GVG 2018 Round Up

GVG 2018 Round Up 533 400 Lisa Flounders

New Houses – Town Before Green Belt
The main focus of attention in 2018 has been the Local Plan. We think it is still unsound. As we pointed out in our last Update, our main contention is that the council has not made enough effort to find new housing sites in the town centre. By its own rules it has to look for sites in the centre before moving out further. We think it has made the leap to the Green Belt sites too quickly.

At first glance these sites, as virgin territory, might seem the easiest on which to build the required number of homes to meet the government’s five year supply target. But when you look closely, the arguments against the Green Belt sites, apart from the obvious loss of amenity, begin to stack up.

Green Belt Sites Infrastructure Challenges
Guildford has problems when it comes to sewage and electricity, for example, certainly when it gets to the Slyfield and Gosden Hill Farm sites. Wisley, another site, presents considerable road infrastructure challenges, as does Blackwell Farm. These latter challenges all rely on major improvements to the A3 through Guildford, improvements that have yet to be fully scoped and finally timetabled, let alone funded.

None of these issues, including the sewage and sparks, is ever going to be sorted in under five years and probably not under ten years.

Town Centre Housing More Sustainable
So back to the town centre. GVG has consistently maintained that building new homes in the town centre is a much more sustainable approach. Yes, such development will bring its own infrastructure challenges. But such housing is unlikely to create as many car journeys, for example, as the strategic sites on the edges of town or further away.

Town centre housing will mean people can walk to the rail and bus stations, and to the shops, restaurants and cinema. They will be able to cycle along the towpath to the attractions alongside the river.

Town Centre Capacity Exists
If the council is prepared to use its compulsory purchase powers, decent housing sites can be assembled more quickly and brought into development more quickly than the precious Green Belt sites. These are just some of the arguments for a proper plan and design envelope for the town centre. It would mitigate the impact of the current opportunistic development we are seeing, for example, along Walnut Tree Close and its environs.

Here we are seeing unnecessary building heights of ten storeys or more. Curiously, this land is not identified as available for housing in the Local Plan. Assuming more permissions are granted, ie the council has inadequate policies to refuse them, it just shows the considerable capacity of the town to accommodate new housing not included in the council’s Local Plan calculations.

Examine Town Centre Policy At Next Hearings
Which brings us back to the next public hearings for the Local Plan – scheduled for 12-13 February 2019. At the moment, the inspector only intends to look again at the housing numbers in the light of the recent downward revision by the ONS of the population projections.

We want the inspector to look also at the town centre policy, S3, which he himself called for as a ‘Main Modification’. In particular, Inspector Bore asked the council questions about the town centre which have yet to be adequately answered. He also invited the council to cooperate with resident groups on the new draft town centre policy. The council chose to disregard the invitation.  We believe that, to create a sound Plan, adequate policies related to the Town Centre must be included in the February hearings. The allocated town centre regeneration area should also be subject to the Place Shaping requirements of Policy D1.

Solum Solutions

The other topic that has occupied our time during 2018 is the impact of the Solum development. As you may recall, Solum was granted permission on appeal to build its ten storey monster stretching for 300 metres alongside the tracks on the eastern side of the station (the Walnut Tree Close side). What has temporarily halted us in our tracks is that the northernmost element of the scheme blocks the route for our new crossing proposal.

Rather than sticking to ‘there is no alternative’, we are looking, Brexit-like, at a range of options. We remain determined to find a solution. We will leave no stone unturned to find a way to move the traffic away from the centre, reduce pollution and serious accidents, and to free up the bottom of town for pedestrianisation down to the river.

Staying On The Rails
Another line of work has been the railway system. We want to see better facilities at the station than those incorporated in the Solum scheme. There are a lot of behind the scenes studies underway or recently completed by Network Rail and others to shape rail services, both existing and new. What’s needed to link better to Heathrow? How might Crossrail 2 impact services to Guildford? What track and platform changes are required to enable more trains to run through Guildford? How might the railway system help take more cars off the road, linked to new and revitalised local stations?

Remain Regional Hub
All these matter if we are to remain the regional hub, remain economically vibrant and able to manage the integration of the 25,000+ new people coming to live in and around our lovely town. All this while ensuring Guildford and its surroundings retains its unique character and becomes an even more attractive location in which to live and work.

Leave Land For Infrastructure
The development of land on the west side of the station is a key part of GVG’s own masterplan for the town. If used wisely it can help overcome some of the infrastructure challenges facing the town, not least the constriction of the inadequate and ailing Farnham Road Bridge.

If our infrastructure is to become more resilient in the face of the new housing on the edges of town, then logic suggests we need another east/west rail and river crossing. The forthcoming strengthening project for the Farnham Road Bridge will inevitably show up the frailty and fragility of routeing options in our town.

No Bad Deals
This year saw another prime example of the need for a town centre masterplan. The council, fresh from the experience of losing £1.2mill on the ill-fated pop-up Village, has managed to spend £1mill on a new bridge project without any metal being cut or concrete poured.

The costly £3.7mill cycle and pedestrian project, replacing the current serviceable bridge linking Walnut Tree Close to Bedford Square, is going ahead (with an apparently dangerous design) before there are any settled plans to develop the Bedford Square area. At the station end, the new, wider pedestrian & cycle bridge will feature a light-controlled toucan crossing, not many metres from the existing pelican crossing.

There Must Be Better Ways
If the justification is increased footfall and cycle trips, how can any meaningful supporting ‘traffic’ data be gathered before the Bedford Square scheme is drawn up, plus new schemes further into town – not least the long-awaited North Street redevelopment? The argument for pressing on is that (LEP) funding has been secured and must be spent within a certain timeframe.

