Fringe Box



Letter: St Mary’s Wharf Proposed Riverside Access Could Be As Tolerated By Future Owners

Published on: 18 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 18 Nov, 2022

From: Nic Allen

I and many organisations in Guildford (including the Guildford Society, Guildford Residents Association and other Residents Associations) and consultees (including Historic England and National Trust) have already expressed their objection to the scale, height and mass of the proposed St Mary’s Wharf and the damage it will cause to the heritage of Guildford, its townscape, riverside, views and to the town centre.

My letter focuses on the riverside walk which is one of the main benefits of this project being sold to the public of Guildford by the developer.

This walkway is on land that will still be owned by the developer and so is not actually public realm.

This is now confirmed by drawings dated November 9 and 10 2022 on GBC website that show that this is private gated space (coloured brown) only open at specific hours.

St Mary’s Wharf drawing showing public realm is only part-time. Could the developer or future owners further restrict access? Click on the image to enlarge it in a new window.

These opening hours, currently suggested are 6.30am to 11.30pm, could be changed at a later date and public use of this much-promoted riverside walk strictly limited. Its use therefore can be controlled by the developer as he or a successor organisation sees fit.

The developer describes that the “Riverside Promenade has been widened and a colonnade introduced to provide shelter to pedestrian users during inclement weather”. Effectively this riverside walkway is the same width as earlier iterations and as currently exists with Debenhams, which is too narrow for a pleasant riverside promenade.

The proposed buildings are on the same alignment as the earlier proposal making a significant cliff overpowering the river and buildings including listed buildings, on the opposite side of the river.

The widening proposed is cutting back slightly the ground floor but it is almost certain that commercial operators such as shops, café’s and restaurants, on the ground floor, will occupy these spaces so pedestrian circulation will still be limited.

It seems likely that if this scheme is built that the public trying to use the riverside walk will be there as tolerated by the owners of the project.

The public are quite likely to be vying for space with café or restaurant paraphernalia such as tables, chairs, umbrellas and waiting staff crossing the main north-south circulation route.

One can see a point where the public will be discouraged from using this riverside walk because of disruption to the commercial and residential uses. This could lead to further controls on the use of this riverside walk.

Shouldn’t there be a Section 106 or other legal agreement to protect a 24-hour-a-day right of way along the riverside if this scheme were to be approved?

The developer is stating that he “has also submitted plans for a new footbridge, connecting the site to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre” to continue this riverside walk.

I do not see anywhere that this will be directly funded by the developer and whether this is an actual commitment. It is unlikely for the foreseeable future that GBC will be able to fund this.

Cynically, this could be seen as an attempt to use a small amount of unfunded public gain to offset the significant damage to the townscape, heritage and views across Guildford that this development will cause.

With many questions and uncertainty about important issues such as these, it would seem questionable how it can safely be considered by GBC planning committee next week.

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Responses to Letter: St Mary’s Wharf Proposed Riverside Access Could Be As Tolerated By Future Owners

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 18, 2022 at 10:35 am

    I have not come across any method statement for the safe demolition operation or measures to protect the adjacent road users and the pedestrian crossing. It is possible I have missed the documents on this aspect amongst the volumes of documents in the Planning Application.

    I am of the opinion that this building should be re-used, repurposed and reconfigured by adding a couple of storeys of extension for residential use as described in my letter

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