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Opinion: The Biggest Changes For Our Town in Two Centuries Need Popular Support

Published on: 29 Sep, 2022
Updated on: 2 Oct, 2022

By Martin Giles

The borough council is planning the biggest changes to our town for nearly two centuries and the need for more democracy in our local planning decisions has never been greater.

Change is desirable. Parts of our town and its infrastructure desperately need it. But the changes planned as part of the “Shaping Guildford’s Future” masterplan will change the whole appearance and character of the town except for an isolated “historic quarter” comprising the High Street and Castle. Is that what we want?

Thirty-four blocks of flats are outlined in the area from North Street to Ladymead (see image below) with no height limit currently proposed. Already the height of one block in the North Street proposal is 15 storeys 15 storeys.

An extract from the Engagement Report on consultation carried out to date. What is the style of architecture most liked in Guildford? What are the areas we want improved? We can probably guess but we need to know.

The architectural styles of new buildings have yet to be decided, we are told, but “traditional” style, as preferred by those consulted earlier on the North Street proposal, is impossible on high buildings, as the North Street model, recently exhibited, clearly demonstrated.

The currently preferred “Y” option would channel all traffic, other than buses, from the A281 on to the Portsmouth Road (A3100). Image GBC

There is also proposed a major change to the routes through Guildford. The preferred option given in a presentation of the masterplan, is for all the traffic coming up from Shalford on the very busy A281 to Guildford to be diverted onto the already busy Portsmouth Road (A3100).

As a resident who lives just off the Portsmouth Road, I find the prospect horrific but what do others think? How many of those affected even know about it? Shouldn’t consultation precede the selection of a preferred option?

The major changes being put forward now, which were not envisaged or debated in the 2019 council election, need far more consultation than has currently taken place and, just as importantly, we all need to have confidence that the council will truly listen and act on the findings not find reasons to ignore them.

If the past decade has taught us anything it is that councillors and council planners do not always know best.

A second extract from the Engagement Report. Mixed messages, but to get a more accurate sense of opinion, the amount of envisaged development and its height and mass need to be communicated with those consulted. The last sentence sounds a little sinister. Questions must not be framed to get preferred answers,

The first major questions that should be urgently addressed are: do we want the town’s population to grow so dramatically, even if the required infrastructure can be provided, and should there be a height policy for the town?

These two decisions must have a fundamental impact on the rest of the plan and must be decided in the light of their environmental effect.

Of course, the public should have been more fully consulted on these major issues before the masterplan got as far as it has and before we spend another £3 million on it, as approved by the council’s Executive last week.

Thirty-four blocks of apartments, in four zones, are outlined in the proposed masterplan. Without building height control this would completely change the character of the town.

And it will be important how questions in any consultation are asked. If, for instance, one asks, “Are you in favour of the regeneration of Guildford’s town centre?” of course, most will say “Yes”. But it is the how that is important.

With major decisions taken, informed and popularly supported, then others can be addressed, such as: how should the town’s traffic be re-routed? what architectural styles should be used? and which buildings should go where?

We elect politicians to govern us and delegate considerable power to them when we do, but they should never forget that they represent us all and should not use that power to promote their own or their parties’ agendas regardless of popular opposition.

Knowing, understanding and appreciating the popular view is all important. It cannot be guaranteed that a popular view is right; however in a democracy, it should be the one that prevails.

Councillors are saying “don’t worry, there will be further consultation” but in Guildford we have heard all that before. “Once bitten, twice shy” is a well-known adage. Well we’ve been bitten more than once.

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test 6 Responses to Opinion: The Biggest Changes For Our Town in Two Centuries Need Popular Support

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    September 30, 2022 at 7:06 am

    Please would someone explain what this means:

    “The preferred option given in a presentation of the masterplan, is for all the traffic coming up from Shalford on the very busy A281 to Guildford to be diverted onto the already busy Portsmouth Road (A3100).’

    Looking at the map that is as clear as mud.

    The A281 runs up the East side of the river Wey. The A3100 Portsmouth road runs up the West side of the river. The two roads converge on central Guildford.

    How is it physically possible to “divert” the traffic from Shalford onto the A3100?

    If all this means is that both lanes of both roads will meet on one roundabout on the West side of the river, why wouldn’t that just result in one big traffic jam?

    Editor’s response: Other than buses, vehicles heading into Guildford from the south, on the A281, wishing to go into the centre of Guildford, or pass through it, will need to turn left at Shalford on to Broadford Road, cross the River Wey at Broadford Bridge, and then turn right, indeed at a roundabout, on to the A3100. Conversely, traffic wishing to pass from north to south through Guildford will need to head south first on the A3100 before turning left on to Broadford Road and back to the A281 at Shalford.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    September 30, 2022 at 8:53 am

    More insanity from our “leaders”. How do such people get elected?

    It is difficult to work out how to stop such destruction of what used to be part of our green and pleasant land and country.

    Widening the topic, it seems to be impossible to stop the complete destruction of everything that is good and traditional in our poor little country. It is affecting everything that we have taken pride in, in our glorious history. Who voted for all this?

    Remember Hutber’s law.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    October 1, 2022 at 7:16 am

    The proposal the A281 traffic would be diverted over the river at Shalford via Broadford Road to the Peasmarsh A3100 roundabout is something I have not heard before.

    Broadford Bridge is too narrow for two lorries to pass and even two 4x4s find it difficult. The road is again too narrow (on a bend) just close to the roundabout when it passes over a bridge/culvert.

    I think the diversion of A281 should be over the Town Bridge.

    Please see my website that has the option of a tunnel-like route for the A281 or a less expensive arrangement where the southbound Onslow Street is rerouted to follow a widened Friary Street and then swerves round to miss the building that is listed next to Wagamama restaurant.

    The above arrangement allows the riverside regeneration to proceed with the Friary Bridge closed to traffic.

  4. M Durant Reply

    October 1, 2022 at 11:49 am

    All very reasonable questions, I would like to add there are high crime levels in the area; bringing more people into the area means more crime, and pressure on the infrastructure. People who are ill in Guildford, for example, are being sent to other areas to be seen. Someone I know from Guildford is currently staying at Frimley Park Hospital. Another friend from Guildford was sent to St George’s Hospital in Tooting.

    Some of my friends in Guildford can never get hold of their GP. Are they opening up more GP surgeries and adding another NHS hospital to the area? I don’t think so, but they are happy to spend three million to go ahead with the consultation for the master plan project.

    Another friend of mine in Guildford complained during the summer of being without water on three different days. He was also without electricity on two different days due to maintenance.

    Finally, several people I know in Guildford have moved out of the area because according to them is too busy, expensive and there aren’t well-paid jobs in their fields. Some companies have been moving out.

    Good luck with regenerating the area filling it with people during the likely recession. We need real jobs, not just zero-hour contracts or low-paid jobs. I am not sure those with mortgages will be able to keep up repayments anyhow, thanks to Liz Truss.

  5. RWL Davies Reply

    October 2, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Broadford Road and Broadford Bridge, as they currently stand, are completely unsuitable for A281 traffic. Is a new bridge and Broadford Road “improvement” in the offing then?

  6. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 3, 2022 at 8:13 am

    This is madness! Broadford Road is already jammed and the bridge is really only wide enough for one car. Who thinks up these crazy ideas?

    Commuting from the south would be at least 20 minutes longer, just to get to the town centre, let alone having to do a complete circuit around the one-way system to access offices at the southern side of Guildford.

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