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Walnut Bridge Construction Underway to Improve Town Centre Access for Pedestrians and Cyclists

Published on: 14 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 14 Jun, 2020

An artist’s impression of how the replacement bridge will look. Image GBC

Construction of a new wider bridge to replace Walnut Bridge across the River Wey is set to commence.

Together with a new landscaped plaza, the council intends it to offer an improved route into the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists.

The £5 million investment in Guildford town centre will, Guildford Borough Council claims, be a safer alternative to the crowded pavements of Bridge Street for residents, commuters and visitors.

The contractor has now been appointed and work is to begin on the off-site construction of the new Walnut Bridge, which will link Walnut Tree Close by the station to Bedford Plaza. Once the bridge is complete, it will be lifted into place on site. The new bridge is expected to open in December 2021 and it is DDA compliant.

A council spokesperson said: “As part of the scheme, new lighting and a newly-landscaped Bedford Plaza will make the area more appealing. The design includes places to sit and enjoy a peaceful moment at any time of day.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Leader of the council, Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem) ward councillor for Friary and St Nicholas in which the bridge lies, said: “The new bridge will offer a safer route into the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists, avoiding busy Bridge Street. As more people look to reduce their impact on the environment, improving the options for walkers and cyclists is a priority for the council as part of our plans to address climate change.

“I’m pleased that work can now begin to improve this area of Guildford, which will be of particular benefit to the 1,000 residents in new housing recently built in the Walnut Tree Close area.”

Local resident David Smith, a frequent user of the current bridge, says: “I am absolutely delighted to hear that work on the Walnut Tree Bridge will soon start. The bridge will make a huge contribution to the regeneration of the immediate area. And, for residents and visitors alike, it will create a much safer and more attractive connection between the town centre and the train station.”

The existing Walnut Bridge built as the sign says in 1986.

Cllr Reeves adds: “Students and staff who frequently walk to and from the County School on Farnham Road welcome a wider bridge that will be safer for pedestrians and cyclists.”

The scheme is a key part of the Council’s Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and Sustainable Movement Corridor initiatives and will include improving station and riverside access for pedestrians and cyclists, new landscaping, public art and open space for community events.

The bridge project was awarded Enterprise M3 LEP funding as part of the “Unlocking Guildford, Guildford Town Centre Transport Package” in 2014.

This project forms part of long-term plans developed by Guildford Borough Council and is supported by Surrey County Council to improve links within and around Guildford by providing improved travel routes for cyclists and pedestrians.

Cllr Tony Rooth

Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) has opposed the bridge replacement since at least 2018, before he joined R4GV. He said: “Walnut Bridge is a bridge gone too far to replace a bridge that appears structurally sound. £5 million should be used to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists but the new bridge will not rival the usual pedestrian route along Bridge Street to the station.

“This project remains premature when Bedford Wharf’s future is undecided. And £1 million spent on “landscaping “ around the car park and Odeon cinema is wasteful, even when the bridge is built.

“Does this bridge justify priority against much-needed town centre regeneration projects when both your council and Whitehall don’t have enough cash even for now, let alone the future.”

Alistair Smith, Chairman Guildford Society was also sceptical. He said: “The society is concerned about the rebuilding of the bridge as it is not yet clear how it links effectively to elsewhere in the town and onto Walnut Tree close.  Plans for effective sustainable movement corridors within the town are still awaited.

“The current bridge visually does not look in bad condition – although a repaint and repointing would be required.

“£5 million looks like a lot of money for an undistinguished design, other towns appear to get better value for money, for example Oxford.”

But Nigel Burke speaking on behalf of Guildford Bike User Group, G-BUG, was supportive of the new bridge. He said: “G-BUG is not qualified to comment on the structural soundness, cost v. value for money and priority of the bridge in town centre regeneration: these are matters for GBC.

“We support all improvements to cycling infrastructure in the town and a four-metre wide bridge is essential for cyclists and pedestrians to share (even more so if there is a future need for social distancing). We commented on the plans purely from a cycling perspective, expressing concern about matters such as the design of the ramp and access to the towpath.