Surely, in the 21st century, we can organise things better than that? Incidentally, one of our engineering contacts reckons they can design, build and erect a perfectly suitable bridge for £500,000. A makeover of the existing bridge would cost even less.

Our Letter To Santa
What goodies is GVG hoping for in 2019? Better relations with the council is number one. There are signs that matters are improving. We are, after all, a group of concerned residents. And we are all ratepayers.

We take comfort from the fact that at our last public meeting, 150 of you turned up and shared your concerns about aspects of planning and the soundness of the new Local Plan – not the most enticing topic, yet you came. Again, nearly 10,000 clicked on the link to the webcast that recorded the proceedings, almost matching the response we achieved when we launched our masterplan in February 2017.

We are very grateful for your support and we look forward to the challenges that 2019 will bring.

A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all our supporters!

Click  here to download the newsletter.


GVG Newsletter July 2018: GVG responds to Inspector’s Local Plan demands

GVG Newsletter July 2018: GVG responds to Inspector’s Local Plan demands 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

Lobbying Result – A New Town Centre Policy!
The Council must produce a new Policy for the Town Centre in the new Local Plan. This is the important demand from the Inspector examining the new Local Plan. He made his decision after hearing from GVG at the formal Local Plan hearings held over the past month.

It’s a Real Result!
For GVG that’s a real result. It’s a result for all our lobbying and the input from the professionals advising us. It’s a vindication of all our lines of argument over the past six years. The Inspector clearly believes the Town Centre deserves better and more specific treatment. It’s a challenge the Council now has to pick up.

Our Comments are Official!
The Inspector called on us to comment on the first draft of the new Policy, produced overnight by the Council, at the hearing. This we have done and he has declared our initial comments an ‘Examination Document’, ie part of the official record.

The new Local Plan, costing ratepayers millions, is meant to map out the town’s future until 2034. It defines what is wrong with the town, how to address the issues and where to build new homes.

Housing – We Say Brownfield First
During the hearings we highlighted where we thought there were serious omissions and errors of commission in the Council’s Local Plan.

We made the case for more housing in the Town Centre, stating that the Council should concentrate more on brownfield sites, thus relieving pressure on the Green Belt. Other groups supported this line of argument, most notably The Guildford Society.

Our Masterplan Shows The Way
As a follower of GVG, you will be aware of how we would like the centre to look and why there’s a pressing need for change. Our masterplan is on our website at

We have pursued a constant line about the need for a Town Centre masterplan in the years leading up to the hearings, making comprehensive submissions to all the formal consultations launched by the Council.

The Centre Will Be Busier
Residents, businesses and commuters need a secure future here. Over the plan period an extra 30,000 residents will arrive. Increased pressure will also arise from adjoining boroughs that are expanding as well, where their residents pass through or use Guildford town centre.

GVG Calls Must Be Heeded
As well as calling for much needed housing in the centre, we have repeatedly called for new infrastructure. But repeatedly our calls on the latter and the other important town centre issues have been rejected by the Council leadership.

The Inspector Agreed With Us
But they weren’t rejected by the Inspector. Indeed he used powerful and graphic language to describe issues in the town centre, including what he saw as the appalling experience for pedestrians in the town centre, and the lack of any cohesion and design standards across the areas of the town centre away from the High Street and historic core.

We all know the eyesores and disconnected parts of the town centre he’s referring to. He asked some pithy questions on the North St development site and the long delays in any progress.

New Policy Just For Town Centre
So there needs to be a plan for the centre, and the policy underpinning it (now labelled S3) must be in the new Local Plan. You can’t deliver quality with an ad hoc approach to town planning. Policy S3 should concentrate solely on the town centre. The Council’s initial S3 draft included policy on the other urban areas of the Borough. We say the latter should be incorporated in a new policy, Policy S4. Take a look at our proposals for S3 & S4, and additional info.

Another Autumn Consultation Looms
At the end of the hearings, in an informal summing up, the Inspector has declared that he sees the Council’s Plan as substantially sound, which must be a great relief to the officers and lead councillors. However, the Inspector’s view is subject to a number of ‘Main Modifications’ he has asked to be made to the Plan by the Council, not least the new Policy S3.

The Council has said it will respond to his call for these modifications by 23 July. They will then go out for public consultation, probably in September. At the end of that exercise the Inspector will give his formal advice to the Council as to whether the Local Plan is sound for formal adoption.

Town Centre Must Be Fit For Purpose
So the autumn consultation will be an important step for all of us who love Guildford and want its town centre to be great and to have a real future. We will want to see that Policy S3 incorporates all that is necessary to allow our Town Centre to develop in a sustainable manner and to make it fit for the21st Century. Our businesses and young people deserve no less.

GVG Plans Public Meeting In September
As the consultation starts, we plan to hold a public meeting. We would hope to be able to explain the impact and importance of Policy S3 in particular, and to gauge your support for it. Of course there are many other issues bound up with the Local Plan, not least incursion into the Green Belt for new housing and the associated infrastructure burden and demands.

Guildford’s Got To Be Go To Town
We want our Town Centre to be the ‘go to’ place in the region. It should be the place where pedestrian space is safe, pollution free and inviting, drawing people to the riverside, public squares, green boulevards and accessible leisure and pleasure facilities. Town centre housing will intermingle with retail attractions in a mix far removed from the shopping malls of yesteryear.

Cyclists will enjoy joined up routes and buses will deliver comprehensive coverage and linkages across the town and beyond. Cars will be directed away from the core of the town and greater use of Park & Ride will be encouraged by supportive pricing policies.

New Infrastructure Needed
New infrastructure for all modes of transport is essential. The plan must also deliver a comprehensive and co-ordinated transport interchange centred on the railway station, where extra platforms allow new and better connections to eg Heathrow and Crossrail.

