Fringe Box



Letter: R4GV are Embarrassed About North Street

Published on: 15 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 18 Mar, 2023

Screenshot from the developer’s webinar on Monday, April 25 2022 on the North Street regeneration project.

From Tony Rooth

Independent borough councillor for Pilgrims

The latest R4GV election leaflet I’ve seen does not contain a single word about North Street development. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Cllr John Rigg of R4GV promoted so heavily the unsuccessful North Street development proposals.

Plans to redevelop North Street were refused by the Planning Committee on January 11 partly because the proposed entrance and exit at Leapale Road would likely limit efficient and effective bus operations, increase bus journey times, reduce capacity of the bus station and reduce its capacity to accommodate future growth in bus usage for potential developments across the borough

The refusal was based on several specific policies of Guildford’s Local Plan, National Planning policy, Surrey County Council (SCC) as the transport authority and Department of Transport  as well as detailed objections from major bus operators and bus users.

However, these reasons should have come as little surprise.

The council’s own transport consultants (ironically called “Motion”) advised in June 2021 that transport guidance recommended the bus station should retain the existing “through lane” rather than the proposed two-way in/out entrance/exit at a single location on Leapale Road.

In December 2021, Cllr Rigg chaired meetings solely focussed on the much needed refurbishment and design of the bus station facilities rather than its operational issues; including removing access, reducing size and bus capacity, increasing traffic congestion and reducing bus services. Yet these operational issues ignored by Cllr Rigg were the very reasons behind the planning refusal.

At that time in December 2021, senior SCC Transport officers wrote to Cllr Rigg saying “there is little point in creating a facility if buses cannot easily manoeuvre within access and leave the bus station, none of us want to see a white elephant built”.

In fairness, Cllr Rigg spent considerable time and effort on promoting the North Street scheme. However, the North Street development was driven into a brick wall of planning objections which could have been foreseen over a year beforehand. Unfortunately, Cllr Rigg ignored the red warning lights.

Another clear warning was the concern expressed by councillors and residents on the scale, mass and design and amount of affordable housing provided by the scheme. But again, Cllr Rigg chose to  push for the scheme to come before the Planning Committee as quickly as possible, whilst denying that there were any grounds for councillors and residents to be concerned.

Guildford residents can only hope that the developers will revise their proposal to address the concerns of residents and transport bodies, and propose a North Street  development which would represent a major benefit to our town centre.

Significant building on a brownfield site, instead of on our precious green belt, would be a boon to our borough. But if it doesn’t happen then residents should question the approach and attitude of R4GV councillor John Rigg who took on council responsibility for the proposed scheme. He and R4GV should realise that to achieve success, it is not what you try to achieve but the way that you do it.

No wonder R4GV are embarrassed to even mention North Street in their leaflets.

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