Fringe Box



Opinion: MP’s Criticisms Are Fair – But We Do Have The Basis of a Vision and a Plan

Published on: 25 Sep, 2014
Updated on: 27 Sep, 2014

Local Plan Consultation logoBy Gordon Bridger

Our MP Anne Milton has made some trenchant and valid criticisms of the Guildford Draft Local Plan. She says it: lacks vision, lacks infrastructure proposals, there is no clear strategy and new house numbers are yet to be determined.

But however inadequate this draft plan may Guildford Borough Council led by the Executive were right to put it out for consultation. There are national timetables to be met and sending it back for reconsideration to those responsible without indicating what should be changed would have achieved little.

As for those who may think the consultation has been inadequate, let me assure you that never before over the last four decades has there been so much consultation.

There are glimmerings of hope that a new much better clearly structured better focussed plan  should result. The council decision to appoint consultants to produce a vision of the town centre may have produced some utopian ideas but it at least has dragged Guildford away from thinking just about how many houses are needed.

Opinion Logo 2At the huge meeting organised by Guildford Vision Group, for what must be the first time in our history, GBC planning decision makers were congratulated and the ideas behind the proposals warmly welcomed. It has also led to a reconsideration of the central road network by GVG which could relieve many of the gyratory problems.

There are also signs that those in charge of planning now appreciate that the focus of the town and its main earners have  shifted away from the traditional town centre. It has moved to the north east where a cluster of knowledge based enterprises employing some 12,000 people now earn around 40 per cent of Guildford’s Gross Value Added.

This has  crucial  implications for the location of housing and improvements to infrastructure. No longer should we be seeking to make the town centre the largest – most congested,  low income earning, retail centre in southern England: it should be a mixed residential and high quality retail centre.

The vision which we should be aiming for is to build further on Guildford’s strength as a centre of world excellence not only in the knowledge based industries but in education – from the University of Surrey  to our technical colleges and schools. Also we must improve our medical facilities, and many of our artistic  institutions such as the Yvonne Arnaud, the ACM, G Live, and many local acting activities such as the Guildford Shakespeare Company.

To do this we need  more appropriate housing, not just affordable welfare housing, but “key worker” housing , for without attracting these skilled professionals we will not achieve the economic progress needed to fund not only welfare housing but environmental improvements. Nor will we be able to maintain our, already well established, position as one of the most successful economic communities in Britain.

It should be relatively easy  for an experienced macro planner to produce  the structure and analysis  of a plan to meet the visionary objectives which Guildford merits .  When housing numbers are agreed it will be clearer what infrastructure  improvements are required (they are currently lacking).

Then it should be possible to produce a plan with clear policies, priorities, and projects with the  basic information in the current  draft.

Gordon Bridger is a former mayor of Guildford and former Lib Dem borough councillor

Share This Post

Responses to Opinion: MP’s Criticisms Are Fair – But We Do Have The Basis of a Vision and a Plan

  1. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    September 26, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    There seems to be some sort of vision developing for the urban area but there is no vision for Guildford Borough as a whole.

    An integrated vision has to come first otherwise one can understand why, quite rightly, the rural parishes and residents are getting a bit restless.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 26, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Guildford Vision Group’s presentation of a transformed Guildford – a vision endorsed by the Guildford Borough Council, in which the river front is opened up and the town centre made pedestrian friendly – was well appreciated.

    However it must be pointed out that the solution for the traffic presented at this meeting was GVG’s not the Council’s. It is my understanding that before the council can promote any new routes that require procurement of properties, it must be done in a way that does not blight private properties i.e. the process must remain confidential and not in the public domain.

    On my website concerning suggestions for the improvement of traffic in Guildford, I have refrained from suggesting any route that required such acquisitions and so in particular my suggestion was to have a new bridge over the railway but for the route not to extend all the way to Woodbridge Road. Instead, I chose to ramp it down to be within the railway station car park.

    Taking all the traffic to the west and thus crossing the river and the railway twice is in my view not necessary if an alternative could be found to keep the north south traffic along their existing routes on both sides of the river.

    Remodelling Friary Street opens up the opportunity to put the A281 (Millbrook) traffic in a cut and cover tunnel, under the town centre, whilst the A3100 (Portsmouth Road) traffic could be taken through a one-way Walnut Tree Close beyond Station View junction on to a two-way link over the river to Woodbridge Road via Mary Road and/or Leas Road. This route would facilitate access from intended housing on Wey Corridor as well.

