Fringe Box



Letter: Stakes Could Not Be Higher for North Street Plan

Published on: 17 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 17 Jun, 2022

Plans for up to 13 storeys high at the northern end of the four-acre North Street Regeneration site.

From: Richard Mills

chair, Guildford Town Centre Conservatives

Several months after the publication of the consultation proposals for the redevelopment of North Street, there remains a worrying silence from the developers and the R4GV–Liberal administration alike on the two issues which will largely determine whether the current proposals actually benefit the town’s residents.

We know that this relatively small site (now reduced to approximately 1.23 hectares) is expected to accommodate some 500 new homes. We also know that it is supposed to be a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom units. Yet repeated requests for information on the intended balance in unit sizes have been met only with the response that this is still under consideration.

With a formal planning application expected this summer that is not good enough.

That balance will largely determine whether the area helps sustain the diverse urban community that Guildford Town Centre should remain, or becomes another high-rise dormitory mainly serving young and relatively well-heeled commuters drawn to the town from elsewhere and spending their working hours and most of their money and leisure elsewhere.

This issue would be less concerning if we did we not also face uncertainty on the other key issue. We understand that there will be one building at 13 stories, significantly higher than anything previously contemplated. For the rest, all we are told is that buildings will vary between 4 and 8 storeys.

With 500 units, in addition to commercial units and the bus station, it is not difficult to guess where the balance between 4- and 8-storey blocks is likely to be struck.

It is time for the GBC leadership and the developers to come clean. Before the consultation process ends we need assurances that:

  • affordable housing will be provided on the site, as both the Conservative and Labour chairs have urged;
  • that the mix of units will help promote the balanced community of age and household structure that Guildford needs;
  • and that a concentration of buildings at eight stories and above will not mark the moment our town centre turns from a generally low-rise historic market town to another Woking relieved only by a small but increasingly beleaguered historic quarter.

The stakes could hardly be higher.

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: Stakes Could Not Be Higher for North Street Plan

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    June 18, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    I have been advocating for several years now that the bus station should be relocated to the Bedford Road surface car park site.

    I consider the advantages are as follows:

    1. The bus station would then be located as close as possible to the railway station thus creating a kind of transport hub that expands the travel options of combined journeys and ticketing. It would largely removes the inconvenience of walking between the two stations, especially in rain or snow.

    2. Freed-up space of the bus station could be used for more housing and reduce the need to go as high as 13 storeys to achieve the same if not more than 500 housing units. I hope the councils, the developer and the bus operators are consulting on the issues I have raised in my comments to the developer.

    3. The proposal to retain the bus station requires buses from the south and the west, to turn left from Bridge Street onto Onslow Street and negotiate York Road roundabout, to enter the bus station from three-way traffic lights on Woodbridge Road. Bus operators had rejected a similar proposal some years ago because of congestion and delays this would have caused to the running of the buses.

    4. North Street could be pedestrianised without having to locate entry and exit on the northern end, necessary if the bus station is retained in its current location. Instead, buses would access the new bus station from Onslow Street from both directions after alterations to its lane layout. This is shown in the updated document

    5. No convenience would be lost if buses from the east and the north drop off and pick up passengers from several bus stops near the current location and then proceed to the new station. No one would have to walk from here to the new station – they could simply take any of the buses going to the station.

    6. Some commuters could leave their cars behind and use buses conveniently, even when carrying some luggage, to get to the railway station.

    7. Without the bus station (often quite unsightly and unkempt), the overall environment would be much more pleasant and properties would be more appealing to the buyers perhaps adding to the profit for the developer.

    8. Bedford Plaza would be more accessible by those who perhaps would not have ventured to this part of the town from the centre.

    9. Loss of parking spaces could be avoided if car parking is provided under the bus station. The design could deal with the risk of flooding if the bus station level is elevated enough and access to and exit from the car park are also on-ramps rising up to a safe level. However, Environment Agency hopefully would come up with measures to deal with flooding in the stretch of the river within the town.

    I hope the “worrying silence from the developers” could be that these issues are being looked at in detail?

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    June 19, 2022 at 8:11 pm

    Oh! Why does Bibhas Neogi get ignored? Is it his age, his knowledge, or is it simply because they don’t like a local resident who knows what he is talking about?

    Please GBC planners listen to the residents

    • Joe Taylor Reply

      June 20, 2022 at 3:26 pm

      I think Bibhas Neogi’s proposal gets ignored because, despite some of its merits, it would cost a lot of money. It’s likely not because of the things listed.

      In order to be effective, the proposal requires multiple pieces of infrastructure to be in place and for a decent shift in attitude on behalf of the public and their use of transport.

      I think that also asking bus users to change at the new terminal in order to get into town is also not a tenable solution.

      Local bus services are not renowned for their punctuality or reliability, and I envisage a lot of missed/delayed connections which would make Guildford even more undesirable to commute to via public transport.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *