Fringe Box



North Street Development Decision – Vision Group Reaction and Proposal Summaries

Published on: 30 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 30 Mar, 2013
The front cover of the recommended proposal from Lend Lease

The front cover of the recommended proposal from Lend Lease.

By Martin Giles

The North Street redevelopment project will be the most important of its kind in Guildford of our generation, perhaps this century. There is a huge responsibility on Guildford Borough Council to get it right.

Opinion Logo 2Not only must the new development be viable economically, it must be, in the view of most who live in or use Guildford, be tolerable in terms of traffic and be attractive to the eye.

If it is to last it must also be sustainable. This does not just mean using environmentally friendly materials, designs and methods. It must also be economically sustainable, with a business model flexible enough to accommodate shifting and hard-to-predict changes in our economy and retailing.

The council has made the proposals from each of the three short-listed developers available to the public for all to read. It has been stripped only of content that is regarded as commercially sensitive.

I have summarised the proposals below, but they can be seen in full on the council’s website.  The Guildford Dragon NEWS recommends that you do have a look, so that you can have your say in the engagement that the council has promised.

However, the council has already selected its preferred developer ahead of any public engagement on the proposals. This has surprised some. (See also:  ‘Lend Lease Recommended as North Street Development Partner’)

Gerald Bland, a director of the the Guildford Vision Group (GVG), said, in reaction to the news: “Whilst we welcome the publication of the bid material the council has had for the past nine weeks, GVG was surprised it was accompanied by an announcement of the evaluation panel’s recommendation.

“GVG had been led to believe the panel would want to take into account community representations on the bid before finalising its recommendation.<

“GVG has already provided its preliminary ranking of the bids to the evaluation panel, and having scrutinised the bid material will now finalise that ranking and publish our findings before the Executive meeting on the 18th of April.

“In the intervening period, GVG believes the community should be made aware of the contents of the published bid material and the issues it raises. A public meeting is being arranged in the next two weeks. It is likely to be on the 9th of April but the date, time and venue is to be confirmed.”

The following are summaries of views of the three proposals from the three short-listed developers:

Queensberry. A smaller company to whom the contract was likely to be a significant piece of business. This could have been advantageous if there had been any decisions on prioritisation of resources, i.e. there were likely to favour a big customer, that Guildford would have been, in its portfolio. However, its proposal is narrower than the others, in the main looking only at the North Street site itself, rather than the possible influence it could have in improving surrounding areas.

Some notable points within its proposal:

  • A new department store of 16,725sq m gross internal area (11,152sq m trading)   arranged over four levels.
  • Several large stores up to 3,000 sq m.
  • A variety of new unit shops ranging in size from 50 to 1,500sq m, meeting the requirements of contemporary retailers.
  • A series of cafes and restaurants.
  • A digital multiplex cinema with up to 10 screens.
  • A below-ground car park with between 650 to 850 parking spaces arranged on two  levels accessed from Leapale Road.
  • Remove buses from North Street.
  • A new four-star hotel (optional).

Queensberry – an illustration of how the new development could look.

Extracts from its proposal:

“General approach: the North Street development is a rare opportunity to extend the town’s retail core northwards, completing the urban edge and celebrating the important gateway into the town centre from the north.

“Because of the unique qualities of Guildford and the strategic nature of the opportunity, if selected, we will work together with the council’s officers and advisors and key stakeholders to progress an holistic master plan for a comprehensive retail-led mixed use development of European quality, optimising the historic town fabric, responding to its ‘green’ surroundings and ‘riverside’ setting.

“The master plan for the North Street development will repair the northern edge of the town centre. The master plan will consider how the site fits and relates to both its immediate surroundings and the wider strategic issues of  highway access, public transport and integration with the pedestrian network and urban grain of the town.

Queensberry - Alternative road layout

Queensberry – Alternative road layout.

“Scheme  description:  We will explore several options for the master plan before deciding on a preferred  option with the council. These options will include exploring alternative locations for the position of  the new department  store, ranging  from it fronting on to North Street or being located on the northern edge of the site.


Options for the position on the main ‘anchor’ department store.

“Each option will include the following core qualities:

“The  network of existing streets and lanes will be extended into the site to form a new major east-­west street running parallel with North Street with several smaller north-­south lanes connecting the new street with North Street. The extended network of streets and lanes will extend the urban fabric of the town centre northwards.

“Two new public spaces will sit at each end of the new major east-­west street celebrating the connections to North Street to the south and other connections to the Friary to the west and north and the residential area to the north. The network of streets and lanes will form a series of pedestrian circuits connecting the High Street, North Street, the new east-west street and the Friary. These circuits will form a variety of attractive routes allowing visitors to explore a new route of the town centre retail core with each visit to the town.