The current version of the Local Plan does next to nothing to address the obvious traffic failings of the town. Business and residents must be able to travel and operate without too much hindrance. For an effective 21st Century plan we must masterplan the whole town centre. Our proposals include a new East/West crossing that helps route traffic around the centre.


We Need Your Support – Please Help
So please keep supporting us. Feed us your views via our website, Twitter and Facebook. We welcome them. If you want to make comments by email, please send them to

You can also help us by making a donation. Every £ helps. Please email for information on how to donate. Thank you.

View of effect of proposed Solum development on Guildford, Surrey

Solum planning appeal: Act now to prevent disaster for Guildford

Solum planning appeal: Act now to prevent disaster for Guildford 1078 499 admin

The planning appeal is a disaster in waiting for Guildford.

A date for your diaries – Tuesday 7 November.  Two days after Bonfire Night the future of our town centre could lie in ashes. A successful appeal would allow the redevelopment of the front of Guildford Station and car park to proceed.

Footprint of proposed Solum development in Guildford, Surrey

Footprint of SOLUM development (purple blocks)

Guildford’s Own Bonfire
Many bet the Solum planning appeal will be successful, lighting the fires of unbridled town centre development. We fear developers will then use the precedent to pepperpot the centre with uncoordinated, ill-matched residential and other developments, up to ten storeys high. These would crash our creaking infrastructure and wreck our heritage setting.

New Crossing At Risk
Critically, from a GVG perspective, the opportunity will be lost to build a new crossing along the most effective route (York Rd to Guildford Park Rd).


GVG Crossing and redirected traffic

If Guildford Council loses the Solum planning appeal then SOLUM’s ten storey-high juggernaut, stretching 360 metres alongside the rail tracks, will stand in its way.

An Ugly Mass
What do ten storeys and 360 metres look like? Imagine you’re across the Thames, looking at the

Height of proposed Solum development in Guildford, Surrey

Height: Development façade (part) alongside existing Ranger House

façade of the Houses of Parliament (There was nearly a bonfire there, wasn’t there?).

Imagine it 30% longer and higher. That’s what the ugly, Stalinist mass of the SOLUM’s offices, multi-storey carpark and 438 apartments will look like.

View of effect of proposed Solum development on Guildford, Surrey

Mass & Height – view from Onslow Village

No New Station
There’s just a new booking hall. Network Rail Property’s joint venture with Kier, the construction group, provides NO new platform facilities, NO lifts, NO new pedestrian bridge, NO new west entrance, and limits station growth.  But word has it Network Rail gets a £25m dividend on top of any shared development profits.

We Need Development But Not This
We need new development in the town centre. That’s what GVG has been lobbying for.

But not SOLUM-style. We need new apartments, especially affordable homes (SOLUM wants just 10%, claiming viability concerns, vs GBC policy of 40%). But not massed as SOLUM proposes.

We Need a New Station But Not This
We need a new transport hub and interchange at the station. Not just a new booking hall.

GVG's proposed new railway station hub as part of its masterplan for Guildford, Surrey

New look Station hub – from GVG Masterplan

We need more platforms, especially on the eastern side, right where SOLUM is plonking its behemoth. It blocks new platforms and thus improved rail services (to Heathrow, around London etc).

Council Caught in Housing Headlights
The Council’s efforts have been devoted to producing a new Local Plan. GBC has been caught in the headlights of the housing number wrangle, with all the associated conflicts and concerns.

We need a working, deliverable town Masterplan. The new Local Plan hasn’t got one. There’s no real town centre plan, apart from a so-called Regeneration Strategy that GBC goes on to describe as not forming policy. We can chuck that on the bonfire as well, then. It’ll be a free for all.

The GVG Plan Deserves Proper Scrutiny
The GVG Plan and especially its crossing should receive proper scrutiny. It deserves it. Had GBC  adopted it, it might have stood a better chance of resisting SOLUM’s proposal.

The unsafe, polluting Gyratory has to go. People and vehicles don’t mix well. GVG’s new crossing fixes that.

Say No to Uncoordinated Development
Uncoordinated development will not deliver a reinvigorated riverside. It will not separate traffic and people to make life safer and healthier. It will not deliver new public squares, open spaces and boulevards. It will not deliver joined-up cycleways.

Revisit the GVG Flythrough
Do look at the GVG Flythrough again to remind

Flythrough of GVG's exciting Masterplan for Guildford, Surrey

Go to Flythrough: 

yourself how exciting the centre could look like and how re-routeing traffic could make a real difference to town centre life.

The Solum Planning Appeal – Look, Listen and Maybe Speak
The appeal is being held at the Council’s Offices at Millmead. There’s not much you can do at the appeal, unless you can afford to hire a leading planning QC. You can ask to speak but you can’t ask questions of the experts. You can listen and observe how well the Council defends its position, having refused SOLUM’s application.

What Does Your Councillor Think? Local Elections are Coming!
What does your councillor think of the GVG Masterplan? Has the Council got a better one? The next Local Elections are in 2019; not far away. Councillors should have a view on GVG’s Plan.

Worried? Let Your Councillor Know
It won’t hurt to let YOUR councillor know just how much you are worried about the development. You should ask your councillor what he or she is doing to prevent other SOLUM-like monstrosities. Ask if the new Local Plan provides any better protection?

What will win your vote? A town centre Plan? Or no Plan? Ten storey developments? Or a more coordinated, people-friendly, town centre-wide scheme? Speed humps on the Gyratory? Or a more radical, safer redirection of town traffic?

Let Us Know What You Think
Do let us know what you think. Email us on Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Send us posts and tweets. Learn more at

View October newsletter

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Guildford Local Plan: Update August 2017

Guildford Local Plan: Update August 2017 210 72 admin

Does the £3m, 10-year Guildford Local Plan deliver?

