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Letter: In Our Vision for Guildford, We Would Love to See…

Published on: 6 May, 2020
Updated on: 6 May, 2020

From Mr and Mrs Jane Hepburn and Andrew Spiro



In response to: After the Lockdown, What Would Make For a Great Guildford?

I (Jane Hepburn) came to Guildford when I was two years old in 1957. My dad was a GP on Park Barn where I grew up. We moved to Shalford when I was 10. I have watched Guildford grow, the good and the bad. This feels as if the town is dying on its feet. We need to bring life back to those beautiful cobbled streets.

In our vision for the future we would love to see:

1. A huge riverside cafe stretching somewhere along the river, in front of the Odeon, along from the YMCA, or around Millmead. Our riverside needs life and revitalisation. Perhaps there is scope for a couple of areas, with tables and chairs etc.

In Istanbul, a variety of cafes stretch along the Bosphorous, throbbing with life and local flavour. I’m sure we could manage something like that, and one perhaps like Granchester in Cambridge where we make use of the grassy areas and have deckchairs and low tables.

2. There is a need for a real covered central Guildford market, a bit like Camden. It could become an attraction at weekends for people to come from far and wide. An ideal area would be the brand new Tunsgate development which is dead at present. This would be all-weather and could have all kinds of stalls, like a Paris or Amsterdam flea market: Knick-knacks, second-hand, antiques, curios, books, not simply expensive crafts.

I envisage an open-air cafe where there used to be one, right at the top of the new development in the atrium, in the centre of the market, perhaps a food hall too, with scattered seating. We could even have professional busking slots like Covent Garden where individuals and groups queue to perform. Or you could have a variety of bands/choirs/chamber orchestras performing near the cafe through the day. That new development desperately needs life and a way to bring people in.

3. Friday and Saturday’s North Street market is looking so sad, and that was before Covid. Is there some way it could be livened up or extra stalls added? People come into town to make it an event and mingle with atmosphere. If there was an incentive to hang around I am sure they would, and they might spend more money.

4. It would be lovely if cafes and pubs on the High Street were allowed to have chairs and tables out on the pavement. Why not? And awnings for dull days.

These are our burning issues. For what they are worth. Activity needs to be right in the centre where there is natural footfall, anything slightly to one side doesn’t work: the container “village” for example, a great idea but completely in the wrong place. It would have been better down near Debenhams with an overspill on to the town bridge. People like to feel in the centre of a buzz.

Best wishes to GVG for their plans. We will need to bring life back into the town more than ever after Covid. Something a bit messy and lively would be great.

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test 7 Responses to Letter: In Our Vision for Guildford, We Would Love to See…

  1. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    May 6, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    What an interesting letter. Could not agree more.

    A traffic-free town square with collonades ideally.

    Ramsey Nagaty is a GGG borough councillor for Shalford.

  2. David Wragg Reply

    May 6, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    No 4 is unrealistic as the pavements are not wide enough.

    • Simon Firth Reply

      May 11, 2020 at 11:23 pm

      I think this would be fine, just remove the cars and pedestrianise the road.

  3. Bill Stokoe Reply

    May 7, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Many thanks to Jane Hepburn for her thoughts in response to Guildford Vision Group’s call for residents’ Top Ten Ingredients for a better Guildford town centre.

    We will also need to take stock of the consequences of the virus lockdown so all do please submit your list and supporting comments.

    Please see my Dragon Opinion piece https://guildford-dragon.com/2020/05/04/comment-after-the-lockdown-what-would-make-for-a-great-guildford/

  4. Valerie Thompson Reply

    May 8, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Some very good ideas, particularly a better use of the riverside. What a waste to have the car park on the other side of the old town bridge. This should be a park with a cafe, some trees and flower beds.

    Maybe the newly revised council could accept that the Guildford Vision Group’s ideas are worth looking at again.

  5. Mark Percival Reply

    May 9, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    A well thought out letter.

    In response to David Wragg, I think he is missing the point.

    The High Street should be 100 per cent car-free and the whole area open to the shops to spill out onto the street.

    The town has many empty shops and the huge depression we are about to enter is only going to magnify this.

    If you want people to use the town centre then you really need to ask yourself why do we let cars rule in North Street and park on the High Street at all.

    Is the town centre for people or for cars? I know the elderly will complain as they feel they have the right to park right in the town centre but why do we give such priority to car parking on North Street when the area would benefit from being more pedestrian-friendly?

    • S Callanan Reply

      May 10, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      “I know the elderly will complain as they feel they have the right to park right in the town centre but why do we give such priority to car parking on North Street?”

      Evidence please, from Mr Percival, concerning this odd view of the elderly. How is he aware that this group claims this right? When I walk along North Street (his example not mine) the majority of the parked vehicles – often large SUVs – are left by those who aren’t elderly. Fact! As that nice Mr Trump would say.

      Can I suggest that before correspondents make some comment about the “elderly” they try replacing “elderly” with a term for some other minority and see whether it sounds acceptable?

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