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Opinion: Tale of Two Guildfords (with apologies to Charles Dickens)

Published on: 12 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 21 Nov, 2018

This is the third in a series of opinion pieces from all the political parties and the Independent councillors who currently form Guildford Borough Council (GBC) in the period between now and next May (2019) when the borough elections will take place.

We are grateful to all the participants for agreeing to take part. Our aim is to allow our readers to hear from local politicians directly and become better informed of the political choice they have before they cast their votes…

By Anne Rouse

vice chair (membership) Guildford Labour Party

I first visited Guildford in the 1970’s and was struck by its timeless beauty, so when my husband moved offices I had absolutely no doubt where I wanted to live.

I remember visiting the town centre with my two children and loving the fact that it was such a busy and beautiful place with students collecting for rag week, musicians performing on the street and wonderful independent shops offering unique gifts and ideas.

Christmas was especially wonderful with vibrant stalls, lights, carol singers and festive smells whetting the appetite.

Sadly, times have changed – and so has Guildford.

Anne Rouse at Guildford bus station

I often imagine tourists arriving by bus for their first glimpse of our beautiful county town. Out of one window the bus station itself, grey, sad slabs of concrete and out of the other, the remnants of the Village. No colourful hoarding painted with scenes of our wonderful town, no children on skateboards using the uneven surfaces as an interesting play area, just a dump which looks like some disaster has taken place.

If then they decide to venture past the Friary Shopping Centre to the bottom of North Street our visitors can walk past the grime of Phoenix Court with its missing paviours or maybe into White Lion Walk with a vibrant mixture of local businesses and empty shops.

Maybe our visitors will decide to take in a film at the local cinema, passing our very own seedy looking “Casino” with dilapidated attached rooms and roof garden.

It’s true, there has been a huge investment in the top end of the High Street. Sleek modern, expensive shops adorn Tunsgate but somehow lacking the character of its predecessor. Maybe it will look better at Christmas?

You may read this and think what a miserable account, things aren’t that bad and you’re probably right. However, if you have a local business, you want people to look forward to coming here, you don’t want money being spent on frivolous ventures like the Tunsgate setts. You want a warm and welcoming environment for the whole of Guildford, not just the posh bits.

It could (and should) all be so different – and with much less money than you think; just a little imagination and some enthusiastic locals – perhaps including children who could be encouraged to design what they would like to see when they get off the bus.

I hope Guildford will always be a popular place for tourists and locals but we must remember to look at our town as a whole, invest in making North Street somewhere locals want to come, and shop (and eat and drink).

We need to make the most of all its wonderful features including the river and not just focus on the High Street. We owe it to ourselves to make Guildford a town we can all be proud of and a place people will want to visit again and again. That is the vision I share with my colleagues in Guildford Labour.

This article was submitted for publication on October 6 but due to an oversight was not published on Monday (October 8) as intended. Apologies. Next it is the turn of the Guildford Greenbelt Party. Please check back. Ed

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test 3 Responses to Opinion: Tale of Two Guildfords (with apologies to Charles Dickens)

  1. Paul Robinson Reply

    October 12, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Sorry, I can’t agree with more places to eat and drink. I’ve lived in the area since 1964 but rarely visit the town now but during my last visit, a couple of weeks ago, I was aghast at the number of cafes I passed. I parked on Pewley Hill, adjacent to the primary school I attended, walked through Tunsgate, down the High Street, through Angel Gate, down North Street and into Friary Street. From what I saw there the last thing the town is more eateries.

    I want to see more everyday shops and then I might come into the town more frequently.

  2. D Bisdee Reply

    October 14, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    The writer has not suggested more places to eat and drink but that by people wanting to shop in the town more use would be made of the existing cafes and restaurants.

    I’ve lived in Guildford for nearly 15 years and during that time the town has become more and more blighted with shop closures and spaces becoming derelict. I think the bus station is an important facility but it is certainly depressing and looks very neglected.

    The area north of North Street, bounded by Commercial Road and Leapale Road, is seriously blighted, seemingly by the absence of a viable development plan. The new Tunsgate is seriously fancy, but really, what was wrong with the old one?

    A newcomer to Guildford might find it hard to believe it’s in one of the most prosperous areas of the UK. We don’t need more shops: good shops have been closing because of problems at a national level.

    We need concessions on rent and business rates to encourage new enterprises of various kinds to occupy the empty spaces, and cheaper public transport to make it more feasible for people to shop in the town centre.

  3. C Barker Reply

    October 16, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I agree. Guildford is a mess. It’s almost like the pound shop has exploded and scattered it’s nasty cheap contents all over the town!

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