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Regeneration Strategy for Guildford Town Centre Approved

Published on: 25 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 27 Jan, 2017

A draft Guildford Town Centre Regeneration Strategy was agreed last night (January 24) by the Guildford Borough Council Executive as an aspirational document that sets out a recommended approach to delivering growth, developing previously developed land and driving significant town centre improvements.

The strategy outlines a structured approach to improving and investing in the town centre, as well as reconnecting with its historic riverside.

Cllr Paul Spooner

Cllr Paul Spooner, leader of the council, and lead councillor for planning said: “Guildford is already a successful and high-performing regional centre, but we must keep forging ahead to secure a strong, vibrant future for our local communities and economy.

“There are great opportunities, as well as challenges, in making the most of our dynamic and attractive town by revitalising underused areas and bringing the riverside to life. The proposed new strategy is a long-term look at how we could deliver significant, integrated and meaningful improvements in public spaces, homes, transport, roads, shopping and leisure balanced with protecting Guildford’s unique character.

“Public feedback on our ambitious vision in the Town Centre Master Plan helped inform the aspirations and work programme in the draft Town Centre Regeneration Strategy. Making this vision a reality will take time and appropriate investment, so this flexible strategy will continue to evolve as we deliver the schemes and projects that make much-needed transformation possible.”

The draft strategy also sets out a proposed work programme for our Major Projects Team. It will adapt over time to take account of new opportunities, external pressures, physical constraints and corporate priorities. Work on some of the schemes that will benefit the town are already underway, such as the new Walnut Tree Bridge and the Guildford Park Road car park new homes development.

The draft strategy is aspirational and is not a planning document. If and when a specific site is ready to progress it will need to be consulted on and determined individually through the planning application process.

Bill Stokoe, Guildford Vision Group

Bill Stokoe, a director of the Guildford Vision Group (GVG) commented: “GVG has been advocating a co-ordinated approach to town centre redevelopment for over four years. It believes that significant community benefits can only be achieved by a masterplan and ‘big picture’ approach, both in conception and delivery. The latter point is particularly crucial.

Many, if not all, the features of the council’s plan are those championed by GVG. The group has consistently called for:

·         More pedestrianisation of the town centre
·         Exciting new public space along the riverside
·         Redirection of vehicle traffic away from the centre
·         An integrated transport hub and interchange
·         New town centre housing
·         A new and better east-west link

The features bring considerable benefits: better leisure and community space, improved safety, less pollution, more efficient transport links and much needed homes that also sustain the centre’s economy.

There are great elements that set Guildford apart and make it special: its green belt setting, gap town and riverside location and fantastic heritage. There are also aspects that endanger it: congestion, lack of housing, the ’60s concrete legacy, indifference and a lack of drive, ambition and imagination.

At first glance, the somewhat piecemeal plan approach of the council has a yawning infrastructure gap. For a different and exciting take on how Guildford town centre and its infrastructure might develop, I hope, those interested, will come to the Baptist Centre, Millmead on February 1 at 7.00pm to see, hear and ask questions about GVG’s Plan. It has been shaped by comments gathered from residents, businesses and visitors.”

Julian Lyon

Speaking to the Executive last night, Julian Lyon, chairman of the Guildford Society said: “Thank you for continuing on the path to regenerating our town centre. It is of huge significance and massive importance to Guildford for the generations to come.

“Guildford Society members maintain some serious, healthy scepticism about some parts of the evidence our local economics group is nervous about the amount of retail envisaged in the plan. And the disparity between the numbers in the strategy versus the total borough requirement in the Local Plan. The desire for a John Lewis is driving the need for so much retail footprint and they argue that the case is not yet proven…

“Our design and heritage group is keen for Guildford to reimpose a county town architectural feel and a pallet of materials that complements the work already being done by you and your officers in planning the public realm.”

“I urge you all to be bold… don’t pick off the easy bits, do it all. Get the traffic out of more of the centre than with the Allies & Morrison plans. Guildford should not be about cars but about people. You can make this happen.”

Responding on the point about retail space Cllr Spooner said: “We have done the studies, we would not and M&G (owners of the Friary Shopping Centre and other parts of the North Street development area) would not be building out retail that would not be required. And whilst we are very aware of the changing circumstances all the feedback I have had to date has demonstrated the need. If and when that changes then obviously we will take due account of that.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Caroline Reeves, (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) and leader of the opposition was supportive: “I welcome this. I think that most of us are singing from the same page on this. I welcome the fact that so many of the residents in my ward, and much of this development is in my ward, are very supportive of this and I would just like to urge that we get on as quickly as we can…

“One of the key things we need to bear in mind, particular if we are thinking of ‘smart’ cities, is that we need to be very flexible in what we do because…, we might not be in the same place in ten years time and we need to be very flexible rather than be left with something that was wonderful when we built it but did not quite work ten years on.”

Cllr Matt Furniss

On the subject of transport and modal shift (i.e. the greater take up of journeys on foot, bike and public transport) deputy council leader Matt Furniss (Con, Christchurch) said: Modal shift is not going to be an easy solution because it requires a culture shift in the way we conduct our journeys…

“It is not going to be an instantaneous change, it will take a number of years but there will be small improvements at each point, because we are not looking to have a silver bullet to get everyone onto modal shift, the idea is to create the capacity to bring modal shift into our current network, and in future, an improved network as well, which will allow the network to flow freely but, at the same time, provide reliable journey times.”

Cllr Tony Rooth

The lead councillor for housing, Tony Rooth (Con, Pilgrims) said: The town centre Master Plan makes it clear that the core town centre area would be significantly improved with the main emphasis on the redevelopment of North Street and new flexible units provided to future-proof the town centre as retail trends and demands change over time.

“I would refer members, and indeed the public, to what is said about housing in this report. It is very helpful, it clearly indicates the extent of the problem that we have on housing from excess demand to insufficient supply. Clearly the council is making its very best efforts to add to the supply as much as we possibly can in order to try and, I won’t say decrease the level of prices, but to try and sustain both house prices and indeed rental lettings which are becoming much more of a factor for many people because clearly the can’t afford to buy and I regret to say many of them can’t afford to rent either.”

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Responses to Regeneration Strategy for Guildford Town Centre Approved

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 25, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    Modal shifts, cores, imposed pallets – is there no one who can simply uses the phase “organised sensible sequential planning?

    And has anyone seen the site for the new water reservoir and the new water pipe lines, the new electricity power lines or sourced the water supply yet?

    I guess “painting rotten wood” is the basic theme of the Guildford plan and still it continues apace.

  2. Wayne Smith Reply

    January 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    “The draft strategy also sets out a proposed work programme for our Major Projects Team. It will adapt over time to take account of new opportunities, external pressures, physical constraints and corporate priorities”. In other words, get ready for more piecemeal and uncoordinated developments.

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