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Letter: Small Yet Effective Steps to Really Bring Guildford Back to a New Life

Published on: 16 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2021

From: Bill Stokoe

Chair of the Guildford Vision Group

As we recover from lockdown, GVG supports recent calls to smarten up, revitalise the town centre and take steps to improve the pedestrian’s lot.

We believe the council should look at short and medium-term interventions to help attract, drive and sustain footfall to help keep the town economy alive.

Our public and historic buildings should be smartened up; pavements, pathways and potholes repaired and improved.

The town centre has great buildings and heritage but the spaces between buildings, the streets, alleys and larger spaces are poorly laid out, poorly finished and poorly maintained.

Our town centre streets (High Street, North Street, Market Street, etc.), although part-pedestrianised, appear to still be designed predominantly for traffic, not people. Guildford should offer more.

Many people now want a wider experience than just traditional retail. We could create interesting and attractive outdoor spaces for people to enjoy. Think Borough Market (the vegan market is an example that could be developed).

For a town of Guildford’s size, there are a minuscule number of places where you can sit outside for a coffee, meal or a drink or enjoy music and entertainment. Cafe life is barely visible. Look at the attached examples we’ve collated.

Why don’t we also use other areas, for example, parts of the riverside car parks, to develop visitor attractions; perhaps more market stalls or arts installations and artwork?

That would be a much more sustainable use of the space and perhaps even provide testbeds for more permanent improvements within the masterplan.

Over the past 10 years, GVG has lobbied for a masterplan to help regenerate the centre. Finally, work on one is underway, although even the most optimistic among us realise fulfilment of any masterplan will take years, a long-term project.

But we also need shorter-term initiatives, small yet effective innovative interventions that help Guildford improve its public realm and renew its attractiveness as a destination.

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