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Public Consultation Starts for Long-Awaited Regeneration of North Street

Published on: 8 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 8 Dec, 2020

Aerial view of the North Street site between the bus station and Leapale Road car park.

Community engagement for planning the long-overdue redevelopment of Guildford’s North Street begins this month, as St Edward Homes agrees terms with the borough council.

St Edward, a Berkeley Group and M&G Investments joint venture, will be sharing early ideas for a bus station, high-quality homes, a mixture of flexible commercial spaces and new public realm.

The company will host online sessions, starting at 6pm on December 14 for people to question the team, including the developer’s architects JTP. The session will also be recorded and posted on their website for those unable to attend the live meeting.

Viewers will be able to register for events and see plans, ideas and proposals at www.northstreetregeneration.co.uk as well as sign up to newsletters for information updates.

Residents are invited to feed into these early ideas, and input comments and suggestions for the designs throughout the planning process.

With pandemic restrictions likely for some time, St Edward will focus the consultation online through interactive events until it is safe for face-to-face consultation.

St Edward and GBC will work together with the intention that a planning application will be submitted in summer 2021.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Council leader Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), said: “This is an exciting moment for Guildford, marking the first key milestone in securing a high-quality new quarter for our historic town centre.

“We hope to conclude our negotiations with St Edward very soon and pave the way for them to acquire all the land required for their proposed development. For too long, proposals have long been discussed and never realised.

“With St Edward’s enviable record for delivery, we have the utmost confidence in them as the partner to turn these ideas into a reality, but we wish to stress the scheme needs to be right for Guildford.”

Cllr John Rigg

Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Christchurch), lead for Regeneration, said: “The final decision about the acceptability of any scheme will be down to the council as landowner and regeneration authority.

“We intend to work closely with St Edward to ensure our residents, businesses and those who work in the town have plenty of opportunities to have their say and help us shape the mixed-use development based on high-quality design and placemaking respectful of the historic town centre environment.”

Paul Vallone, executive chairman of St Edward Homes, said: “The North Street regeneration has the opportunity to be a high-quality development, which the community of Guildford can be proud of for generations.

“In these early stages, we want the people of Guildford and the surrounding community, regular visitors and workers coming into the town to help shape our plans, its architecture and what it can give back to the community.

“We will be starting a full programme of public engagement in December and we very much hope everyone will want to get involved.”

Asked if St Edwards intended to present style options to residents, a spokesperson said there “are no formal options or plans at this time”.

Alistair Smith, chair of the Guildford Society, said: “The Society welcomes plans for North Street being shown to the people. The site poses many challenges, especially as its focus has changed from retail to a housing-based development.

“It is a key site for the town centre, requiring a quality development that enhances the town. Although the site has been empty for many years, we must guard against having the wrong development.

“We hope the proposals will provide details on:

  • The scale of development, particularly its height. The development should fit the surrounding scale of buildings, normally five and six storeys, maximum;
  • How the bus station is to be provided, and changes this might mean for the wider traffic flows in the town centre;
  • How the development will enhance North Street;
  • Quality of design, responding to post-pandemic needs, for example dwellings that support working from home. How does it link to North Street and to the alleys/gates running across;
  • Public realm provision;
  • Parking provision, including impact on Leapale Road car park on key route to the new bus station; and
  • How the North Street proposals fit the emerging town centre masterplan.

Bill Stokoe

Bill Stokoe, chair of Guildford Vision Group, said: “At last there seems to be real progress in developing this significant town centre site. It’s stood barren for far too many years.

“The challenges of ‘Whither retail?’ and Covid have to be added to the mix, leading to development now being residential-led. I look forward to seeing the detail of the plans.

“GVG, with its successful lobby for a regenerating town centre masterplan, has always supported good development.

“But development of our town centre must accommodate its beautiful setting, interesting topography and great heritage. St Edward is part of the Berkeley Group that has a well-deserved reputation for handling sensitive sites sympathetically. I’m sure they will want to maintain their sympathetic approach and reputation here.

“Building height is an issue for our town, given its setting and topography. The 10-storey Solum precedent is an unfortunate one. Blame for that lies with the imperfect planning environment here. There is an absence of effective protective policies to steer the height of town centre development.

“Added to the dearth of policy is the apparent requirement to accommodate a new bus station on the site. That is a cost to any developer that can be recouped only through more intensive development.

“I’d rather see buses stopping nearer the railway station, to create a more effective transport hub. That way, North Street might not have to go so high.”

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test 5 Responses to Public Consultation Starts for Long-Awaited Regeneration of North Street

  1. Barry Williams Reply

    December 8, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Oh but that we could also relocate the telephone exchange as well. It is an important part of our communications infrastructure but think what could be done for affordable housing in the town centre if that plot were to become available.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    December 8, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    I will make no comment save to say an integrated bus train public transport system would be an interesting concept to explore at this stage

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    December 8, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    As Jim Allen has said -“an integrated bus and train public transport system would be an interesting concept to explore at this stage”. I would wholeheartedly support that.

    With Solum redevelopment of the rail station site, there is no viable option left to put the bus station there. So, where would the bus station be relocated that is close to the train station as well as the town centre?

    The answer is obviously the Bedford Road car park site. It would be possible to retain the car park but by building it underground if it is decided to be a permanent relocation. With the new Walnut Bridge, pedestrian and cycle access from the town centre to the rail station would be closer and more convenient.

    I have sent my ideas to the councils and I do hope they explore these. Possible solutions to Guildford traffic congestion, bus station relocation and redesigned bus routes together with a mini-hub in the North Street redevelopment site, would I hope, meet all the criteria of a quality relocation and maintain ease of access for all.

    I would post my document dealing with these ideas again here in the GDN in case not already seen by the readers. It can be found in https://drive.google.com/file/d/17Opbo82bOEHsteLU7e0dm_N3bKDhpHf3/view

    A Google account is needed to access this.

  4. Sarah Stanley Reply

    December 8, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    I agree with Jim Allen’s comments above – absolutely vital for the scheme.

  5. Bill Stokoe Reply

    December 9, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    Re Bibhas’s comments – this is just the sort of debate we should be having.

    There must be other ideas out there. Please share.

    Bill Stokoe is chair of the Guildford Vision Group

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