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Letter: Town Centre “On The Cusp Of Change” Despite Unhelpful Local Plan

Published on: 1 May, 2022
Updated on: 1 May, 2022

From Bill Stokoe

Chair of the Guildford Vision Group

I think St Edward is approaching this development and community involvement very positively, in true Berkeley fashion.

Their team, led by Rob Packham, is to be commended in the work so far, as is John Rigg, who has managed to establish a deal for the council land, and this after many attempts over the past decades by different administrations to tackle the North Street blight.

Aerial view of the North Street regeneration site.

See Latest North Street Designs Revealed – 500 New Flats And up To 13 Storeys Proposed

Guildford gets to keep its bus station. Personally I’d like to see it nearer the railway station but Guildford Vision Group (GVG) has always found strong resistance to either moving or doing away with the bus station.

And North Street gets substantially pedestrianised, wider pedestrianisation being another goal of GVG in its lobbying. There’s also some very attractive public realm in prospect too.

There’s some exciting, as well as controversial, things happening in our town centre development at the moment. We are on the cusp of considerable change, to the long term benefit of the town centre economy, I would suggest.

New homes will spring up in the centre, saving the green belt and delivering sustainable living.

Behind the scenes, the town masterplan is quietly moving steadily ahead, again a core part of John Rigg’s portfolio. Major infrastructure challenges, including flooding, utilities and roads, are at last being addressed.

I just hope the momentum is strong enough to withstand any impact of local politics and associated machinations as we move towards next year’s local elections. The work of the planning teams on the various major projects deserves our continuing support.

People might care to reflect on how we’ve managed to achieve this progress to date despite, from a town centre perspective, an unhelpful, to say the least, Local Plan.

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Responses to Letter: Town Centre “On The Cusp Of Change” Despite Unhelpful Local Plan

  1. H Trevor Jones Reply

    May 2, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    It all sounds good to me.

    I’m sure we need the extra homes, handy for town centre shopping and for the bus and rail stations without the need of a car.

    It’s probably also good we keep the bus station where it is, even though by the railway station would be better for me living that side of town.

    I think a survey some years ago showed most bus users wanted the town centre rather than the railway station, and anyway, the walk between the two isn’t really that far. If only it were made easier to navigate.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      May 3, 2022 at 7:39 pm

      Unfortunately, the survey was tautological. To obtain a balanced view, questions should have been phrased very carefully.

      Bus users were asked whether they wanted the bus station to stay where it is and the majority answered “yes”.

      The question about the bus station land came up in the past because the Friary Centre owners wanted a larger area for the extension to the Friary. But with the increase of online shopping, a larger retail area was no longer needed and hence the emphasis is now for more housing.

      In order to make the lower part of North Street safer for pedestrians, the proposal is to keep and refurbish the bus station where it is, however, the entry and exit have been proposed to be both from the north end. I have raised the issue of congestion and delay that would be caused to traffic and especially due to all buses having to go through York Road roundabout and turn right at the three-way traffic lights to reach the bus station.

      If the bus station were relocated to Bedford Road it would be closer to the railway station. To maintain the convenience for the town centre shoppers buses from the north and the east could go via a hub close to the existing bus station, so that no one would have to walk from here to the new one. Alternatively, a free shuttle service between the town centre and the new station could be introduced.

  2. Ruth Brothwell Reply

    May 8, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    I agree with many of these comments. In fact, in terms of height – take a good look at buildings such as the Harbour Hotel from the other side of the street. You will realise that many of our buildings are already higher than we think. It’s a matter of how they are positioned – we need the homes and anything to stop more building on our greenfields.

    Personally I am looking forward to walking down a traffic-free North Street and to sitting in one of the squares or pocket parks drinking coffee in real cafe society style.

    The bus station looks great and it stays put because that’s what we all asked for in the public consultation. It can all only be good for our town.

    Ruth Brothwell is a R4GV borough councillor for Worplesdon

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