Fringe Box



Guildford Vision Group Repeats Call for a New Bridge

Published on: 23 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 28 Nov, 2016

The Guildford Vision Group (GVG) has repeated its call for a major new bridge in Guildford to help relieve the town’s chronic traffic congestion.

The call comes as Guildford Borough Council (GBC) is about consider the development of an existing car park off Guildford Park Road, a site which GVG believes has the ability to accommodate one end of the bridge it is proposing.

Guildford Vision Group New Bridge Plan

Guildford Vision Group’s proposed bridge – outline plan

In an open letter, already circulated to the GBC Planning Committee and to all councillors, the group’s director John Rigg writes: “GVG’s principal concern is that implementation of the approval now sought should not frustrate the new East/West crossing GVG proposes.”

The option of a new bridge across should not be compromised says

The option of a new bridge across Walnut Tree Close and the railway line should not be compromised says GVG

The planning proposal for a mixed development of social and private housing units will be considered by the council this evening (7pm, November 23 – can be viewed via webcast).

Alex Mackenzie Smith

Alex Mackenzie Smith

Meanwhile the president of the University of Surrey’s Students’ Union, Alex Mackenzie Smith, has suggested that any accommodation provided by the scheme should be allocated for students studying at the university, adjacent to the site.

She said: “These homes will be practically on our campus and that’s where we need student accommodation to be built. This proposed development is an ideal area for more student residences.

“The borough council will vote on these plans this week. Students’ interests and concerns are simply not on their agenda. We are a part of Guildford, we work in their shops and bars, we volunteer in the community, we bring culture and excitement to this town – but we’re being ignored.

“We urge GBC to think again, and start making good on the commitment that Tony Rooth [lead councillor for housing at GBC] made at the mayoral debate for helping students, as well as their pledge in the draft local plan that there should more student accommodation in Guildford.”

The full text of the GVG letter is reproduced below.

Dear Councillors,

Guildford Vision Group welcomes the Guildford Park Road scheme with one proviso: that it helps to win bigger and better benefits for the town and residents than the application allows for.

Next week members consider the housing development scheme off Guildford Park Road – ref 16/P/01290. Approval is recommended by officers.

GVG’s principal concern is that implementation of the approval now sought should not frustrate the new East/West crossing GVG proposes.

Moreover, GVG believes that, with some revision and amendment, the site could contribute significantly to a better utilisation of the area, with even more housing accommodated. Guildford could emerge with a better planning ‘win’ for the wider town centre.

The rail/river crossing is the most transformational infrastructure choice open to the Council over the last 30 years. It warrants a comprehensive appraisal, and one not limited to just the traffic impact. There are major economic and social benefits to be gained. The crossing – we have a design – would link Guildford Park Road with York Road enabling major change. Significant gains for the town include:

  • Pedestrian prioritisation across the town centre, including Bridge St with new squares and boulevards
  • Around 2500 new, sustainable homes enjoying both the riverside and a traffic-free environment, bringing the town alive. As many as 1,000 homes might be affordable
  • A less polluted town, much safer centre
  • Exciting development of the riverside
  • A 21st century bus and transport hub, utilising the reclaimed highway in Onslow St, and allowing North St redevelopment to proceed
  • A boulevard link to the Cathedral and University from the centre
  • Far better additional development opportunities on the west side of the station
  • Returning Guildford Park Road to a through traffic-free residential area

GVG supports development of the area in question for much needed housing. Indeed GVG believes the area could facilitate more housing if a broader view was taken of the development opportunities. It is a clear example of the benefits of masterplanned development versus a piecemeal approach.

Using its own resources, GVG has been working on finessing the Council-approved town masterplan. For example, the attached plan shows how the western end of the new bridge crossing might link with the Guildford Park Rd site and adjacent areas and deliver around 400 homes.

Another critical element is the use of the railway land on the west side of the station. This links back to the failed Solum application and how better use, in economic, social and design/architectural terms, might be made of the railway assets on both sides of the tracks. This would benefit rail travellers and residents alike.

Councillors will recall that GVG recently circulated a report by the respected transport infrastructure consultancy Motion that assessed the GVG crossing. It used the criteria and scoring methodology used by the Council itself in arriving at the two masterplan options selected for revising the gyratory.

