub”; if this turns out as underwhelming at the £3.3 million concrete ‘vanity project’ bridge, we are likely to be very disappointed.

Cllr Tony Rooth

Cllr Tony Rooth, (Ind Pilgrims) said: “These acquisitions may well improve Bedford Wharf and Cllr Spooner put them forward in the council’s planning application for the controversial Walnut Bridge. However, these buildings are only allocated for a cinema with 3 to 5 additional screens and additional food and drink space, in the Local Plan.

” ‘Policy A3′ requires flood risk betterment by moving to reduce the buildings’ footprints and raising access levels. So residents may well ask what are they getting for their money now and what more has to be done and spent to achieve the Local Plan opportunity “to improve the quality of land around the building, public realm, and enjoyment of the riverside and well used public space”?

Bill Stokoe, Guildford Vision Group

Bill Stokoe, of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG), said: “This is good news and GVG welcomes the opportunity it presents. The question is ‘what next?’

“We need to better understand what the council intends for this area as part of a town centre strategy, including much-needed new infrastructure, that it consults on widely. GVG has urged that this area is opened up as great space, as part of wider pedestrianisation and better riverside walks. So we hope the cinema will move into a mixed North Street scheme to help make the latter more of a destination.”

Share This Post

Responses to Council Acquires Bedford Wharf Properties to Allow Part of Guildford’s ‘Transformation’

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 17, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    So what makes it “commercially confidential?” Is it the wish of the leaseholder not to release their financial situation, which must be legally declared in some form to Companies House or a pink piece of paper picked up by the Executive using their claimed open and transparency principles, much discussed last week, or something else?

  2. Alan Cooper Reply

    October 17, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    What now is required is the purchase of the dreadful eyesore including that nightclub and all that goes with it. The problem then remains that we need a council with the ability to design something attractive and efficient for that particular area which is often the first part of Guildford visitors see when arriving at the station. At the moment it is neither of those and certainly not eye-catching (well, only for wrong reasons).

  3. Martin Hall Reply

    October 18, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    So, if they can buy these properties, why can’t they buy the flats and provide social housing at the same time as saving The Star? Suspect they’re more interested in spaces that look pretty on town plans than actual people, in actual places.

  4. Derek Carley Reply

    October 19, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    So where does this leave the elephant in the council chamber?

    Without an approved town-centre master plan which the Guildford Vision Group, Guildford Society and others have been championing, this purchase might be yet another pitiful waste of money. Unless, of course, the council are about to announce they have finally embraced a master plan, which they will seek approval for and this purchase is part of the jigsaw puzzle.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *