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Plans Emerge For Ex-Debenhams in Second Consultation

Published on: 14 May, 2021
Updated on: 29 May, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Please scroll to the end of this story for images of the final store closure.

A second round of consultation on St Mary’s Wharf, the former Debenhams building on Millbrook has revealed how the scheme architects see the site developing.

St Mary’s Wharf plan being presented at the latest consultation.

The information shared by developer Native Land was praised, but there was disquiet that the height of the proposed building was not disclosed, nor was the amount of affordable housing.

The short consultation period, only 11 days until May 21, was also criticised and there was dismay, with climate change in mind, that the building will not be repurposed.

St Mary’s Wharf illustrative view.

A Native Land representative said the updated proposals reflected the feedback from the public after the consultation in March 2021 (see Debenhams Faces Demolition As People Asked How They Want It Rebuilt).

Support was reported as “strong” for the “new public access to the river, places to live, shop, eat and relax, and high standards of environmental sustainability”.

Illustrative view of St Mary’s Wharf across the river, showing what the architect called an “unexpected view of Holy Trinity & St Mary’s Church in between the buildings.

John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), lead councillor for regeneration, said GBC was collaborating with developers on sites such as St Mary‘s Wharf, including on the “need for public consultation at every stage of the development”.

He added: “Our policy is that 40% of all homes built must be affordable. We encourage a high-quality, residential-led redevelopment of the site that will create much-needed new homes and jobs and open up the riverside to the public.”

Taking a personal view, James Walsh (Labour, Stoke) said he had mixed feelings about the proposals. “The bottom line is that the development is about building expensive ‘luxury’ flats in the heart of Guildford, with a café or two and small grassy area bolted on to sweeten things.

“Not a lot of imagination, to be honest, and little to spark much enthusiasm. It’s hard to see how this is going to benefit anyone currently stuck on our housing waiting list.

“I will not be happy with anything less than 40% [affordable housing], and I would want some of that to include social housing and therefore be truly affordable.”

Alistair Smith, chair of the Guildford Society, welcomed opening up the site and the riverside walk but asked for the options to be visually modelled “to examine the impact on the town” and for the pedestrian link under Millbrook to the High Street re-opened.

He also called for wind effects need to be modelled to “ensure outdoor seating areas are not wind tunnels”.

Bill Stokoe, chair of the Guildford Vision Group, cautiously welcomed the latest presentation, saying the “cart has come before the horse” as the height of the two blocks was not yet revealed and there was “still some lingering dismay, with climate change in mind, at the choice of redevelopment rather than repurposing”,

He added: “The developer’s architect has responded positively to the first round of consultation, selecting the option that potentially delivers attractive riverside, pedestrian-friendly treatments and links, public space and a departure from the ‘Debenhams wall’.”

Closure of old store completed

Debenham’s finally closed it’d doors this week after a prolonged closing down sale.

Time to reflect?

In case you couldn’t tell: “This store is now closed.”

Images of empty shelves were submitted by an anonymous reader.

Nothing left but empty shelves.

PU ‘Leather” jacket for £2 anybody? In fact, have two!

Some of the final shoppers head for the exit.

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test 3 Responses to Plans Emerge For Ex-Debenhams in Second Consultation

  1. Dave Middleton Reply

    May 15, 2021 at 11:20 am

    Yes, questions still need to be answered, but at least it seems that it will be proper residential accommodation in the heart of the town, not yet more student accommodation as found in the growing student ‘ghetto’ rapidly approaching completion on Walnut Tree Close opposite Dapdune Wharf.

    As for repurposing the building, and speaking entirely as a layman, the current building is ugly and outdated and, I suspect, would be difficult to convert into flats that would meet current standards.

    I also suspect that over the lifetime of a new building, built with up to date materials and insulation, its long term environmental impact, particularly in terms of energy usage, would be less than a conversion.

    The building has had its time and I would welcome its demise and replacement with something more pleasing on the eye.

  2. Jeremy C Bridger Reply

    May 15, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    My enquiry is not about Debenhams but about whether Dragon NEWS could do a survey on the coffee shops in Guildford? It would be interesting to see how readers would react. There could be a table on how good or bad they are and an award for the one considered the best.

    Editor’s comment: We did conduct reviews early in the life of the Dragon (click here) we will consider the request but our small team may not have the time.

  3. Roger Main Reply

    May 29, 2021 at 10:23 am

    I ran this store for 15 years and was responsible for its upgrade in 2000 at a cost of over £14 million. It was a complicated refurbishment and I have to say the council at the time were not that helpful. We had to go to appeal at a cost of over £300,000.

    It is a complex building, and ideas previously expressed that it could be turned converted as an arts venue, or for public use were unrealistic, however well-meaning.

    The site is in a prime position and needs redevelopment. I think the proposed development looks good and will benefit the town.
    I just hope some of the GBC councillors agree, but I see 2000 looming again. I hope not.

    Also, may I say a thank you to all the loyal staff who are no longer employees, due to the greedy senior managers who milked the company dry and landed it with debt.

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