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Updated – Landmark Cafe ‘Devastated’ By Proposals to Remove Parking Spaces

Published on: 12 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 12 Aug, 2020

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford café co-owners and best mates since their teens, Paul Hobbs and Steven Coppinger, say that their Woodbridge Café cannot survive if the parking spaces outside are removed as a result of improvements by Surrey County Council to Woodbridge Road.

“We will be devastated. If there was no parking, we would be gone,” said Paul.

Parking spaces outside the Woodbridge Cafe are planned to be removed as part of road improvements.

Their protest petition has had more than 1,200 signatures since it was set up a week ago.

Confusing temporary signs on Woodbridge Road. Is it a consultation or an information exercise?

And there was confusion with the temporary signs on the Woodbridge Road in the area of the proposed improvements raising questions whether the county council was consulting or informing people about the plans.

One sign read: “Consultation Have your say’ while another nearby sign said: “Lane Closures 24 August 24 Hrs a Day for 2 Months”.

Paul Hobbs said there had been no letters or consultation about the proposals. “We don’t know when it is happening. The first we heard about it was a couple of months ago when we had a visit from the council and she said that we were too late to oppose it.

“We have heard rumours over the 18 years we have been here but then, out of the blue, it seems to have been done without us knowing.”

The road improvements aim to make it “easier to walk, cycle and use the bus” along the Woodbridge Road, identified in Guildford Borough Council’s Guildford Town and Approaches Movement Study (2014) as part of the town’s proposed network of Sustainable Movement Corridors.

Paul Hobbs, co-owner of the Woodbridge Café, with a photo thought to be from the 1930s of a coffee stall on the same location as the present café.

The bus lanes, which are currently not continuous, would be joined along whole length of Woodbridge Road and Onslow Street to be in operation “all day and every day” of the week.

The planned road improvements will make the bus lane continuous along Woodbridge Road.

There would also be a Toucan crossing to help cyclists and pedestrian cross near the sports ground in Woodbridge Road adjacent to the junction of Wharf Road, and a new cycle route, called the Guildford College Link+, between Bedford Wharf and Guildford College.

But the work would mean changes to parking and waiting restrictions along the road including no parking at any time outside of the café.

Proposed parking restrictions near the Woodbridge Café.

“We did a ‘breakfast challenge’ about six years ago and it went viral with people visiting us from all over the world and we have over 11,000 followers on our Facebook page. We really are a landmark in Guildford,” said Paul proudly.

The Woodbridge Café was listed in the Kelly’s Directory of Guildford & Godalming in 1974 with further listings of a “refreshment bar” on the site going back to at least 1939.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS contacted Surrey County Council for a comment about the proposals, the options considered and the date of the works, but has had no response at the time of publication.

Updated with comments from a spokesperson at SCC:

“SCC has committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions across Surrey by 2050. 46% of the county’s carbon emissions are produced by transport. Making buses, used by 15,000 people per day, more practical and attractive for journeys has an important part to play. Additionally, with new homes proposed in Guildford Borough over the next 20 years, a reliable bus network will be vital in ensuring that an already congested road network is not overwhelmed.

This project is an opportunity to help buses remain punctual and reliable. The proposal has come about following discussions with bus operators as to where buses most frequently experience delays.

Under the proposals, there will continue to be on-street parking bays in the vicinity of the café for 15 (approx.) cars or vans, in place of the current provision for 18 (approx.). Only the bays underneath the bridge are to be removed at the narrower point in the road, and new additional bays are to be installed around 60m further south as a replacement.

A parking survey, undertaken before the coronavirus pandemic, has shown that the space for 15 vehicles is enough to meet current demand for parking at this location, including at the busiest time for parking in the bay fronting the café which is between 7am and 8am, just after the café opens for breakfast.

Subject to the Public Consultation which ends on August 21 2020 and the impact of social distancing on construction activities, the scheme would be constructed later this financial year.”

Guildford Borough Council declined to comment.

A photo of the Woodbridge Road Coffee Stall, thought to be from the 1930s, on the same location as the present Woodbridge Café.