We’ve just submitted our detailed comments on the latest Guildford Local Plan draft. You can find our comments in the download section of our website here: They make interesting reading.
The Draft Guildford Local Plan can be found on the Council’s website.
It’s been the third opportunity to comment on the Council’s draft since it started life ten years ago. A protracted and expensive exercise (believed to be costing £3m for consultancy) has produced a Plan that is lacking in many crucial elements. It has little aspiration or vision for what Guildford, especially the Town Centre, could be like by the middle of the century.

A Proper Plan Is Vital
Surveys repeatedly show the infrastructure deficit is cramping business plans and making the town centre less pleasant.

An agreed Local Plan is vital for Guildford. It unlocks government funding, allows informed decisions to be made on planning issues, and identifies critical infrastructure investment necessary to enhance the town’s prosperity and attractiveness.

Sadly, we fear the Guildford Local Plan is set to fail the town centre.  Although there are some nuggets of hope and progress, the latest Plan just isn’t ambitious enough when it comes to the centre.

No Policy Is No Policy
GVG is all about creating a wonderful town centre, the very heart of our borough, and making it safe, vibrant, sustainable and attractive. Remember the six goals we set ourselves for the centre. It is by these that we have judged the Guildford Local Plan:

  1. Wider pedestrianisation of the town centre
  2. Exciting new public space and a reinvigorated riverside
  3. Redirection of traffic away from the town centre
  4. An integrated road and rail hub
  5. More town centre housing
  6. A new bridge for a better East-West link

The Town Centre must be properly planned. There are major components missing, e.g. agreement with Highways England on improvements to local road network.  In its latest draft Local Plan Guildford Council is relying just on piecemeal development, supported by a Town Centre Regeneration Strategy it hasn’t actually adopted as policy!

Councillors must be questioned as to why they approved the Plan draft if its proposals won’t determine the path of either planning or planning applications in the centre. An unambitious, piecemeal Plan is insufficient to address current failures or to ensure our town is fit for the 21st century.

Town Centre First
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is very clear on the role which town centres have to play in the growth of boroughs:

‘Local planning authorities should plan positively, to support town centres to … create attractive, diverse places where people want to live, visit and work.

.. and plan to meet the needs of main town centre uses in full … adopting a ‘town centre first’ approach and taking account of specific town centre policy.’

GVG struggles to discern any ‘town centre first’ or policy approach by the Council and believes Guildford will be the poorer as a result.

GVG has developed a master plan that it believes should be properly considered as a contribution to a more comprehensive and sounder plan for the town centre.

We want to make our robust case and to facilitate this GVG has engaged PRP, a respected planning consultancy, to help us scrutinise the local plan, judge its contents against other towns and to make fair representations. PRP has also marshalled our contribution to the Reg. 19 consultation just closed.

Some Examples Of Where The Draft Guildford Local Plan Fails:
a) North Street – A Centre For Tomorrow, Not Today
GVG left the area out of its masterplan on the basis that a scheme was about to be announced. The Local Plan has a very ambitious target for new retail space of 41,000sq metre, the planned volume for the North St site and almost half as much town centre retail space as exists today. So all our new retail eggs will be in one North St basket.

But our main concern is that retail is changing dramatically due to on-line retailing, nowhere more so than the US where department stores, retail chains, and malls are in serious trouble. We lead the US in online retailing so are we heading for a North St fall before the scheme has got off the ground?

M&G and GBC have some interesting designs for their new mall on North Street, but should it be a much more mixed development – commercial, retail, leisure and housing in a mix that introduces attractive public realm and community assets? Guildford lacks modern attractive commercial space. Maybe this is part of the answer for North Street.

b) Housing to Help, Brownfield Best
The Council’s draft Local Plan misses a timely opportunity to bring much needed housing to the centre in a proper joined-up, brownfield plan to the detriment of the Green Belt.

GVG believes that its comprehensive, carefully constructed and co-ordinated masterplan can deliver, for example, around 2,000 more homes in the town than the amount set out in the draft Guildford Local Plan. That would save either Blackwell Farm or Wisley.

Our housing proposals are sensitive to their setting, draw on sustainable criteria and redress one of the most crucial challenges for our town. Our masterplan puts brownfield first and development in a safer, more attractive riverside environment.

c) Our Crossing – We’re Cross
Our new East/West crossing hardly merits a mention in the Guildford Local Plan. This is despite earnest arguments for it in the two previous consultations and the overwhelming support for it – 90% plus – at the two public meetings we held earlier this year. We have the supportive opinion of well-qualified professionals and organisations.

Meanwhile the pressing need remains to tackle growing congestion and record pollution and accidents in the heart of our town.

Our crossing enables so many benefits – wider, safer and healthier pedestrianisation, better cycleways, and a revitalised railway station and hub/interchange with buses. It brings great public space along the river, with an open market and new green spaces.

d) What the Guildford Local Plan leaves out
The Draft Plan is striking in what is left out, including potential development areas in the centre.  Some areas are needlessly divided. Developing the east and west sides of station separately doesn’t make sense.  The Plan is silent on any real detail on key infrastructure, eg roads, flood defences and renewable energy.

Let’s Talk
Despite the best efforts of a number of people, we struggle to have sensible conversations and debate with Council Leaders over the good ideas in our masterplan. Indeed there is a reluctance to allow officers and others to talk to us. This reluctance now seemingly extends to County Council officers.

As part of the process to develop and approve a Local Plan, it is a statutory requirement for the Council to consult.  GBC appears to be failing to meet this requirement.

It is ridiculous that we should have to turn to Freedom of Information and other statute-backed requests for key information. Aren’t we all on the same side?

We apologise to the Council if they find our proposals too challenging or radical but we believe there is a need for interrogation of the direction of travel proposed by the Council and its leaders.

No one should doubt our conviction that something must be done to reinvigorate our town centre. Guildford is the regional hub. It should be a centre of growth and progress. As we fall short in our plans, other centres are getting ahead while our outlook is currently just further deterioration. This is simply not good enough. We should be hungry for progress.

The Next Steps
The GVG Steering Group continues to meet weekly in pursuit of its goals. We hope to be more active via social media to ensure we meet as wide an audience as possible. We do welcome feedback from you and all in the community.

We would like help on funding or fund raising, expertise in social media or professional skills in the built environment.  In turn, we hope you will spread the word about our masterplan for the town centre. We need as much support as we can muster so we really can make our masterplan yours.

Our website has full details of our masterplan plus a very exciting ‘flythrough’ of the core of the town here:  It shows what might be achieved via a joined-up plan.

You can contact us at by email:

GVG newsletter August 2017

Ask your candidate searching questions in the Guildford elections - photo of ballot box

Guildford elections: Questions and issues for candidates

Guildford elections: Questions and issues for candidates 1053 574 admin

The Guildford elections 2017

Beware Callers!
Your front door will be working overtime over the next few weeks as eager County and National candidates and committed canvassers for the Guildford elections make their calls and litter your letterbox with election promises.

Local Matters Matter
While Brexit, the NHS, social care, taxes, schools and benefits are all important, let’s not lose focus on key local matters.

The Town Centre Matters
GVG thinks Guildford Town Centre and its future is sufficiently important to merit attention in both elections. Guildford town contributes £4bn to the national economy each year.
The centre of Guildford is a big business, thanks to many fine enterprises including the University, Research Park and commercial and retail businesses.

Hustings – We’ve Got A Problem
We’ve got the draft Local Plan with its ambitions for new housing (but not much else), with all the extra pressures that will bring on our already struggling infrastructure.
Guildford’s a big transport hub that’s going to get bigger.
It’s a place that people still want to visit to enjoy its fine heritage and sylvan surroundings.
It contributes to our society in so many ways. But we are told it has the worst congestion of any town in the UK, with record accidents and fatalities in the centre.
Commuter congestion is costing drivers £45m a year.

Challenge The Candidates On The Town Centre
So challenge the candidates in both of the Guildford elections on what they plan to do to improve the quality of life in the town centre and to make it better and safer for people and not an ugly canyon for cars.

What Are They Going To Do About The Centre?
When are they going to do something about it?
How are they going to make things better for pedestrians and cyclists?
Or are they happy just to report on their pothole strategy, vague road improvements and how nice the setts in the High Street look now (which they do).

Your Vote Should Count
The temptation for all of us is to vote tribally. But you should let the candidates know you care about our town and in giving your loyalty you expect results.

Separate People And Cars
To see how people and cars can be separated better and safely you only have to look at the GVG Plan.
Have the candidates in the Guildford elections actually looked at it?
Please ask them and let us know what they say.
You can see a ‘flythrough’ of our plans here on our website and at – please do have a look!

The Cost Of The GVG Plan Brings Benefits
We won’t be surprised if they say our ambitious Plan, with all its big community wins, is too expensive.
There’s a figure going round of £1bn to improve and remodel the core of the town centre below the High St and North St across to the railway station.
That’s true and we first quoted it after commissioning a consultant’s report.

£200 Million Puts People First
But the key figure within that sum is nearer £200 million.
That’s the infrastructure cost of removing the conflict between people and cars to achieve the benefit of a more pedestrian-friendly town centre plus a revitalised riverside.
That’s the cost of putting people first and taking record pollution and congestion out of areas like Bridge St and Onslow St by way of a new East/West crossing and associated improvements.

Guildford Can Afford It
The local council could easily manage funding or borrowing at that level for such an important investment.
National and county government should also see it as a worthwhile investment, along with our Local Enterprise Partnership.

Great Development Pays
The other £800m is the cost of new homes, shops and offices that should be met by income from sales, leases and rents in an exciting, co-ordinated development that delivers a market place, squares, boulevards and a leisurely riverside experience.

The Council Has To Commit
GVG knows of developers happy to contemplate development on that scale.
But GVG also knows that no developer would commit and put up the funds without the wholehearted support and involvement of the local council.
The latter would have to be seriously committed.
Are the candidates you are seeing in the Guildford elections committed?

Bold Beats Piecemeal Planning
GVG wants to see a bold plan for the centre, with great wins for the community, not piecemeal development like the council is planning.
They are currently seeking developer interest in 20 sites in and around the centre.
Not exactly joined-up planning, is it?
Where are the community wins in that?

Guildford Elections – Six Questions For Candidates
So back to the candidates knocking on your door or addressing you at the hustings. Ask them, either directly or by email:
1. What is your plan for the town centre? How ambitious is it?
2. How will you tackle the blight of the gyratory, its congestion, poor safety and pollution?
3. Do you back a £200 million infrastructure spend for the town centre such as proposed by GVG, with all its big wins?
4. Why does GVG’s Plan struggle to win councillor support and interest?
5. Why can’t the council and the county council (they do roads, along with Highways) get together to create a better plan than GVG’s?
6. Given its importance, isn’t it time Guildford was more in direct control of its future? Isn’t better localism needed? What changes would you call for?

Please Help Us To Help You
There is a chance for the future of Guildford to feature in the elections.
So please help us.
Put the questions we’ve set out to the candidates for the Guildford elections, be they county or country.
Don’t let them get away with waffle – pin them down to a meaningful commitment.

We Need Feedback
Feed back their response to us at and we will keep you posted via our website and blog.

View election special newsletter

(Photo credit: brands2life)

GVG update: April 2017

GVG update: April 2017 1920 1440 admin

Thank you for all your support over the past weeks.

Your Support Keeps Us Going
We’ve received many approving comments following our two public presentations on 1 February & 15 March.
Nearly 600 people attended altogether (and over 10,000 people have watched the fly through on-line). Over half
completed our exit questionnaire.

You Like Our Plan, Our New Crossing, Our New Route
Over three quarters supported most or all of our Plan.
Over 90% were in favour of our East/West crossing. Just as heartening, the same number were in favour of the
new route for traffic around the town centre.
Our route creates a large pedestrian friendly area at the bottom of the town by the river. This is the big win for
the town. It can only be delivered by the new crossing.
That is the key element of our Plan.
You can see the Plan on our website. Do watch the exciting flythrough

The Town Centre Is For People Not Traffic
Let’s be clear. We have not set out to cure Guildford’s traffic issues. We are not proposing new roads as a
response to traffic volumes. We firmly believe this should not be the sole dominating measure for decision
making, as some do. Our principal aim has been to give the centre of town back to people.

Priority For Pedestrians
Pedestrians should have priority and great spaces. That is what our Plan delivers, and more. Look at the
reinvigorated riverside, the traffic-free routes to the rail station from the shopping centres, the public squares,
the boulevards, the covered market place, the new housing and the new transport hub around the
station. You have got to look at our Plan from the point of view of the pedestrian and cyclist.

Our Plan May Alleviate Congestion
It just so happens that we think our new crossing and routeing of traffic might alleviate some of the worst
gyratory congestion we currently experience. We have to accept that, in the short to medium term, traffic
volumes through Guildford will increase.
GVG supports modal shift, ie better use of public transport, park & ride, cycleways and more. In fact, we
believe that our Plan accommodates the Council’s Sustainable Movement Corridor in the town centre
more effectively than presently planned. Another reason for the Council to take our Plan seriously.

When Will The Council Take Us Seriously?
And therein lies the problem for GVG. How do we get the Council to study these ideas seriously? We have
spent the last five years working up these thoughts and ideas. With the talent round the GVG table, we should
be taken seriously. We are a group of predominantly long term Guildford residents committed to seeing a
better town centre.
We have no vested interests. People have questioned our motives. That is understandable, given the level of
detail we have produced and commissioned. But that should not be surprising given the backgrounds of our
steering group members. Most, if not all, bring serious and very relevant credentials to the table and the
debate. You can read their biographies on our website.

We Have Sought Your Opinion From The Start
Right from the outset we have sought the views of residents and visitors to the town centre. We have held
public meetings to discuss the key issues. We have called for and received feedback. We have spoken with
the principal residents’ associations. All these channels have remained open. We have communicated with
people via newsletters like this, TV, local press and radio, social media, email and our website. Your
thoughts, ideas and hopes were encapsulated in our October 2013 publication ‘Guildford on the Way’, also
to be found on our website.

We Are Not Elected
The principal rebuff we receive is that we’re not elected.
That is true. We have considered seeking election, more than once. However, notwithstanding its complexity, we
are a single issue group. We are concerned only with the town centre.
We very much respect the work our Councillors do in so many other areas of public policy. We remain focused
on the town centre, and do not stray from our collective area of expertise.

We Are Voters
But we are voters, as well as council tax payers. So we feel quite entitled to ask questions of those we elected,
however unwelcome the questions may be. We are further encouraged by the feedback and level of
support for our ideas from the recent public meetings where we launched our Plan.
The town centre, the beating heart of any town, is the standard by which Guildford is judged on countless
matters by visitors, shoppers, employers and its residents. In so many aspects our centre is woeful.

County Council May Election Manifestos
The County Council elections are in May. It will be interesting to hear what each candidate has to say
about, for example, infrastructure issues. What will be their platform? How much will their manifestos have to
say about roads, especially in and around the county town? Will they address these issues from the
perspective of people, and their concerns about traffic pollution and accidents?

Infrastructure Costs Can Pay
GVG accepts it has to be realistic about how much funding is available for infrastructure. We have
recognised that in setting out our Plan. We have undertaken a build cost analysis appropriate for this
stage of our Plan. It is a suitably comprehensive costing.
The core central area envisages development to the tune of £1bn. Of that sum, around £200mill is the
infrastructure build cost – the new crossing, the new link from it to a new Farnham Road Bridge and the
realigned Town Bridge. That is the sum to be found. The rest can be self-financing, ie we expect the £800mill
build cost can be met by sales, lettings and rentals.

£200m Infrastructure Investment Reasonable
GVG maintains that, for a town that makes an annual contribution to the national economy of around £4bn,
£200m should be a reasonable amount of public investment for the town in order to help meet a goal of
substantially increasing Guildford’s economic contribution. The argument must ring true with central
government; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity cost.
We think the amount is transformational. Our Plan creates new investment, business, jobs, training
opportunities and more community facilities, including leisure, arts, and health provision. The £200m is also a
measure of the lack of infrastructure investment over the past 30 years in the centre of Guildford.

Our Plan vs Piecemeal
There’s a lack of cohesive development. Too much has been piecemeal. For example, the Council has recently
granted itself consent for development on Guildford Park Road without much evidence of a joined-up plan
and the bigger picture. And now the Council is calling for expressions of interest from developers for 20 town
centre sites.
Where’s the overall plan? Where’s the approved Planning Development scheme? There’s nothing in the
draft Local Plan. GVG has been accused by certain councillors of causing town centre blight with its Plan.
Surely 20 hotchpotch schemes is the bigger blight? Do all councillors endorse this 20-site marketing exercise?