“Fundamental to these circuits will be the improvement to the public realm in North Street this will be achieved by the removal of the buses from North Street and Commercial Road and the adoption of out-of-hours vehicle servicing in North Street from Hayden Place to Onslow Street (in a similar way to the High Street).”

Land Securities Reported to be very confident presenters, perhaps even too confident for some of the panel, Land Set was able to show an excellent reference site in Exeter. However, that project was not without  relationship problems with Exeter City Council at one stage resulting in a judicial review of a planning decision. Land Securities said it had learnt lessons from that project.

Some notable points within its proposal:

  • Strong message on necessity of master plan.
  • Promotion of existing partnership with John Lewis.
  • New anchor store illustrated as a monolithic.
  • New town square.
  • Partially pedestrianisation of North Street, a pedestrianised Bridge Street.
  • Specific section on sustainability.
  • Outward looking frontages.
  • Recognition of internet shopping challenge and requirement.
  • Discussion of traffic solutions and opening up of riverside.
  • New central underground car park.
Land Securities

Land Securities – 3D image of how a redeveloped North Street area might look.

Extracts from its proposal:

“The Opportunity: This will be the one opportunity in a generation to deliver a comprehensive retail and leisure development in the heart of Guildford. North Street represents the principal opportunity to deliver a major retail led regeneration of the historic core of the town centre.

“In delivering a successful outcome Guildford will at last benefit from a thriving town centre which is entirely appropriate to its catchment, creating substantial regenerative benefits in the process. A project of this scale and complexity is not without its challenges – the same challenges we have successfully and creatively overcome in the majority of our central area developments.

Land Securities - The scheme as part of a wider MasterPlan

Land Securities – the scheme as part of a wider master plan – Red represents car parks.

“The Partnership Approach: The key objective for our partnerships to ensure an alignment of interests with a straightforward and efficient approach from both partners. The ‘partnership’ with the local authority for a development of this scale will be vital. Our in-house team have experience in working with local authorities throughout the UK. We have a reputation for trust and a track record of deliverability.

“Mixed Use: Over the last decade we have been involved in some of the most exciting central area development projects in the United Kingdom. These projects have had a strong retail component but have incorporated cinemas, restaurants, car parking, leisure and apartments. Within the recent past we have built more than 500 apartments and indeed within central London we are one of the most active residential developers.

“We have regenerated previously ‘lost’ areas of town/city centres. We strongly believe in the ability for sustainable developments to positively change central areas. We are investing for the long term, master planning infrastructure and laying foundations from which new communities can evolve. In each instance we were driven by the desire to create an outstanding environment for people to both live, work, shop and spend their leisure time.

Land Securities - Some illustrative examples of possible styles

Land Securities – Some illustrative examples of possible styles.

“Retail is changing as never before: Land Securities’ skills and experience, coupled with our forensic research led approach where the status quo is continually challenged, ensure that we always deliver a compelling experience for our customers which is able to compete with and complement the challenge of online retailing, resulting in best in class assets.”

Lend Lease

Its proposal was assessed by some as being closest to the consensus view of what was wanted, and a view was that it seemed to be the only developer that appreciated the potential of the topography of the site and its surroundings. Its reference sites were Solihull and Bluewater, both successful, although some might fear a Bluewater-style development here in Guildford. Importantly, Lend Lease did seem to appreciate, it is reported the importance of making or influencing improvements to other parts of the town in connection with the North Street development.

Notable points within its proposal:

  • Specific section on a master plan.
  • New street market space.
  • Pedestrianised North Street.
  • Cafe culture.
  • John Lewis shown in streetscape illustration.
  • Would explore use of underground parking.
Lend Lease - An illustration of how the new development could look from North Street

Lend Lease – An illustration of how the new development could look from North Street.

Extracts from its proposal:

“Initial Vision: Our initial vision, as identified in the adjacent sketch, has evolved as we have listened to key stakeholders and got to know Guildford’s unique character and needs better. We feel the design and development brief covers most of the principles of a strong place-making strategy, which we endorse, providing a great foundation for the development.

“Consideration of the right critical mass of development has been undertaken, introducing an intelligent mix of uses into compelling street framework. We have used these principles and approaches to suggest a sustainable and urban retail driven scheme. The success of any scheme will be founded on its ability to link seamlessly into the existing urban fabric with the sympathetic use of timeless architecture. We believe it is possible to augment and complement the adjacent  Conservation Area and Listed Buildings while also reinforcing the town centre’s wider heritage.

Lend leases illustration of how their ideas could connect and improve surrounding areas

Lend Lease – illustration of how their ideas could connect with and improve surrounding areas.

“It is important to reinforce the relationship between the existing and new retail streets, so that the new does not dominate existing. Key attractors and footfall have to be balanced, with a variety of character zones adding to customer attention and dwell time. The new open streetscape obeys the basic rules of retail planning – visibility, sight lines, anchoring, linkages and loops. The layout is straightforward, navigable and legible.

