Fringe Box



New Design For Walnut Bridge Required After First Choice Found ‘Technically Challenging’

Published on: 29 Aug, 2018
Updated on: 29 Aug, 2018

The 32-year-old Walnut Bridge – due to be replaced

The council is to progress a new design for a replacement Walnut Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. But the new bridge was described by one councillor as, “A Bridge Too Far”.

The existing 32-year-old bridge, constructed in 1986, crosses the River Wey between Walnut Tree Close, by the station, and Bedford Wharf, near the Odeon cinema.

The decision, taken at last night’s (Aug 28, 2018) Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Executive meeting, comes after a tendering process in which most parties withdrew from the process, saying the preferred design, a “cable-stay” bridge was technically challenging.  The only two remaining tendering companies required assurances for the council to pay for all the design costs prior to the final submission of bids.

The previously recommended design found to be “technically challenging”

In a report, council officer Jennifer Hyland wrote: “The bridge forms part of the Guildford Town Centre Transport Infrastructure Package’ (GTCTP) with the aim being to encourage and increase cycling and pedestrian travel within Guildford.”

Two options were put before the council: proceed with an alternative design or revert to the Cable Stay design. There was no consideration of repairing the existing bridge which, although Guildford’s newest bridge, was described as “dilapidated”.

The budget for the bridge project is £3.3 million but £1 million has already been spent on consultation and design work to date.

John Rigg, GVG

Addressing the Executive, chaired, in the absence of the council leader, by Deputy Leader Matt Furniss (Con, Christchurch), John Rigg, chairman of Guildford Vision Group (GVG), said: “GVG love the idea of a new bridge… but we fear this proposal is not right.”

Questioning the expected benefits of the new bridge Rigg said that GVG would prefer to see the money spent on a “real masterplan to lay out the whole of Guildford town centre…”.

A cyclist’s view of the existing Walnut Bridge.

Specifically querying the expected benefit of improved cycle mobility, Rigg said: “Only properly designed cycle superhighways have any impact on modal shift.” He was also concerned that the new bridge could compromise future plans to open up the riverside.

Cllr Matt Furniss

Matt Furniss responding, said: “I would point out that the council does have a town-centre masterplan in place, as well as a regeneration strategy and a transport strategy, and all these plans are available online.”

Cllr Tony Rooth (Ind, Pilgrims), whose judgement of the failed “Village” scheme was proved correct, expressed his concerns: “I understand that no assessment was made for the retention of the existing bridge… The usage estimated at the present time is 428 pedestrians per hour and the [new bridge] project would produce 607 an hour… £3.3 million does seem rather a lot for a bridge that would only give an extra 200 [crossings] per hour.

“It is also a bridge to nowhere… there is not much now in Bedford Wharf, just the Odeon cinema and the closed New Orleans restaurant.”

He continued: “It will make no difference to the link between the town centre and the railway station because you will still have to cross Onslow Street.

Cllr Tony Rooth

“It is a bridge too soon… because it comes before surrounding development has been decided… the placing of a bridge in a particular spot could impinge, it could damage the future development of Bedford Wharf.

“It may be said that because part of this is funded by the Enterprise M3 LEP [Local Enterprise Partnership] we either use it or lose it but in my view, we would misuse it.

Rooth concluded: “Lastly, it is a bridge too far. We are overreaching ourselves. Ambition overreaches capability… It reminds me of the attempt in the Second World War at the Battle of Arnhem to cross the Rhine. There was a catalogue of errors and miscalculations of planning and mismanagement. I am afraid this looks like a similar concept.”

Ignoring most of Cllr Rooth’s arguments, Cllr Furniss said that the forecourt of the proposed Solum station redevelopment is designed to facilitate cycle and pedestrian movement towards Bedford Wharf rather than on to Bridge Street. Other improvements are planned by Surrey County Council to calm traffic in Onslow Street.

Cllr David Bilbe

But Cllr David Bilbe (Con, Normandy) who had recently supported Tony Rooth’s bid to stay on the planning committee, despite previous clashes over the failed Village project, was more critical: “I expect more balance [from Tony Rooth], to be honest. There was nothing whatsoever in his comments, unless I wasn’t listening or I am so stupid I can’t understand.

“I prefer to have a balanced perspective and I don’t really feel that comparing a bridge in Guildford with a bridge at Arnhem is a credible comparison whatsoever.”
Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity) added that he was amazed that it had been said that the new bridge could not unlock development potential in the area. He thought too many of the critical comments were negative and concluded: “We must stay positive.”

Share This Post

Responses to New Design For Walnut Bridge Required After First Choice Found ‘Technically Challenging’

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 29, 2018 at 9:57 am

    The design problem raised by the tenderers is not surprising. I raised my concern in the letter:

    I also gave a bit more details about the geometrical issues in my comments in:

    In the above I concluded “ seems a traditional steel beam and slab deck or a voided concrete deck simply supported on piers would be better practical alternatives to the iconic form that, as I said in my letter, is not suited to this site.”

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    August 29, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Another heavy tab for the council tax payer to pick up.

    We still do not know what the final cost of the Tunsgate colour brick scheme is yet.

    We have already been told that our council tax will rise again next year.

  3. A Atkinson Reply

    August 29, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I didn’t realise it was a “Calatrava” design to be an iconic structure. I couldn’t agree more with Mr Neogi’s comments from 2016, this does not fit the look and feel of the buildings around it.

    Moreover, from my experience of Calatrava’s work from a distance, I would also question form over function.

    This was more than a leaky roof, it ended up as an impractical design for the actual function of being a winery.