People Have Choices And Vote With Their Feet
The bottom line is important and the Council can point to its good financial record. However in the final
analysis, the longer term, it is people who matter. If people think other nearby towns provide a better, more
welcoming environment, they will vote with their feet.
People are starting to notice other towns pushing ahead and making a difference. In the online age, people can
easily scout out the best deals, whether it be shopping, eating, arts or other attractions.
The competition for your footfall and pound has never been as fierce. Business is no different, it will go where
it can best operate and where its staff feel happiest.

How Do We Get On Better With The Council?
So, what next? Well, so far you’ve given us your ideas about what you’d like to see in the town centre and
we’ve passed all our ideas on to the Council.
What we would like now is your ideas about how we could get on better with the Council. If our Plan is to
have any traction, it has to be studied properly by the Council and its officers. A closed mind approach is
inappropriate. We have had more rejections of our requests to collaborate for more years than we can

Collaboration Is Key
We try many ways to connect but it is fair to say we’re still to be persuaded of any real recognition by the
Council leadership of the benefits of collaboration or the need to debate the right plan for the town. Such
discussion should be Localism in action. Is the real problem just that it’s not their plan? It can be – very
easily; and who cares whose plan it is anyway?

Ask Your Councillor & Candidates Key Questions
Our new East/West crossing is crucial. Please ask your councillor if they support it and let us know. So many
factors make a new crossing feasible right now. If nothing happens the opportunity will disappear, quite
possibly for another 100 years.
If any of them come knocking on your door over the next four weeks, please quiz them to see if they believe
in localism and a plan for real change in our town centre. If you support open debate and having a
comprehensive Plan for the town centre, with a real intention to deliver, please say so to your councillor and
the candidates.

Visit Our New Website
We’ve revamped our website. The address is still the same:
Do visit it; You can see our Plan there.
If you haveparticular views about what we’re doing and what we’re saying, please let us know. We value your feedback.

Email us at:

View newsletter

Public meeting at University of Surrey 15 March 2017 – your chance to see Guildford Vision Group’s new plans

Public meeting at University of Surrey 15 March 2017 – your chance to see Guildford Vision Group’s new plans 650 919 admin

YOU ARE INVITED – Guildford Vision Group meeting at University of Surrey

Event: Additional public meeting to launch the Guildford Vision Group’s detailed Town Centre Plan

Venue: Main Lecture Theatre, Rik Medlik Building, University of Surrey Stag Hill Campus, GU2 7XH

Date: Wednesday 15 March 2017

Time: 7.45pm

Parking: Free parking on campus site, close by Rik Medlik Building

We’re holding another meeting to introduce the GVG Town Centre Plan. Please do come!

We know quite a number of people were unable to make our previous event because of work, parking and other reasons so we’ve set up this second showing.

David Leonard, of Leonard Design Architects, will again present our exciting and ambitious Plan to make the town centre much more pedestrian- friendly and transform the riverside.

We will also cover some of the questions and points raised at the first meeting on Feb 1 so you’re very welcome to come to see the presentation again.

You can download a copy of the invitation to this public meeting here>>

and learn more about GVG’s objectives for its Plan in this useful handout here>>.

All parking and visitor info can be found at

Public meeting: March 2017

Public meeting February 1 – our vision for Guildford’s town centre

Public meeting February 1 – our vision for Guildford’s town centre 560 330 admin

YOU are invited to our next public meeting where we will reveal our exciting new plans for Guildford’s town centre.

It’s on Wednesday 1 February 2017 at The Millmead Centre (next to the Baptist Church), 24 Bury Fields, Millmead, Guildford GU2 4AZ at 7.00pmPLEASE DO ATTEND and bring friends, family, work colleagues and anyone you know who is interested and cares about how our town is developed!

Our plans take the original A&M Masterplan on to deliver a town centre and beautiful riverside pedestrianised for people – working, shopping, eating, relaxing – and fit for the 21st century.

Come and share our excitement and see for yourself where great ideas can take our lovely town.

PUT THE DATE IN YOUR DIARY NOW and find out more in our December 2016 newsletter here>

New leaflet from Guildford Vision Group

New leaflet from Guildford Vision Group 800 566 admin

We have published a new leaflet setting out our aims and objectives.

Please download it here to find out more!

Guildford Vision Group Newsletter logo

Update on Guildford Vision Group

Update on Guildford Vision Group 210 72 admin

How it all started
It’s just over four years since a group of residents formed Guildford Vision Group (GVG) with the Guildford Society’s help. The founders of GVG were concerned that our town seemed rudderless and losing its appeal as a place in which to do business, work, visit and live.

Over the past 30 years or more there had been little or no substantial town centre development or infrastructure investment of any note. The infrastructure, especially the gyratory, was very poor while demands on it were steadily increasing.

Our town centre is at risk
Cars and concrete hold sway rather than people. Buildings have turned their backs to the river. Where there is riverside space it has been given over to surface carparks. Pedestrians have a raw deal and cyclists have fared little better. The town centre remains dangerous for pedestrians, as recent fatal accidents have sadly confirmed. Air pollution in parts of the town centre is among the worst in the country.

The Council does not appear to have any coordinated plan to tackle this situation and its challenges. The town remains vulnerable to opportunistic, uncoordinated development that might frustrate broader ambitions to re-energise our town and to fashion a sustainable future for it.

Masterplan needed
GVG lobbied for a comprehensive town centre Masterplan by consultants with the relevant skills and track record. Allies & Morrison were hired and in March of this year the Council formally approved their Masterplan but, crucially, did not adopt it. It’s easy to understand why. Allies & Morrison worked to a Council brief. That brief, for example, did not include a comprehensive assessment of infrastructure needs. For example, there’s recognition that the station might be usefully redeveloped to be more of an integrated transport hub (and the site of much needed housing, sympathetic to its setting) but no outline plan to achieve it.