“We endorse the need for good public realm and landscaping – this important ‘glue’ knits all the buildings together in a attractive new townscape. The best ideas are often generated by exploiting existing features of a site – a key view, a beautiful retained historic building, or a wonderful riverside. These existing features are the memories of the town, and should be embraced in the formation of new authentic places.

“Recognising the morphology of an historic urban streetscape and sensitively linking into it is key to creating an environment where new and old sit comfortably together. The established system of strong east-west routes with ‘gates’ between, and smaller more intimate spaces has set an important context for our proposals. Combined with this, it is important to consider climatic issues and how the prevailing conditions might temper the urban design. Ultimately the suggested retail layout must meet the needs of retailers to ensure it becomes a long term success.

“Design Philosophy: A unique place, Guildford is a special town set in glorious countryside which on exploration reveals a rich heritage and a unique urban structure. The historic narrow ‘gates’ thread their way north from the medieval castle, intersecting with key highways leading up hill from the river crossings – North Street and particularly High Street. It is these intersections of the ways which give Guildford its unique urban grid of streets – a feature which any new development should recognise and enhance.

“Healing the town: Though containing intriguing spaces and a delightful eclectic mix of buildings, Guildford town centre is not without its problems – an aggressive road system, some unfortunate structures, and the North Street site itself  a rather ugly ‘wound’ which sits in the heart of the town. It is the ‘healing’ of this wound which will be key to the design process, ensuring that a delightful new quarter can be delivered, successfully connected to the surrounding context.

Lend lease - detail showing their ideas on opening up the river

Lend Lease – detail showing its ideas on opening up the river.

“Connectivity: By examining existing routes and desire lines around the site, a new logical pattern of streets emerges, so that the new North Street framework can be seamlessly linked to the neighbouring.

“Infrastructure. Connectivity in general should be improved and we consider that new links to the railway station and river are of particular importance.”

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Responses to North Street Development Decision – Vision Group Reaction and Proposal Summaries

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    My first impression after a quick glance through their submission is that traffic issues have yet to be considered seriously and public transport, bus station and railway station connections are all yet to be explored properly.

    To develop North Street without a master traffic plan that works is utterly pointless. Stuffing all the traffic in Onslow Street and pedestrianising Bridge Street looks OK on paper but the stark reality is that nothing will move for hours during peak periods.

    A fine example of how to kill off a town for good. RIP Guildford.

  2. Gordon Bridger Reply

    April 1, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Bibhas Neogi makes a valuable point. In an already traffic congested town centre how can a successful retail development on this scale be possible?

    In attempting to make it the largest shopping area in the South East, GBC, as perhaps advised by consultants Cushmore and Wakefield, are endangering the economic future of the town centre. And to what purpose?

    They are clearly unaware that the economic growth of the town no longer depends on shops (now only 10% of GVA) but has shifted away to the north and west of the town where high productivity professional services flourish but need encouragement.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    April 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Wonder why GBC chose to announce this important news just before Easter? Have they taken a leaf out of Central Govt’s method of burying news at the appropriate time. Most of us would be too busy enjoying the long break to care for anything so controversial.

    I am unfortunately struck down by a nasty cold, so I have nothing better to do but gripe about such trivia. By Tuesday it will be old news, taken over by stories of a few accidents here and around the country, that are inevitable during such cold spell: frost-bitten daffodils, spring lambs refusing to be born etc.

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    April 4, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Judging by the dearth of comments from people in Guildford, it seems to me that most either believe nothing like this will happen and so no need to waste time over such proposals or they have gone past caring after the Waitrose saga.

    I do not understand GBC’s haste in getting a development partner on board before the traffic issues have been sorted out.

    There is no way all buses could be sensibly accommodated in the enlarged Leapale Road area and accessed through the neck of Woodbridge Road from a heavily congested Onslow Street. This is no solution for the bus station: it has merely been moved 100 yds east. The solution surely lies in having a multiple on-street mini-hubs not taking up much room and spread around the town with a central point where all buses meet i.e. a bus station.

    Therefore, the bus station need not be in the expensive centre of the town. It should be located such that all routes also connect the railway station but leave the traffic in the gyratory and the town centre least affected. I have explained all this with sketches of modified road layouts and junctions (thanks to Google satellite pictures) plus improvements to North and South through-traffic routes with the bus station on Mary Road car-park site. I have also suggested the slight changes to the bus routes that would then serve the town and the bus users much better.

    These ideas and improved east/west route with a new railway bridge, plus possible improvements to the A3 and connections to the Manor Farm Park & Ride, are freely available on my website. You’ll find these by searching for ‘revamp guildford gyratory’ or by clicking on my highlighted name. If you, the readers, agree that these improvements are the ones to go for, please do voice your opinion whenever opportunity arises. Thank you.

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