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Photo Feature: Sunny Town ‘Buzzing’ On Car-Free Day

Published on: 27 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 28 Sep, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

A sunny car-free day in Guildford town centre on Sunday (September 26) was voted a success by visitors, shops, street traders and children playing in Tunsgate.

The change to the upper High Street was impressive once free of cars. Click on the images to enlarge.

However, fewer roads closed by Surrey County Council than expected at the event organised by Guildford Borough Council and others. It was held in the High Street, upper High Street and a partially closed North Street.

But it was popular with those attending. One shopper in Tunsgate watching the children playing said: “I’m really impressed that Guildford is doing something like this. The town’s buzzing today. Please do it every week.”

A traffic steward at the top of North Street said only about 10% of those she had spoken to had been negative about the traffic restrictions.

Shop owners were generally positive about the event. One trader said: “It’s brought a lot of people into the town.”

Another said: “It would be better if the park and ride was running but it is a wonderful thing.”

David Stokes, who started the car-free day petition with Guildford Borough Council around two years ago, talked to the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCCAR) in North Street.

David Stokes, chairman of the Holy Trinity Amentity Group, said: “It shows what can be achieved in the town centre in a vibrant way. I’ve never seen so many people here on a Sunday.”

University of Surrey researchers took live readings at the bottom of North Street and said it was twice the UK recommended levels (for PM2.5), even on a car-free day.

Friary Street was pedestrianised years ago and is now a hub for pavement dining.

Guildford Borough Councillor, Maddie Redpath, (R4GV, who helped to organise the day, said: “It proves the point, people want to come into town. Most people have said make it bigger. We will do it again but there has been a lot of money [spent] to make this happen.”

The leader of Guildford Borough Council, Joss Bigmore (R4GV), and deputy leader, Jan Harwood (Lib Dem),  peddling furiously making a smoothie with bike power. They were being cheered on by councillors John Redpath, Maddie Redpath and James Steel.

Cllr Jan Harwood said: “I’m extremely pleased with the fantastic turn out. It shows people really care about climate change.”

Guildford residents Angela and Chris with Oliver, four and George, one. Chris said: “Lovely idea. It’s awesome. I wish they would do it every week.”

Tunsgate was very busy with outdoor eating and the happy sounds of children playing and painting. “The street play has been busy all day,” said a member of Guildford Borough Council’s community wellbeing team.

Dozens of children throughout the day helped to paint a Guildford scene under the Tunsgate portal. It was sponsored by the lettings agency, The Home Club.

Artist Nathalie Beauvillain-Scott was helped by children to paint a Guildford scene. “The children loved it, we must have had about 100 children here. It really looks good and we will be exhibiting it in GUArt in Swan Lane,” she said.


The wonderful sight of children playing in the street again.

National climate change group, Take The Jump, was in North Street and the High Street talking to people about making six shifts in behaviour for just a month. Tom Bailey, a national Jump organiser, said: “Guildford is pioneering this citizen led climate movement.

“People are increasingly scared about climate change and ready to make changes. The Jump is about the wonderful things we can do without consuming.”

Take The Jump is asking people to make small changes. Jump organiser, Tom Bailey (on the right), said: “Small changes can make big differences. Sign up to The Jump and support each other.”

The High Street, already pedestrianised, was also very busy with a vegan market.

The vegan market was in full swing in the High Street on car-free day.

Also in Guildford for the car-free day was the Surrey Rock Choir, singing outside The Friary shopping centre and making a welcome return after the Covid restrictions.

And the Chantry Singers also got in on the act with a performance outside the Guildhall.

The Chantry Singers outside of Guildhall, entertaining the High Street.

Kerry Jane who lives in Epsom said: I didn’t know what a vibrant place Guildford is.”

Spotted in the crowd Alderman and former Mayor of Guildford Keith Childs with his wife Lesley. They said: It is great to see people on the street enjoying themselves and things returning to normal.

And, with eerie timing on car-free day, people were struggling in Guildford and around the country to buy fuel for their vehicles.

A hand-written sign in a Guildford petrol station saying “Sorry No diesel” on car-free day.

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