What’s in a name?
Council officers have proposed to Councillors that the ‘Town Centre Masterplan’ be re-named the ‘Town Centre Framework’. The ‘Framework’, by their own admission the narrowest interpretation of what was to be the Masterplan, is to be adopted as an ‘Interim’ version by the Executive in mid-July.
In shuffling papers and plans in this way, I fear the Council and its officers are putting on blinkers yet again and shirking their key responsibility to make Guildford fit for the 21st century.
The elephant in the room, as always, is traffic. It blights Guildford life, it blights attempts to improve Guildford life, and it will blight the current large but piecemeal developments that the Council wants to forge ahead with, for immediate financial returns.
To bring Waitrose and John Lewis to the town, and homes and hotels to the station is admirable.
But unless there’s an accompanying traffic management masterplan, the long term prospect is more gyratory grief, bypass blockages and disconnected districts. Doing nothing is not an option; doing nothing will lead inexorably to a gradual disenchantment with the Guildford experience.
The Council really must provide the leadership, and provide it now, to bring the Highways Agency and the County Council together with it in a planning partnership. Together, they must produce an imaginative traffic solution that addresses all issues, including through traffic, beyond those just affecting the very tightly defined ‘town centre’ area.
This traffic trio must tackle the disconnection of vitally important areas such as the University & Research Park, the Hospital, Cathedral, Business Park and Slyfield. These areas help define and drive Guildford, along with all the other attractive elements that make up our great town.
We have to dump the madness of the three-lane gyratory race track that greets passengers leaving the station to head towards Guildford’s terrific shops, along a pavement that in places barely two people can pass safely.
I support the Guildford Vision initiative established by concerned residents who want a bright future for their town. But the work must also be picked up enthusiastically by the machinery of local democracy. Let’s put real life into Localism!