Tackling the gyratory
When it comes to the gyratory, the bane of our town, Allies & Morrison’s two proposed options for re-organising it require respectively a 57% or 44% reduction in traffic through ‘modal shift’, ie to get us out of our cars. This would be achieved by more park & ride sites, better bus services and even, for example, shutting the Farnham Road Bridge, currently the only East/West link in the centre, to all but buses during the two rush hours each day. How about that!

We support modal shift in principal but we have to be realistic about its feasibility in a hilly gap town with little room to manoeuvre in terms of new routes.

GVG’s six key goals
From the outset GVG has set itself six keys goals:

  1. Wider pedestrianisation of the town centre
  2. Exciting new public space and a reinvigorated riverside
  3. Redirection of traffic away from the town centre
  4. An integrated road and rail hub
  5. More town centre housing
  6. A new bridge for a better East-West link

These should be reflected in the adopted Masterplan for the town centre and, ideally, in the new Local Plan.

GVG’s developing thinking
Where have we got to? Well, we’ve got the Masterplan, we’ve certainly created a public discussion about many of the key issues associated with our six objectives, and we’ve developed our thinking on how the various elements of a reinvigorated town centre might fit together. You’ve helped with that by your feedback at our public meetings. We’ve commissioned reports from our own traffic and infrastructure consultants, as well as drawing extensively on our members’ professional expertise and experience. Currently we’ve secured the help of a noted architecture practice to draw up plans to show how the town centre might look, with linking architecture and design detail.

Challenging the Council
Why are we doing all this? It enables us to challenge the Council’s own thinking and actions, where necessary. Much of what happens in Guildford remains uncoordinated, and more worryingly, unambitious.

Guildford is currently playing with a jigsaw comprised of pieces from different sets. The finished picture won’t look pretty that way and, clearly, there will be great difficulty in making all the pieces fit together neatly.

All this should be out in the open but again, worryingly, the debate too often happens behind closed doors under the pretext of commercial confidence. Here Guildford makes something of a rod for its own back by being a dominant landowner in the centre as well as being the planning authority. Look at what’s happening with the North St development. Have you been consulted on what you might like to see there and how it might fit with other development? We fear we’ll be faced with a ‘take it or leave it’ choice, with tinkering only possible at the edges.

That’s no way to approach major development these days. It has to be more collaborative if localism is to have any real meaning.

Push for a new East/West crossing
Our big push at this time is to get support for a proper and comprehensive appraisal of a new East/West crossing linking York Road with Guildford Park Road. We are not trying to improve the lot for cars in the centre. We are simply trying to create the space for wider pedestrianisation of the town centre.

The key to success for the centre is to make the environment attractive for people. New and better public spaces. A better and more welcoming riverside experience alongside an improved retail offer that recognises the change in buying and browsing brought about by the advent of the digital age. This is what will encourage visitors and residents alike to dwell longer. It’s the key to a successful centre.

How a new crossing will help
So how does our new crossing across the river and railway help bring that about? It will move traffic away from the centre. It will enable separation of cars from people. It will make Bridge Street and Onslow St safer and traffic-free, except for buses, taxis and mobility access. It will enable the lower ends of both North St and the High St to be linked together by great public space and amenities along the riverside (think Richmond).

The full economic benefits of the crossing need to be set down and modelled, as well as the bog standard traffic count and modelling. Interestingly, our crossing also only requires a 26% reduction in traffic when assessed using the criteria used for the Council’s two scenarios. Again, the crossing is not just about cars and their routes, it’s about people and their right to safe, pollution-free enjoyment of the centre. It’s about creating the opportunity for imaginative and economically useful new development that will set Guilford down the path of a sustainable future.

Keeping in touch
How can you keep in touch with what we’re up to? Members of GSoc receive our newsletters and press releases as a matter of course. We’ve now launched our revamped website here at:

Our next public meeting
Please look out for our next public meeting. It’s likely to be in late January or early February 2017. It bodes well to be one of our more interesting events, with more detailed plans of how the town centre might look. We will be looking for your feedback so as to refine the plans. There may even be a model of how our crossing would work, providing we can find the funds from somewhere to get it produced (they’re much cheaper now, thanks to 3D printing, but still a fair dollop of cash).

Do contact us
We always like to hear from you, especially if you have relevant skills that could help us. And if you do want to set your thoughts down in an email, please send them to:

GVG Update


GVG Update – February 2016

GVG Update – February 2016 654 400 admin
Guildford Vision Group Newsletter logo

GVG Update – Newsletter November 2015

GVG Update – Newsletter November 2015 210 72 admin

Please, please, please respond to the Town Masterplan consultation!

Find out what you need to know and how to respond by clicking on the text below for the two pages of our latest Newsletter:

GVG Update Newsletter November 2015 – page 1

GVG Update November Newsletter 2015 – page 2

GVG Update Newsletter – October 2015

GVG Update Newsletter – October 2015 654 400 admin

We have a Masterplan! Here’s what is happening and how it takes forward our vision for a better Guildford town centre.

Please click on the text below for the two pages of our October 2015 newsletter update to find out more:

Guildford Vision Group update Newsletter October 2015 – page 1

Guildford Vision Group update Newsletter October 2015 – page 2

GVG Newsletter – July 2014

GVG Newsletter – July 2014 654 400 admin

Guildford…a key moment in time

Guildford…a key moment in time 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

Guildford Vision Group held a workshop session.

GVG workshop presentation

GVG holds an away day to set its agenda

GVG holds an away day to set its agenda 1920 1440 Lisa Flounders

The Guildford Vision Group took part in an away day entitled ‘Towards a better future’.

GVG away-day slides

GVG Newsletter November 2013

GVG Newsletter November 2013 1920 1440 admin

GVG Update – August 2013 Newsletter

GVG Update – August 2013 Newsletter 1920 1440 admin
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