“The council responded that the design represented a necessary compromise across a number of factors, such as space constraints and the impact of the ramp design on flood control. We are still in support as long as it is safe. It will also provide a much better connection from the station to the Bedford Wharf redevelopment site when that happens.

“We do however have concerns about the quality of the cycling connection across Walnut Tree Close through to the station’s main entrance and the cycle storage park, and also from Bedford Wharf to the town centre.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Cllr Joss Bigmore (Christchurch) explained the position of the R4GV group at Millmead, the second biggest group with 16 members: “R4GV have never supported this particular design for a replacement Walnut Bridge. Whilst the benefits of a new bridge are not in question this solution is expensive, premature and to our mind ugly. However, despite our best attempts, including a “call-in” to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, we lost the debate at Executive and the project moves forward.

“Our focus now will be improved project governance under the excellent stewardship of Cllr Rigg, so that we experience no more of the delays, cost overruns and design missteps that have plagued this crossing.”

GBC previously said that installation would be completed in the spring of 2020.

See archived stories on Walnut Bridge here.


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Responses to Walnut Bridge Construction Underway to Improve Town Centre Access for Pedestrians and Cyclists

  1. Frank Emery Reply

    June 14, 2020 at 10:05 am

    I think the council should look at regenerating the whole area around the “plaza”. Why not reopen the restaurant, which has stood empty for years?

    This would encourage people to use Walnut Bridge rather than the Bridge Street option, knowing there was somewhere to get a drink and something to eat.

    And regenerate the riverside like other towns and cities do.

    Also, release some of the invested funds and make Guildford great again.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      June 14, 2020 at 1:02 pm

      “Why not reopen the restaurant?”

      Because it’s been leased to the cinema and planning permission for two more screens approved.

      Paul Spooner has tweeted that the previous administration wanted to create an entertaining meeting point on the plaza with water-jet fountains and not wait for an overall Town Centre plan.

      Apparently £0.5m (taken from Transport fund) for landscaping is cheap.

  2. Steve Grove Reply

    June 14, 2020 at 11:41 am

    You leave the station, cross the slip road for taxis, walk through the station car park, cross Walnut Tree Close (no pedestrian crossing here), through a narrow walkway (competing with cyclists) onto this new wider bridge. All good so far?

    Crossing the revamped plaza past a car park on the right and the entry to Bedford Road car park, past The Casino site to Onslow Street where you turn right on a narrow footpath to reach the pedestrian crossing at the bottom of Onslow Street. Alternatively, you just use Bridge Street; it is shorter and quicker.

    I am in favour of improving pedestrian and cycle routes, but this bridge doesn’t solve any problems unless the whole route from the station to the town centre is addressed. The bridge alone does not do this.

  3. Heather Archer Reply

    June 14, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    So, as a 77-year-old walker, having been nearly run over several times on the towpath by cyclists, I now look forward to dodging the increased number of inconsiderate cyclists on the new wider bridge.

  4. John Perkins Reply

    June 15, 2020 at 9:22 am

    It’s probably been mentioned before, but GBC seem to be suffering from “Sunk Cost Fallacy”.

    A cheap new bridge integrated with a local scheme would still be cheaper and better than continuing with this expensive option out of fear of having to repay a grant.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      June 15, 2020 at 7:21 pm

      Has anybody measured the bridge span of the cycle/footbridge at Stoke “Interchange”.

      With the “improved” junction and its “intelligent” traffic lights, it was due to be removed in a few months.

      Maybe the deck is wide enough to span the river?

  5. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    June 15, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    I agree with John Perkins that instead of spending £5.1 million, GBC could repay LEP the £1.5m grant and still build a simple straightforward but wider bridge as described in my earlier letter. This would have a minimal encroachment to Plaza area and there would then be no requirement for the Plaza development to be completed at the same time.

    The Plaza development could then be considered and planned more carefully to allow flexible usage and avoid the massive ramps that are now included in this scheme.

  6. Gina Redpath Reply

    June 16, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    I agree with both Bibhas Neogi and John Perkins and would add that sharing a walkway with cyclists seems extremely dangerous, it isn’t allowed on pavements why on earth is it allowed on a bridge?

  7. John Beynon Reply

    June 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Much as I welcome any proposal to improve the pedestrian/cycle link between the station and the town centre, the plan for the replacement of the present bridge suffers a major deficiency: having crossed the river, one is immediately confronted with having to traverse Walnut Tree Close. So much for trying to separate pedestrians and cyclists from vehicular traffic.

    In response to a previous questionnaire, I suggested that the bridge should have continued on an upward incline to deliver people to the higher level of the station concourse. I can only imagine that it’s now too late to air the suggestion again.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      June 17, 2020 at 4:30 pm

      I expect Walnut Tree Close would be altered at this location and a pedestrian and cycle crossing would be installed when Solum relocates the station entrance that lines up with the crossing.

      I have advocated for a high level covered walkway for many years that would have connected with the footbridge over the platforms and a modified Friary entrance, again at a high level, making a safer route for pedestrians. This is shown on my website.

      If this scheme goes ahead, the council should consider retaining the existing bridge and provide for a connection with the new one at the eastern end near where the current ramp is located.

  8. Bill Stokoe Reply

    June 17, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    See my letter regarding a 3D model of the town to aid major planning.

    If Guildford had such a model, John Beynon’s suggestion could easily be tested, as could the relationship of the new bridge to Bedford Square. And residents could view it to help form their own view on this and other schemes.

    Bill Stokoe is chair of Guildford vision Group (GVG)

  9. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    June 17, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    GBC in the past and in the present seems to suffer from delusions of grandeur. They want to spend a fortune on a bridge with unsatisfactory access from Walnut Tree Close and even more money on Bedford “Plaza”.

    Who came up with that name? A plaza usually has buildings of significant interest surrounding it and is a vibrant hub. It would appear GBC considers an extended cinema (glorified sheds), a multi-storey car park and an off-road car park to be significant. There are no plans for a restaurant with outdoor seating, just some expensive seats dotted about among a few expensive plants.

    We’ve already had “The Village” – what a waste of money. We have Tunsgate “Quarter” and now we’re going to have a Plaza too – how lucky we are to have all these amazingly named attractions. Just call it Bedford Square and have done with it.

  10. Anna Deadman Reply

    June 18, 2020 at 8:19 am

    I am worried how this is seemingly being done in isolation. What happens once you get to Bedford Road with your bike or on foot? Do you then have to navigate the narrow pavement by the old nightclub to get to the crossing to the Friary? A better approach would be to get to the bottom of North Street.

    And also how does it improve the link to Walnut Tree Close which also has pretty narrow pavements. I hope this will include making Walnut Tree Close one way and putting in a good cycle lane.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      June 18, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      Anna Deadman asks a good question. The bottom of North Street is reached once Onslow Street is crossed. The narrow pavement by the old nightclub could be widened if the road is narrowed to a single lane instead. This could be done when a route through Walnut Tree Close (WTC) is improved for traffic heading for Woodbridge Road.

      A possible solution would be to widen Walnut Tree Close from Bridge Street junction to Station View exit from the railway station. The earth embankment and part of the wall by Station View could be removed to make room for this.

      A pedestrian and cycle crossing would take the users to the new bridge. Beyond this WTC would be one-way single lane northwards up to a new bridge over the river by the Court building to Mary Road.

      Traffic from the closed lane on Bridge Street and Onslow Street would use this route to access Woodbridge Road via Leas Road.

      This then would be a possible scenario of a holistic approach rather than infrastructure work done in isolation. In addition, the north footway in Bridge Street could be widened and a cycle lane provided in place of the closed lane. Of course, funding is needed for a new river bridge and when GBC starts charging Community Infrastructure Levy, it would be in a better position to fund such work.

  11. Martin Elliott Reply

    June 18, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    Many of the queries about the extent of this project, west bridge portal, Walnut Tree Close controlled crossing are clearly covered in the current planning application folder.

    One point I’ve only just realised, is the designation in the adopted Local Plan – well who wanted to follow all the twists and turns?

    The early draft had Bedford Wharf as an entire development area extending over the car park, garages to the back of Bridge Street shops. A sensible area for development and improvement and GBC owned the freehold.

    For some reason the adopted LP, the so-called Bedford “Plaza” only extends to the roadside parking bays.

    So what is the plan to develop and make attractive the other grotty part of The Wharf and possible riverside access?

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