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North Street Regeneration Progress Reveals Dissent on Bus Station Proposal

Published on: 25 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 25 Feb, 2022

The current exit from the north end of the bus station onto Woodbridge Road which GBC prefers would also become its entrance to allow partial pedestrianisation of North Street. Google Street View

By Emily Coady-Stemp local democracy reporter

and Martin Giles

Plans to regenerate Guildford’s North Street are a step closer to reality, though councillors are warning this is “the beginning of the journey rather than the end”.

But the debate did not conclude without a sharp disagreement emerging within the ruling R4GV group at Millmead.

Guildford Borough Council’s Executive met on Thursday (February 25) to agree high-level designs for a new bus station and the pedestrianisation of North Street, in order to allow an exchange of contracts on the sale of council land to developer St Edward.

The plans for the site, which has been put aside for residential development in the borough council’s local plan, include a new bus station accessed from Leapale Road and closing Woodbridge Road and Commercial Road to through traffic.

Negotiations on the sale of the land started with the developer in July 2019, and a working group has met three times including representatives from the developer, the borough council, Surrey County Council, Stagecoach and the Guildford business representatives among others.

The works will be paid for by the developer, and for the refurbished bus interchange the budget is £4.0m and for the pedestrianisation of North Street £1.4m.

Cllr John Rigg

Cllr John Rigg (Residents for Guildford and Villages, Holy Trinity), lead councillor for regeneration, said the developer needed to know what they were being asked to provide before signing up to commitments such as a land purchase.

He said: “If we exchange contracts to sell the land, then a much more detailed specification will come back during the course of negotiations.

“So it’s the beginning of the journey, rather than the end of the journey.”

Later in the meeting, he added that once the agreement was signed all of the proposals would go through the normal planning process.

Cllr Tony Root

Fellow R4GV member, Cllr Tony Rooth (Pilgrims), saying he was a regular bus user, questioned what had been decided so far.

He said: “The proposed bus station would have both north entry and south exit in the same location at Woodbridge Road.

“This north-in, north-out approach will require major highway alterations – to include at least changing Leapale Road into a two-way road. Highway alterations at the new entrance/exit would possibly allow a right turn from the northbound carriageway of Onslow Street.

“These changes will affect many bus services and their routes. For example, all the 20 plus services currently accessing from the gyratory (eg services coming in from  Shalford Road,  Farnham Road, Portsmouth Road, Guildford Park Road) will have to proceed further along Onslow  Street to turn round at the York Road roundabout and go back along Woodbridge to then turn right across traffic into the station.

“Therefore, can you please confirm that “high-level specification“ does not include any proposed changes in the layout, access /exit etc of the bus station? The working group did not fully debate these issues or reach any conclusions.”

Cllr Rooth asked the Executive to consider whether the recommendations should proceed until the fundamental layout and entry/exit points and their likely effect on bus services and highways are addressed and resolved.

“Otherwise,” he concluded, “the recommendation can be seen as “putting the cart before the horse.’ ”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Council Leader Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) responded in direct style, commenting that he expected to continue to disagree regularly with his party colleague,

confirmed that the preference for the council was that all buses would go in and out of the north end of the new bus station.

He said this would be discussed further down the line, and have to be agreed by the county council and bus operators, but he hoped the plans would deliver more than “just painting the existing bus station”.

He added: “I prefer buses to be on the road full of passengers rather than sat stationary in stands.

“So I’m sure that there are new ways of thinking about buses that I don’t know about, and maybe you don’t, but the experts will. And as part of any planning application, that will come forward.”

Cllr Rigg has declined an invitation from The Dragon NEWS to debate the issue with Cllr Rooth in a recorded interview.

 

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test 3 Responses to North Street Regeneration Progress Reveals Dissent on Bus Station Proposal

  1. RWL Davies Reply

    February 25, 2022 at 6:18 pm

    Don’t expect any sensible or timely outcomes when hackneyed phrases such as: “So it’s the beginning of the journey, rather than the end of the journey” are bandied about.

  2. Barry Williams Reply

    February 26, 2022 at 10:49 am

    To have a bus station or to not have a bus station, some might say that is the question – but there is a bigger picture for the whole Town Centre that has to be considered.

    Key to increasing bus usage and reducing traffic congestion are the aims outlined in Surrey County Councils BSIP – Bus service Improvement Programme
    https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/278715/Surrey-Bus-Service-Improvement-Plan.pdf

    1/ Real time travel information including at various locations within the town centre and making use of 5G and 6G technology for Guildford to be a SMART City.
    2/ An updated fare and ticketing structure and providing a local Guildford travel card ( Extending SCC’s Acorn scheme ) for all public transports incl. local rail and P&R
    3/ Reduction in journey times and improved reliability
    4/ A review of services and routes to take account of new housing areas, population changes.
    5/ Review Park & Ride provision.
    6/ Sustainable and clean travel / decarbonisation to improve air quality by using more electric buses as per example : latest TFL route 63 in London
    https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/new-london-route-63-buses-skylights-phone-chargers-official-launch-tfl-sadiq-khan-b982065.html

  3. H Trevor Jones Reply

    February 26, 2022 at 7:20 pm

    I agree with Barry Williams but (speaking as a non-driver living between the railway station and the cathedral, so rarely using in-town local buses) I would add that I believe the current bus station location to be good for most bus users (handy for the town centre and a short walk to the railway station).

    I also think it’s good that councillors are doing their own independent thinking and not following fixed party lines. The council chamber is the right place for these discussions, meeting more often if necessary, and not separate party caucuses.

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