    And finally, if the bus station is relocated on Mary Road car park and routes redesigned to connect the town centre and the railway station, a much better all round joined up improvement would result.

    This would obviate the need to temporarily relocate the bus station whilst North Street redevelopment proceeds and would be a much better solution compared with on-street bus bays that appears to be an option under consideration. In my view on-street bus bays would be a poorer replacement, inconvenient to most bus users and would spoil the new fresh open appearance of the town centre.

    For the suggested alternative that reduces disruption, demolitions, not requiring widening of roads and bridges please visit my website. I have modified my suggestion by extending the route over the railway to Woodbridge Road – a two-lane road not a four-lane road primarily for the east /west traffic now that this idea is in the public domain.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      September 27, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      I would like to add that additional parking could be built above the bus station to complement other additional parking needed for Guildford in general. Moreover, it would be a cost effective use of this land.

      Multiple bus stops should ideally be provided and a comfortable waiting room with up to date electronic information and ticketing facility for the buses integrated with the Friary extension.

      It could be located behind Dominion House at the with an in and out, one-way route around it for the buses coming from Woodbridge Road, the redesigned two-way Leapale Road and exiting via a small part of the northern end of existing bus station. Other bus stops and shelters would be on Onslow Street, North Street, Bedford Road and of course at the railway station.

      The link below shows a possible arrangement of multiple stops and road layout utilising remnant northern ends of Woodbridge Road and Commercial Road both planned to be stopped up and to become part of the shopping precinct.

      It is important that such a scheme be considered now so as not to miss this opportunity when the design of North Street development is in progress.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    September 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    While I have the utmost respect for Mr Neogi, I believe that there is only one place that a bus needs to stop for any period of time and that is a railway station.

    The needs of railway passengers are different from those of a shopper or a student travelling to attend a lecture. A bus should arrive at a station some minutes before a connecting train departs and then wait some minutes after it has departed to collect arriving passengers.

    This system works all around the world why don’t we use it here?

    We should also turn the taxi rank around so it is not a 200m walk with a suit-case and make the car park immediately outside the station.

    We could also get rid of the misused and misunderstood bus/commercial vehicle lanes and get the traffic moving again.

    Once this has happened we can sort out the real problems of the town’s traffic rather than those imposed on us by road planners who do not understand their own job.

  4. David Bilbe Reply

    September 29, 2014 at 10:54 am

    The herd mentality to take swathes of the green belt [for development] and change villages fundamentally by adding enormous numbers of houses is quite unnecessary.

    If indeed the housing need is 650 per annum for the next 20 years, that boils down to approximately 30 houses per parish (of which there are 23) across the borough. Add in the town centre sites, larger brown field and windfall and this number spread across the borough could fall dramatically.

    Under the Localism Act responsibility should be pushed to parish councils to come up with their plan to meet these needs. Give them a year to do that.

    For my village – Normandy – this would mean that for that year the village would have to find 20-30 housing plots while the longer term plan is defined. There are lots of non-contentious smaller plots available in the village which GBC are ignoring. GBC seem more intent on satisfying developers with larger sites where they can effectively force developers to build affordable housing if they want the commercial benefit of other homes.

    So this becomes – “yes you can have 2,700 houses on the green belt, fundamentally change the village and the countryside, build 30% as affordable and as a result we are doing a good job.” The ordinary voters of Guildford disagree with this fundamentally.

    This is why Lovelace by-election went to Lib Dem – no-one is listening to what people are saying.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    September 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    At long last some who agrees with me.

    Well said David Bilbe.

  6. Colin Cross Reply

    September 30, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    I am really pleased to wholly concur with David Bilbe and Jim Allen. We may not have always seen things the same in the past but Mr Bilbe’s words sum it up.

    Look around at the bigger picture and we can begin to see what is evolving. We are Guildford so why are we being run and dictated to by a Tory cabal from Ash?

    Surely we must reassert our right to govern our own affairs and not by just eight councillors on the Executive?

    Something has gone very wrong in our council governance and it is time to clean it up.

    What David says about the housing numbers, proportionality and fairness across the
    borough is the way forward. We just need some reasonable people at the helm.

    What comes next ?

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Lovelace ward

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 *