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Letter: Tunsgate Upgrades Nearly Spelt Doom for My Retail Business

Published on: 3 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 3 Aug, 2020

Tunsgate refurbishment. Photo Ben Darnton

From: Ben Darnton

I endured three years of trade-wrecking building works in Tunsgate from 2015-18 when my long-established business nearly collapsed. The construction works on Tunsgate Quarter ran 18 months late and the road resurfacing took 13 months to complete, instead of the six months originally planned.
So I feel qualified, from first-hand experience, to congratulate GBC on its prudent proposal to put the upgrades to Castle Street, Chapel Street and Swan Lane on hold during these uncertain times. My takings were 25 per cent down and none of the Tunsgate shops got any compensation from the Valuations Office, which was very poor.
I do think the selected streets would benefit from a smartening-up but during the present Corona pandemic now is not the right time: construction and retail are not a good mix, even during happier retailing times.
While on the subject of Tunsgate Quarter, that it still remains half-occupied two years after the grand opening is a real shame, only the restaurants appear to be busy.
Tunsgate roadway, with its precisely dressed granite setts, looks very smart but personally I would have chosen the traditional setts, commonly called cobbles, used in the High Street. In my opinion, they would have been more in character with the historic aspect of this part of town. Perhaps with any money saved, Chapel Street and Swan Lane could have been done too?
To encourage street-life and business, the Tunsgate area would really benefit from a street market with stalls selling local produce. This would complement the coffee shops with their outdoor seating and it would look fabulous with at Christmas with lights hanging across the street.
But I’ve been told all of this is not allowed which, as a retailer of 36 years’ experience in Guildford, I feel is an opportunity missed. If I was running Tunsgate Quarter, I would turn it into a retail outlet like Gunwharf Quays or Bicester Village with high-end brands at discounted prices which would attract shoppers in from far and wide after the Corona pandemic is finally over.

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test 5 Responses to Letter: Tunsgate Upgrades Nearly Spelt Doom for My Retail Business

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    August 3, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    I agree with Ben Darnton. Why are independent traders not listened too?

    Sadly, so many towns look the same now. Guildford could be so distinctive. Look at the independent businesses there are in Guildford, we should build on the success.

    However, the town is looking sad with so many chain retailers gone and empty shops. This is not just Covid, it was happening already. We must act now or forever lose our retail and businesses trying to make a living in Guildford town centre.

    I say to councillors, talk to people. Don’t make repeated mistakes at the expense of losing what is good about Guildford.

  2. Moira MacQuaide Reply

    August 3, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    All credit to Ben Darnton, for getting through all the challenges of the cosnstruction and roadworks. It was very unfair that the small businesses in the area were not recompensed for loss of trade when the development project was so badly managed. And more recently they’ve faced the challenge of surviving through the pandemic.

    Ben is absolutely right, that the developments on other roads in the vicinity should be put on hold. This is not the time for them. There is enough for businesses to deal with.

    I do like the idea of using Tunsgate for a street market or something similar. It would bring people into the area, which would help the businesses already there as well as providing additional retail opportunities to the town.

    Good luck to Ben.

  3. Alan Haskins Reply

    August 3, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    I’m struggling to see what the council envisaged when they decided to carry all that work out.

  4. Sally Parrott Reply

    August 3, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    I do hope GBC take notice of Ben’s letter, as he cares deeply about Guildford, and knows very well the cost of disruption – even before coronavirus hit and the consequent lockdown.

    GBC would naturally prefer the Tunsgate shop units to be filled, and outlet stores would be excellent. But if, at present, businesses are unwilling to commit to the rent and business rates, then Tunsgate Market sounds perfect, and the council should be flexible in these difficult times when town centres are dying.

    The restoration of the town centre bus, to drop people at the end of Tunsgate by Ben’s shop, allowing them to enjoy the market then walk back down the High Street, would ensure locals and visitors would come, and restore footfall and life to our lovely town.

  5. Aidan Jarvis Reply

    August 4, 2020 at 8:34 am

    An interesting letter from Ben Darnton. Thanks to him for sharing his views.

    Tunsgate does indeed look very smart but to me, it is devoid of any engaging character. I agree with Ben that a street market selling local produce would be a great idea to attract more people into the street and give it the life it is lacking. I’m curious to know why this is not allowed?

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