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Opinion: GVG Outlines Vision of 21st-Century Town Centre

Published on: 21 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 23 Feb, 2021

By Bill Stokoe

Chair of the Guildford Vision Group

The next step in the town centre master plan (TCMP) process has been voted through. Funds are now available for working up proposals.

We in Guildford Vision Group (GVG) have written to our council to help add impetus and enthusiasm to the pursuit of funding for our town centre infrastructure.

We are seeking confirmation that the retained consultants will be encouraged and not constrained in any way from presenting bold, imaginative solutions in the TCMP, irrespective of infrastructure spend.

Bill Stokoe

Guildford needs and deserves a master plan, and GVG has spent the past 10 years campaigning to:

  • Pedestrianise the town centre widely;
  • Reinvigorate the riverside;
  • Redirect traffic from the town centre;
  • Build more town-centre housing;
  • Create a new East-West link;
  • Establish an integrated transport hub;
  • Preserve the historic town core; and
  • Add new, green public space, including squares.

Clearly, any innovative TCMP has to achieve vital changes to enable successful and exciting regeneration. We have envisioned the new look of the town centre for the 21st century.

The initial key must be drastic reduction of the heavy central traffic that causes health-threatening congestion. The case for tackling this becomes far more compelling with climate change and pollution.

To accomplish this, GVG proposes to link York Road and Guildford Park Road across the railway and river. Routeing through-traffic away from the heart of the town allows the riverside in the centre to be opened up.

This also enables wider pedestrianisation and helps create a better connection between the town and the railway station as well as achieving improving and enhancing some of the council’s own sustainable movement goals.

We in GVG believe the new crossing would provide resilience, not least for the inevitable replacement of the failing Farnham Road bridge.

Again, this would provide more capacity to deal with the inevitable traffic increase from the significant number of new homes planned for the green belt sites in the Local Plan. Obviously, an economic calculation has to be made about the crossing option, and others.

“In the present climate, I recognise that infrastructure spend in the South East will be challenging,” Mr Stokoe said. “But I do not believe we should avoid infrastructure spend because it is difficult to source.

“If there’s a solution that makes economic and social sense in the long run then the council should accept now that it should fight for it. Indeed, the council should plan to fight for it.”

The council appears to be slow to adopt the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regime. With the prospect of a considerable volume of development, that could be an important and valuable element of town centre infrastructure funding.

GVG is concerned that if the traffic challenge to open up the riverside core is not addressed at the outset then the usefulness of the TCMP would be much reduced, to become just a massive development programme, with no real benefit for residents and businesses.

That would mean the adverse factors will just be stored for future generations to suffer and be forced to deal with, witness the Solum development as a case in point.

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test 2 Responses to Opinion: GVG Outlines Vision of 21st-Century Town Centre

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 22, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    Just who is right? At the WUV [Weyside Urban Village] we have consultants stating that “traffic will decrease” the unconsulted SMCs [Sustainable Movement Corridors] are the cure-all for moving residents around Guildford, while GVG [Guildford Vision Group] are stating the rational “more people, more cars” observation.

    Will Guildford ever move forward? With lack of road space, lack of parking, lack of water, inadequate sewers, unable to move the allotments, money passed to central government, failure to identify historical artefacts, and the EA [Environment Agency] unhappy with the flood modelling. And Natural England have objected to parking levels in the SANG.

    What a shambles the Local Plan and town centre plan has made of Guildford in all its aspects.

    Perhaps we should start over again with a new planning policy team?

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      February 24, 2021 at 3:28 pm

      The rate of traffic increase would go down but the overall increase would still occur due to more houses, more people and more cars.

      The freedom of movement that cars provide will not be sacrificed by many and those who need to travel further or through Guildford.

      Sustainable Movement Corridors would no doubt be used by more walking and cycling but the range is limited to a few miles. Better bus use should be promoted by using a transport hub and more Park and Ride places with well thought out routes for buses connecting these would improve matters as well.

      I welcome GVG’s initiative in bringing these important issues to light. Please also see my letter in response to theirs.

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