However Motion, in adding three additional criteria, especially road safety (ignored previously) scored the GVG crossing the best option, in contrast to the conclusions selected by the Council (we still await a Council response to the Motion report that GVG commissioned and submitted).

We do know that the Council then undertook to make its own assessment of the crossing, using WSP, another consultancy. GVG was told that the WSP report would be available at the end of October. GVG has yet to see the report. It would be useful to know whether the officers reviewing the Guildford Park Rd planning application have had sight of the Motion and WSP reports and what weight, if any, they have attached to them.

GVG and its supporters are pro-growth and are committed to seek a better Guildford town centre. GVG is concerned that developments outside a masterplan might frustrate major, transformational improvements of the town. GVG’s objectives and those of the Council are not mutually exclusive. GVG stands ready to work with officers and councillors on, for example, masterplanning ‘brainstorming’; (GVG’s open invitation to councillors to attend its weekly meetings still stands).

GVG asks the Planning Committee to question officers and lead councillors on the proposed Council- led housing development’s relationship to the new crossing for which GVG has lobbied, and for which there is considerable community support. The officers report that the crossing currently has no planning status.

Yet the application is about GBC-owned land. The Council can influence the course of its own development. There is a case to defer a decision on this application until a proper technical exchange has taken place between all parties. It is a crucial opportunity for a better, sustainable Guildford. Thus longer term benefits could be gained from this proposal, to the good of Guildford’s future and that of its residents and businesses.

John Rigg

Director, Guildford Vision Group

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Responses to Guildford Vision Group Repeats Call for a New Bridge

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 25, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I would like to thank the Guildford vision Group (GVG) for raising again the issue of lack of a better east west crossing over the river and the railway tracks. It was at the appropriate time when the council’s housing proposal on Guildford Park Road car park site was being considered. The fact that such a proposal could compromise the provision and construction of such a bridge was raised here on The Guildford Dragon News a while ago also by me when the proposal was announced by the council.

    GVG is proposing, and I quote: “A 21st century bus and transport hub, utilising the reclaimed highway in Onslow St, and allowing North St redevelopment to proceed”. However, reclaiming Onslow Street can only be possible if all traffic from the gyratory is taken to the west side of the railway tracks.

    To quote again: “GVG is proposing far better additional development opportunities on the west side of the station
    returning Guildford Park Road to a through traffic-free residential area”.

    I think the above could only be done by building a new bridge to replace Farnham Road Bridge and a lot of demolition on Network Rail land, as well creating a four lane road adjacent to Guildford Park Road. Such a proposal would require agreement with Network Rail but GVG gave no indication that such consultation had taken place or if Network Rail was agreeable.

    To construct a new wider bridge alongside, to replace Farnham Road Bridge, is going to be a difficult task considering that supports would be needed to be built between the tracks, only possible if there is room, if safety during construction could be ensured, considering that trains run almost 20 hours a day. This would be a well nigh impossible task, I would say, unless a single span bridge could be launched over the tracks – but again there is no room for that either without even more demolition on the east side as well. It would be a very expensive scheme indeed.

    I have advocated for a relocated bus station on Mary Road car park site and on-street bus shelters to replace the existing bus station. I have described my ideas a few times here on The Dragon before. In short, the idea is to put the Millbrook and Onslow Street stretch of the road underground in a tunnel like structure, not a real tunnel, that could be constructed while one lane of traffic is maintained and the opposing lane uses a diversion.

    Portsmouth Road traffic would continue on to one-way Walnut Tree Close beyond Station View junction and a new two-way link with a bridge over the river connects it with Woodbridge Road . The two-lane bridge over the tracks and flyover would connect Guildford Park Road with Woodbridge Road and existing Farnham Road Bridge becoming one-way into the town centre and Bridge Street and Park Street becoming two-way roads.

    Friary Bridge would be removed to open up the riverside. I believe this scheme is much less expensive or disruptive and it achieves the objectives of council’s Masterplan drawn up by Allies and Morrison. My website and sketches are on

    I hope the councils explore my ideas, as well as GVG’s, and opt for the one that suits Guildford best.

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