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‘This Should Be Guildford’s Masterplan’ GBC Leader Tells Executive As Next Stage Approved

Published on: 26 May, 2021
Updated on: 26 May, 2021

A key element of the plan is how Guildford’s traffic can be re-routed to allow better connection between the town centre and the riverside. Click on images to enlarge.

By Martin Giles

The first stage of a new “Strategic Masterplan Study” was well received by speakers from across the political spectrum at Guildford Borough Council yesterday evening (May 25) and the Executive voted unanimously to allow £1.1 million for it to proceed to the consultation stage.

A re-constructed town bridge could once again form part of a re-jigged road layout.

Central to the plan is:

  • opening up the riverside
  • moving traffic out of the town centre to allow reconnection of the centre with the river
  • creation of 4,000 homes in the town centre utilising space freed up by the reduced need for retail space
  • improved pedestrian and cycle routes into and through the town
  • creation of a green environment to help counter the threat of climate change.

See full presentation here.

Cllr John Rigg

The work is being led in hands-on fashion by Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), who in his career with Savills gained extensive experience of delivering large-scale development projects. He was previously chair of the Guildford Vision Group and in that role was critical of the council’s lack of vision and ability to improve the town centre.

Much of the detailed work is still confidential. Cllr Rigg has said this is necessary to prevent premature concerns over ideas still untested and in early stages. But there is little doubt that objections will come from those who feel adversely affected as more detailed proposals become known.

Cllr Jan Harwood

Deputy council leader Jan Harwood (Lib Dem, Merrow) said that the current council had resolved to meet local planning requirements in a way that was more supportive of town-centre regeneration, it was at the centre of its priority list.

He said: “As we all know there is a huge amount of interest and pressure to ensure that the Local Plan is up to date and delivering in a way that meets the needs of our local communities and… the town centre masterplan is an essential part of that.”

Cllr Paul Spooner

Former council leader Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), the only Conservative to comment, admitted feelings of “sour grapes” at being out of the decision-making process and echoed concerns expressed by Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) saying: “… a wealth of information has come in at the last minute, and there was no chance to work through it in the short-term, but that probably doesn’t matter because we are in this for the long game as a council.”

Cllr Spooner welcomed news of the consultation process which “seemed to go from every level from residents up to serious stakeholder”. He also welcomed the planning of envisioned infrastructure improvements.

His question was on the budget. “Overall this is a very bold masterplan project. It is extraordinary in terms of investment…” But was Cllr Rigg confident that the budget, as presented, will cover the full process or was he expecting “to have to come back for more money from the ‘money tree’?”

“That’s the $64 million question,” responded Cllr Rigg, adding that it was dependent on what was discovered through future work.

Funding the biggest change programme the town has ever seen presents a major challenge and many questions remain to be answered but the core funding is expected to come from the development of 4,000 homes in the town centre.

The plan sees the river providing an important communication route through the town as well as an accessible amenity.

Cllrs Tom Hunt, George Potter and James Steel for the Lib Dems, Ramsey Nagaty, leader of GGG, John Redpath and Chris Blow (R4GV) all commented in support of the proposal to continue the work with frequent compliments to Cllr Rigg for the work to date.

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

Cllr Nagaty said that the plan included: “The right development in the right place.”

A fundamental aspect of the plan is the re-routing of traffic within the town centre so that the A281 no longer cuts off the river from the town centre. Several possible solutions, not included in the published content, are understood to have been outlined by planners but all are likely to see serious objection from those adversely affected.

According to the presentation on the GBC website the project envisions: “…a future where we will be living in a more sustainable manner with more and better local facilities and some fundamental changes to our lifestyles, such as use of the car, work/life balance and living healthier, more active and fulfilling lives.”

The council leader, Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), in his concluding statement, stressed the need for the programme to be seen as an initiative supported by the whole community: “This should not be an R4GV masterplan, nor a Lib Dem/R4GV masterplan, not even a GBC masterplan. This should be Guildford’s masterplan, a plan that represents the hopes and aspirations of the whole community which delivers benefits for the whole borough.”

Cllr Bigmore’s statement in full:

This is a very important day for Guildford Borough. It may be the most important day for this administration.

This is the day where we say, enough is enough, we need a plan for Guildford that allows it to maximise its potential over the decades to come.

No more complacency, no more excuses about Masterplans being too difficult. Our town is choked by traffic, increasingly unaffordable to live and we are losing businesses to our near competitors.

Today we can choose a different path and frankly we would be negligent in our duty not to take it.

You’ve all seen and heard about examples of places from all over the country that have successfully master-planned, but you can also look closer to home, look at the regeneration of Farnham, Reading, Basingstoke, even Woking.

Some of those projects may not be to your taste but people and businesses are voting with their feet and we are losing our competitive position.

Guildford’s heritage is recognised as important.

We can’t let this continue. Guildford has every ingredient you need for a fantastic town. We have exceptional schools across both the state and independent sectors, we have an incredibly diverse higher education offering. We have a wide range of business with a large number in sustainable industries. We have Heritage and Culture, and we have our amazing countryside.

A good Masterplan will help coordinate and maximise that potential, it is incumbent on the whole Borough to make sure this Masterplan is great. This should not be an R4GV Masterplan, nor a Lib Dem/R4GV Masterplan, not even a GBC Masterplan.

This should be Guildford’s Masterplan, a plan that represents the hopes and aspirations of the whole community which delivers benefits for the whole Borough.

This will be a long journey; we are a little behind schedule, but I think you can see by the volume and quality of work the Team have produced in a short space of time we will be back on track shortly.

Tonight, we commit to the next stage of that journey, and I for one am very excited to be part of that.

See GBC webcast here.

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test One Response to ‘This Should Be Guildford’s Masterplan’ GBC Leader Tells Executive As Next Stage Approved

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    May 26, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    After many critical comments on the methodology and direction of many GBC planning documents. I recommend reading document 7.2 from this presentation. It is a delight to read in the main, especially section five is refreshingly honest. I will say no more on the subject, I am content.

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