    Bridges should be designed by engineers not architects in my view and no-one should decide based upon “artist impressions”. Rightly or wrongly, this reminds me of the Millennium Bridge when it was designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. Perhaps it may not wobble and the foot fall not great enough. But I think the design should be more in keeping with wharf style buildings.

    Oh, and £1m on consultants and design…to date, really?

  4. D Bisdee Reply

    August 29, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Why do we need a new bridge at all? Why not refurbish the old one, which is not even all that old? This area of the river is hardly a beauty spot and a fancy bridge will look completely out of place.

    Yet another waste of public money by Guildford Borough Council.

  5. Russell Morris Reply

    August 31, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Common sense and imaginative schemes are rarely close partners.

  6. Michael Werry Reply

    September 2, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    £3 million for replacing a footbridge that still works, to increase footfall by 30%.

    £1 million spent so far discussing it and still ongoing.


    What a bunch of blinded incompetents polish their rear ends on council seats, at the expense of local taxpayers who are having their intelligence seriously insulted by such ridiculous antics.

  7. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 3, 2018 at 10:18 am

    This bridge is mainly for pedestrians and cyclists to and from the railway station when Solum realigns the main entrance. Solum has won the planning appeal but when, or if, they will start work is not known. Maybe they are waiting for Brexit debris to settle before they commit their investment? I don’t know.

    In any case, pedestrians will have to cross Walnut Tree Close’s (WTC) two-way traffic at this section of the road, the same section used to enter and leave Station View.

    A better solution, in my view, would be to build a high-level exit from the station at the level of the footbridge over the platforms that would cross Walnut Tree Close, the river and Onslow Street.

    The bridge could connect directly with the Friary Centre like the other footbridge. This way pedestrians would not have to go down to the ground level at all and so it would become the safest route for them. When Bedford car park site is developed, a connection to it could also be made.

    The existing bridge could be retained for users at WTC level. When the Bedford Wharf scheme is being developed, the need to provide a cycle crossing of the river may be re-examined and then, if necessary, a new bridge could be built.

    In the meantime, councils should instead consider spending the money on improving the gyratory and reducing congestion in southbound side of Onslow Street.

  8. Vivian Sinclair Reply

    September 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    This bridge is essential for the redevelopment of Bedford Wharf and to facilitate additional pedestrian flow likely to come from the new office scheme in Mary Road “River Works” and the Arriva bus depot which has just been sold for student housing.

    The current bridge is not in good condition, is not wide enough even when just used for pedestrians and is not suitable for cyclists.

    It’s time the council invested in this part of town.

    As for Solum and the regeneration, it appears Network Rail are fully committed to this as Guildford is now a managed station (ie managed by Network Rail, not South Western Railway). This will enable them to push through the scheme quicker.

    Why can we not use S106 money from all of the residential schemes down WTC to fund?

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      September 4, 2018 at 3:14 am

      South Western Railway is not a party to the redevelopment scheme. Network Rail holds the lease of the station land. Solum Regeneration is a partnership between Network Rail and Kier Property to regenerate railway stations in the south-east of England. So the change of station management has nothing to do with the pace of the scheme.

      I had no idea that the existing footbridge is not in good condition. If the council is unable to maintain such a small bridge like this, how on earth would they manage a bigger one?

      Nothing is known in the public domain about Bedford Wharf development. If it is anything like the bus station, the Friary extension or the North Street scheme, maybe in twenty years time is a good guess.

      The issue is the urgency of the need to replace this bridge when there is a much greater need to make the route on Bridge Street safer. Before the development of the station and Bedford wharf area, this route would remain a very quiet area, out of hours, and would continue to attract anti-social elements.

      I would reiterate the need to improve the gyratory and the flow through Bridge Street. I have mentioned how this could be achieved in

      If the gyratory is improved in the way I suggested, Bridge Street could be reduced to two lanes of traffic and the space freed up could be used for widening the north footway together with a cycle lane. Traffic lights at the junction with Onslow Street would work in tandem and that would allow traffic in the offside lane to go either left or right.

  9. Steve Jones Reply

    September 4, 2018 at 8:56 am

    This new bridge may look better than the present and have more space for pedestrians and cyclists but why now and why costing £3.3 million? The council website webcast of the debate at the GBC Executive shows the issues raised by John Rigg of GVG and Independent Cllr Tony Rooth.

    A new bridge does not help us cross Onslow Street from station to the town centre, only across the Wey to a Bedford wharf where no plans yet for development. No assessment of improvement to present bridge. A Bridge too soon and too far – a triumph of the ambition of the council leadership over competence. Already a waste of £1 million of our money.

    Why do Lib Dems support this project? It is all very well for Cllr Caroline Reeves to say “We have got to get on and do something and start somewhere.” The council has to do things that make sense and value for our money, not invest in expensive vanity projects like the disastrous Village and now this bridge

  10. Vivian Sinclair Reply

    September 4, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    I think people are fully aware that South Western Railway is not party to the re-development of the station – I never said it was. Network Rail is the freeholder of the land (not leaseholder). The Solum scheme (yes we know Solum is Kier and Network Rail) is extremely important to this bridge.

    We have an opportunity to direct people from the station away from the narrow pavements of dangerous Bridge Street. The fact Bibhas Neogi is unaware of the condition of the bridge indicates he has never been on the bridge.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      September 4, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      Network Rail is not the freeholder of the site.

      Please see:

      It is true that I have not used the footbridge recently. However, I have not come across any report that this bridge is in a poor state and that is why it is in need of replacement. The paintwork may be showing signs of some rusting but that does not mean the bridge is in poor condition structurally.

      Thi sketch shows the short-term improvements to the gyratory.

      And this one shows how Bridge Street could then be improved for pedestrians and cyclists.

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 *