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The Dragon Says: The Vision Group Plan Must Be Taken Seriously

Published on: 3 Feb, 2017
Updated on: 5 Feb, 2017

The Guildford Vision Group (GVG) plan might not be perfect. Perfect plans don’t exist and anyway who says what is perfect? But The Guildford Dragon NEWS says it is the best proposal we have seen so far and could transform our town centre.

It is obvious that much thought and consideration has gone into it by people who have real experience in this field, utilising modern technology to ensure that their proposals are viable.

Inertia has been a chronic problem in this town for many years. As former council leader Stephen Mansbridge said, during the elected mayor campaign: “It took years to get the setts in the High Street relaid even when everyone agreed it should be done.”

Everyone has also agreed for years that the area to the north of North Street should be redeveloped but it has been left derelict, dormant or in “temporary” use for decades. This is a prime town centre site in one of England’s most affluent towns.

Our town has suffered piecemeal development since the war that has been disrespectful of, and profligate with, the town’s historic character. Nonetheless, for many of us it was this character, albeit declining, that caused us to make Guildford our home rather than the plentiful number of newer towns in Surrey and beyond.

Sadly, since the 1970s, our townscape has been despoiled so that our most beautiful buildings are becoming increasingly dominated by oversized, characterless monoliths, designed exclusively to maximise profit.

Scaffolding indicates the new height of Tunsgate Square within yards of Guildford Castle.

The scaffolding currently being erected over Tunsgate Square seems an ominous sign that the trend continues, opposite and just yards from Guildford’s most historic building, Guildford Castle. What were the planners thinking?

Of course, we should not be surprised, the soulless, contemporary style of Waitrose was not selected because of popular demand but because it was following a planning brief from GBC. One of the architects said so.

And then there is Solum’s truly horrendous proposal for the railway station. Who on earth advised Solum that its hideous carbuncle was what the town needed?

If we are careful with future developments people will continue to come here, rather than other towns, to live, shop, and visit because of Guildford’s character. But we must not be simply content with preserving what is left, we must correct some errors of the past and build more in the town’s historic image.

Everyone knows some level of growth is inevitable but Guildford’s future, our prosperity, and our cultural health depends on us becoming better not bigger, more attractive not less. Let’s hope our councillors are up to it.

It is nearly midnight in the “Last Chance Saloon” but we say the GVG plan does give us a chance. The council must put egos and politics aside and consider it seriously. The “not invented here” syndrome cannot be allowed to apply.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: The Vision Group Plan Must Be Taken Seriously

  1. George Potter Reply

    February 3, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    In terms of Tunsgate, one of the reasons for the reconstruction is to open it up next to the castle so that pedestrians can walk through the shopping centre and emerge at the castle. The idea being to connect the castle to the High Street.

    I don’t know, and therefore can’t speak to, what the finished Tunsgate centre will look like but in this case there was clearly plenty of logic and common sense to what the planners were thinking.

    What’s better for the castle? To be opposite the blank wall of the old Tunsgate centre or to be opposite a pedestrian thoroughfare of the redeveloped Tunsgate centre? In my opinion it’s the latter which is preferable.

    Egress from Tunsgate Square to Castle Square was possible before. Ed.

  2. David Smith Reply

    February 4, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I think George Potter means, open up with apertures and life not that people can just walk through the shopping centre, which yes, they could do before.

    The scaffold is high on the Tunsgate development but this is unlikely to be the finished roof height. scaffold is always significantly higher during construction especially when new roofs go up. Have you ever seen a residential house with a new roof going on – the scaffold can be absolutely enormous! I suggest we wait to see the finished scheme before criticising.

    The High Street elevation will be much more sensitive removing the 1970s infill between two attractive buildings and setting it back.

    So overall, I think the planners were right to approve this.

  3. Caroline Reeves Reply

    February 4, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    For information… the amazing scaffold that could be mistaken for an art installation incorporates safe access gantries and integrated cranes, both of which will save time and improve health and safety on site.

    The scaffolding does not reflect the finished height of the build.

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 8:37 am

    The plan improves upon Allies and Morrison plan by actually proposing locations of public squares and by coming up with what to do with the traffic that was not addressed before.

    As stated “It is obvious that much thought and consideration has gone into it by people who have real experience in this field, utilising modern technology to ensure that their proposals are viable.” Not quite sure there has been adequate input visa-vis building bridges over the tracks that are extremely busy and the extent of any discussions with Network Rail.

    My experience of dealing with Network Rail and British Rail before that, during my working life, is that very stringent safety rules have to be complied with during construction over and adjacent to the tracks.

    I would suggest that the councils do look at the alternative plan that I have suggested. I believe it would be better to keep the traffic on their current directions and not diverted over the river and the tracks and then back again unless absolutely necessary involving a detour of several hundred metres.

    GVG’s link would adversely affect the environment of residences along Guildford Park Road due to almost three quarters of the traffic that now uses Onslow Street being taken through the link parallel to it. This amounts to transporting the problem away from the town centre on to another location rather than solving it.

  5. Bill Stokoe Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Guildford Park Road residents should benefit from GVG proposals. It could become virtually traffic free, apart possibly from circulating buses. We propose a new road on a raft above the rail maintenance area, from the west end of our two lane crossing (plus cycle & pedestrian lanes) to a new Farnham Road Bridge. Guildford Park Road residents would be shielded much of its length by new development between them and the traffic.

    Bill Stokoe is a Director GVG

  6. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    February 5, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    It baffles me how the full volume of Onslow Street traffic could be shoe-horned into a two-lane road on the flyover and three quarters of this traffic could again be accommodated on the two-lane link running parallel to Guildford Park Road. I would imagine noise pollution from this high volume of traffic would not be acceptable to the residents of this area even if the traffic on the existing road reduces as a result of these changes.

    I assume GVG is basing their design on a 50% reduction of traffic and pinning their hope on ‘modal shift’ to deliver it. It is unlikely to happen.

    By all means provide cycle lanes and pedestrian routes and mention these many times to impress the public, but please don’t try to hide the real fact of not being able to design for the real volume of motorised traffic. Enough said.

    • Harry Eve Reply

      February 6, 2017 at 11:36 am

      Mr Neogi need not worry about the traffic. GBC’s planners will model it away.

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