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Responses to Updated – Landmark Cafe ‘Devastated’ By Proposals to Remove Parking Spaces

  1. K White Reply

    August 12, 2020 at 1:26 am

    The proposal plans that I have seen indicate that the bus lane is being extended by some 75 yards through the bridge and merging back into the main road outside no.34 Woodbridge Road and that it will not be along the whole length of Woodbridge Road. This is why only the parking bay outside the cafe is affected and not the other two bays outside the cricket ground.

    In fact, the proposal includes adding more parking between those bays. Of course, this does not reduce the inevitable effect the loss of parking outside the cafe will have on its business. I don’t believe it would be necessary to remove the whole parking bay and that the part up to the path by the public toilets could remain.

  2. K White Reply

    August 12, 2020 at 1:46 am

  3. Steve Grove Reply

    August 12, 2020 at 8:58 am

    My 1937 Kelly’s Directory of Guildford states for Woodbridge Road::
    “here is footpath to Walnut Tree Close
    Williams Geo. refreshment bar
    ….here Railway crosses….”

    It wouldn’t surprise me if SCC ploughs ahead with this scheme – consultation or not.

    Authorities take little or no notice of the results of consultations, or the views of the general public; perhaps the most recent examples being the ignoring of the public view on the Local Plan by GBC and the unitary authority proposal by SCC.

    Quite frankly, I hold little hope of the parking spaces being retained and that, in all likelihood, the cafe will be forced out of business by this action. The authorities really don’t care, so long as their schemes can be carried out.

  4. David Pickler Reply

    August 12, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    There is an opportunity for more visitors to the cafe if they put a cycle rack outside and people cab use the new cycle lane to get there.

  5. Mark Hughes Reply

    August 12, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    Been in the area for 30 years and I am a chef for this to happen is ridiculous these lads have put heart and soul into the business catering is not a job its a way of life

  6. Alan Cooper Reply

    August 12, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    I have suggested this before, but why not use the Guildford cricket ground car park, unless the council can offer an alternative.
    What a thoughtless way to close a very successful business that has been there since the 1930s. More of Guildford’s history wiped out by uncaring council members. We must remember how they vote as they do not represent our thoughts or feelings.

    • Jan Morris Reply

      August 16, 2020 at 6:49 pm

      Good idea, Alan, when cricket is not on.

  7. Simon Schultz Reply

    August 13, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Surrey County Council seems to have got it right in this instance. The cafe owners are perfectly entitled to buy or use private land in order to provide for customer motor vehicles. Instead, they have been using public space to store private vehicles – public space which they do not have a right to, and which, it turns out, can be put to better use for the community as a whole.

    In reality, of course, changes which make access for cyclists and pedestrians easier actually boost local business profitability, as seen in Waltham Forest.

  8. Richard Fernie Reply

    August 13, 2020 at 10:51 am


    If it was a council canteen it would get a £50k grant and listed building status.

  9. Sally Werry Reply

    August 13, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    The traffic delays on Woodbridge Road began when the Debenhams underpass was closed and replaced with a pedestrian crossing.

    The problem was then made worse by closing the underpass near Waitrose replaced with a pedestrian crossing. Prior to the closure of these underpasses traffic used to flow very well.

    Both pedestrian crossings halt the traffic about every two minutes.

    Reinstate the underpasses and there will be no need to lose the precious parking bays or indeed the Woodbridge Cafe.

  10. Monica Jones Reply

    August 16, 2020 at 11:55 am

    To do this at any time is bad enough but at this particular time is unforgiveable. We are asked to support small/private businesses by the people who are doing this. Shame on you.

    • John Lomas Reply

      August 16, 2020 at 8:33 pm

      But this is a genuine ‘Caff’ not one of those chic establishments where you need to get a mortgage to pay for over-rated cakes, designer sandwiches and barista (whatever that means) prepared coffee.!!!!!!!

      • Harry Eve Reply

        August 17, 2020 at 11:34 am

        Good point. We used to have a good “Caff” in the Tunsgate Centre.

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