Fringe Box



Opinion: Yes, We Do Need a Masterplan

Published on: 19 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 21 Aug, 2023

Bibhas Neogi

By Bibhas Neogi

Bill Stokoe says “Guildford Needs a Masterplan”. I agree and considerable work has already been done. Since both development and reducing congestion are matters for the GBC and SCC jointly, they need to draw from those ideas and together produce a preferred solution.

Mr Stokoe mentioned Guildford Vision Group (GVG) had advocated such a plan and it did indeed procure a plan prepared by Allies and Morrison.

This plan was accepted by GBC but not taken on board formally. That plan however did not address traffic and flooding issues.

The last administration was engaged in developing “Shaping Guildford’s Future” but I am not sure this project will continue following a review of expenditure.

The most important issue is flood control in the town centre and the risks are increasing due to changes in climate producing much heavier rainfall over short periods of time and causing severe flooding.

However, the relevant Environment Agency report is worrying. It states “We also investigated storing floodwater upstream of Guildford. We looked into whether this could lower the height of the flood defences in the town centre but still provide a high level of protection.

“However, delivering upstream storage is facing considerable technical, environmental and cost issues. Therefore it is unlikely to go ahead.”

I did suggest GBC look into private initiatives in creating reservoirs with leisure activities as mentioned in the document “New solutions to Guildford traffic” in which I mention the example of the Ecopark in Kolkata. And maybe such an approach could contribute to raising funds necessary for such a project here.

GVG offered a solution to deal with the traffic. Their proposal was to divert traffic from the south to the west over a modified Farnham Road Bridge and run a new link parallel to Guildford Park Road. This route was then going to cross back to the east to join York Road roundabout.

Mr David Ogilvie, local planner and architect, also proposed a scheme using a similar new crossing of the railway and the river but making it a one-way clockwise two-lane route through York Road and then a tunnel to Shalford Road exiting close by Racks Close.

He also proposed an alternative tunnel crossing on the same alignment but its profile and levels achievable within the constraints were somewhat difficult to accommodate.

But both the above-mentioned surface solutions were no longer possible due to Solum’s unpopular regeneration the construction of the “Great Wall of Guildford” at the railway station site.

I put forward a proposal with a view to creating a totally pedestrian-friendly town centre by lowering the A281 into an underground tunnel-like structure. This was to be for the Millbrook and Onslow Street sections.

I also proposed a crossing further north of the railway station area bypassing it and going through Jewson’s yard in Walnut Tree Close. These two together would have enabled removal of the gyratory and associated congestion.

Accepting the fact that lowering the A281 would be quite an expensive scheme, I then proposed an option of diverting southbound lanes of Onslow Street from the North Street junction. It would proceed towards Friary Street behind the buildings that are to be demolished and the route then veering west rejoining Millbrook just before Town Bridge.

Reopening Town Bridge and making it a one-way, two-lane route to the Portsmouth Road junction, makes it possible to divert northbound traffic to Park Street.

Such a solution achieves a partially pedestrian-friendly town centre but at an affordable cost. This would then allow regeneration of the riverside and the closure of Friary Bridge to motorised traffic. Riverside regeneration was part of the town centre masterplan by the then R4GV lead councillor John Rigg.

I hope GBC continues with the development of the “Shaping Guildford’s Future” project. Almost all aspects of a masterplan are already available to them for incorporation into a coherent plan. Detailed designs could be worked up by Surrey CC for roads in consultation with GBC without further delay.

See: £3m Allocated for Next Stage of ‘Shaping Guildford’s Future’ Masterplan

St Edward has submitted a revised plan for North Street that is now open for comments. Native Land, the developer of the former Debenhams site, is still working behind the scenes for compliance with pre-commencement conditions. There isn’t much else in the way of development in the town centre.

The masterplan should be presented for public consultation, modified if necessary and firmed up for design and execution. My suggestions are available and can be seen here.

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