Fringe Box



Railway Station Plan Rejected and ‘Should be Shunted Into A Siding’

Published on: 30 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 4 Jul, 2016
Artist's impression of the latest plan for a redeveloped railway station from Solum.

Artist’s impression of Solum’s proposed redeveloped railway station.

A controversial planning application for the redevelopment of Guildford railway station was refused on Wednesday (June 29) by Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) planning committee.

Following advice from their planning officers the 19 councillors present voted unanimously to reject the application.

Council leader Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), revealed, during declarations of interest, that one of the meetings he had held with Solum culminated in him asking them to leave, so he felt he had a bias and had decided to withdraw from the council chamber while the application was considered.

During the debate much of the stated criticism related to the scale and design of the proposed development, although it was acknowledged that it would provide a significant number of much needed homes.

Concerns were also expressed about the amount of “affordable” homes included. The 10% figure was considered by most speakers to be far too low.

Artists impression of how a redeveloped station would look from the junction of the gyratory and Walnut Tree Close looking north.

Artists impression of how a redeveloped station would look from the junction of the gyratory and Walnut Tree Close looking north.

Solum, the consortium between Network Rail and Keir Property, making the application, are now able to appeal the decision with the Planning Inspectorate but one experienced planning committee member commented that it was not their usual practice.

Peter Hughes, director at Solum

Peter Hughes, director at Solum

Peter Hughes, a director at Solum, said: “We are disappointed that the planning officers are recommending refusal. For the past five years we have worked closely with them and Guildford stakeholders to develop a scheme for the station site.

“Network Rail has a target to deliver 36,000 homes during this parliament and to generate millions that can go towards station improvements.

The scheme delivers 438 homes…

“The scheme delivers 438 homes… this is the sustainable way to meet housing needs while protecting the green belt.”

Cllr Bob McShee

Cllr Bob McShee

Bob McShee (Con, Worplesdon), known to be a railway aficionado, said: “What Solum is proposing is not a station redevelopment but only a redevelopment of the land on the east side of the station.

“The original Guildford Station was a Victorian structure so it would have been aesthetically pleasing to have seen some brickwork features included in the station building.

Also the station platforms should be renovated to a traditional design, similar to the style which Network Rail used when they redeveloped Birmingham Snowhill station.

This scheme should be shunted into a siding…

“This scheme should be shunted into a siding and then a first class scheme should be prepared by Solum which would be acceptable to passengers and the residents of Guildford.”

Mark Rostron of the Guildford Hackney Association

Mark Rostron of the Guildford Hackney Association

Mark Rostron, of Guildford Hackney Association spoke to point out a perceived weakness in the planned facilities for taxis. He said: “The proposed plan repeats the mistake of having the tail of the taxi rank nearest the station entrance and the head of the rank as far as possible from the entrance. [Passengers] would have to walk further to the head of the rank while being exposed to the elements.

“Shockingly for a “flagship” station there is only space for three taxis on the proposed taxi rank. Another nine would have to wait in an overflow rank situated on the far side of the station plaza.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves, (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “I have concerns about the design and scale of this development. This is an opportunity to create a new community in a highly sustainable location, instead of which we have an unbroken length of mass along the track side bearing no relation to the immediate setting of the old industrial buildings and the neighbouring conservation areas.

“The development will damage the wider townscape when viewed from the many different and varied points, the bulk, scale and mass will overwhelm the heritage assets as well as the natural vistas.

“This is not a new train station for Guildford, it is basically a new ticket hall in new surroundings of flats, retail and a multi-storey car park. I find the fact that there are no lifts to be installed absolutely astonishing… We all know it is very busy, and disabled access in rush hours is extremely challenging.”

…reminds me of some of the worst developments of Guildford’s past…

Cllr Nils Christiansen

Cllr Nils Christiansen

Cllr Nils Christiansen said: “This scheme reminds me of some of the worst developments of Guildford’s past, a combination of the scale, the massing, the height and a total failure to integrate with the other elements of the town.

“Things like The Friary, Debenhams, the twin towers at the bottom of The Mount [Bishop’s Court] all spring to mind and this is all those things mashed into one.

“We were very clear, all the way back in our Local Plan of 2003, that there were elements of the town centre that were unacceptable, that were mistakes of the past and this would simply repeat those mistakes.”

To see the full debate on the GBC website click here.

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Responses to Railway Station Plan Rejected and ‘Should be Shunted Into A Siding’

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    June 30, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Solum’s planning application has been refused (on June 29 not Jan 29). This is good news for Guildford. The station and its surrounding area need a proposal that is in keeping with Guildford’s character and not becoming a clone of Croydon.

    The councils must seriously consider a new east west route over the tracks if Guildford’s traffic congestion is to be relieved. They should urgently consider safeguarding the route now.

    My suggestions are on my website for a holistic solution to Guildford’s traffic both in the town and the A3.

    • Mark Rostron Reply

      July 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Yes. Another bridge would solve a lot of problems.

      Mark Rostron represents the Guildford Hackney Association.

  2. David Smith Reply

    July 1, 2016 at 11:18 am

    It may be good news – but I really feel the council and planners need to work better with Solum. How did Solum end up submitting something wildly unacceptable to everyone – were they given no guidance at all? This is after all their second application were there no pre-application meetings?

    There is a risk with money drying up everywhere that they will just leave Guildford and focus on another site which would mean no investment at all.

    Also. regarding Bibhas Neogi comments, how would this affect the closure of Walnut Tree Close?

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Both options proposed by the councils would mean getting to the station is restricted to coming off the gyratory. Access from the north to the station would be blocked.

    Solum’s proposal is likely to compromise any route over the tracks and the housing proposed would have poor access especially during peak periods.

    Councils have failed to come up with a viable traffic proposal that reduces congestion in the town centre and railway station area as well as in creating a transport hub where buses connect with the station.

    I have proposed opening up a route by extending Station View to connect with the road that now leads only to Jewsons Yard off Walnut Tree Close. The strip of land along the western edge (currently inside the yard) and the railway lines has been safeguarded in 2003 Local Plan for this very purpose. A one-way loop could be created to allow southbound traffic to access the station via Station View and then exit via the one-way northbound Walnut Tree Close (WTC).

    I have my suggestions for possible improvements as described with sketches on my website. The WTC problem could be solved first and then the future improvements could follow. I suggest David Smith visits my website, if he has not already done so.

  4. Ian Macpherson Reply

    July 1, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Solum were present at an earlier public meeting put on by the Guildford Society, at which the proposals were discussed in some detail. The developers will have come away with a pretty clear idea of what might be generally acceptable.

    They did, following that, reduce building heights somewhat in amendments to the current application but not as much as then implied. There were other points of issue raised at the same time – the “wall” character, for example.

    Subsequently Solum chose a different strategy, possibly with an eye on an Appeal in due course. A late application paper has been submitted which goes through a wide range of points at issue, with the intention of showing that the application complies with the word of all the relevant published planning policies.

    There is no pressing reason to rebuild the main building of the present station: the time will come when projected major track works could force a rebuild and a rebuild now might prejudice this.

    The Solum proposal is largely a re-use of the former sidings land as a housing estate – a valuable move but not, perhaps, what most people think of.

  5. Aubrey Lehay Reply

    July 3, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Latest proposal looks mundane and utterly bereft of originality to say the least. After the roaring success of the Hindhead Tunnel I am surprised no use of the land underneath the station area has been proposed.

    What about holding an international architectural competition and finding something completely different and original? It needs fresh eyes for a fresh solution.

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