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Letter: Debenhams Site Must Not Be Left Dormant

Published on: 24 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 24 Mar, 2021

Aerial view of the Debenhams site (photo from the St Mary’s Wharf website)

From: Chris Marsh (RIBA)

In response to: Debenhams Faces Demolition As People Asked How They Want It Rebuilt

I agree with Julie Verity and Lyn Willis that this important site should not be left dormant for years, as have other areas of Guildford town centre.

It is a great opportunity to open up the lower levels, forming access to the riverside from the High Street, and forming attractive interconnected small public spaces. Post-Covid lockdowns, we all need to be able to meet up outside and enjoy each others company in the fresh air.

One of the best features of the Debenhams store, for me, is its riverside terrace where you can relax with a cup of coffee, enjoy the riverside views, and watch wildlife, people and boating.

As the existing building is apparently steel-framed, the structure could probably be largely retained and adapted, saving large amounts of costly groundworks, whilst allowing the building to be opened up at river/road level, with walkways through from Millbrook, High Street and Town Bridge.

If any arts facilities can be incorporated at first/second-floor level, glass frontage and open-air terrace along the riverside would be a further bonus and attraction for the town. As Julie Verity says, Woking is far ahead of us with their arts facilities and street art. Come on Guildford, this is our opportunity!

For the development to be economically viable (ie to happen at all), upper floors of apartments and perhaps some offices, would probably require part of the building to be taller than the existing, but if sensitively designed this should not be feared!

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test 2 Responses to Letter: Debenhams Site Must Not Be Left Dormant

  1. Joanne Tester Reply

    March 24, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    I would love it to be an indoor market with something for everyone. Home crafted goods, food, clothing ran by local people for local people. We have an opportunity to do something really special here.

  2. Janet Moorhouse Reply

    March 25, 2021 at 10:46 am

    The Debenhams building in Guildford is iconic and a good example of 1960-70s architectural style.

    Has anyone thought of applying for it to be listed? People have always had access to the open space by the river Wey by use of the modestly priced restaurant. If it is developed as luxury flats there is the likelihood that the public will lose this access to the riverside.

    Developers usually are not interested in the public good unless leaned on heavily by local bodies. Is GBC ready for the fight?

    Editors note: The ideas presented by the new freeholders within the story Debenhams Faces Demolition As People Asked How They Want It Rebuilt show increased access to the riverfront.

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