Letters to the Press
Letter to the Surrey Advertiser dated 19th November
We desperately need a plan for Guildford. All of your first page of letters (16 November) were about this in one way or another. First of all, we should appreciate Guildford for what it is. It is a smallish market town and has been for over a thousand years. It is the county town of Surrey, and was the only town for several centuries, and it is not a city. City status would do nothing for us, and think of the cost of re-branding GBC! The historical background is important in understanding how Guildford has evolved and it is an asset which should be cherished. We should not be trying to increase the shopping space by 60% when there are around 25 empty shops in the town centre, a couple of temporary shops and now, worst of all, a ‘Pound shop’. Worst because of what it says about the national and local economy.
As Alderman Bridger has done, we should study what the town does well, and what it needs. Why should the only answer be to make ourselves prisoners of international companies who will invest, or not, in Guildford for their own benefit, not ours, regardless of the effect on the town? The area north of North Street has been blighted for years, including rows of perfectly good houses. The site of the old CEGB building on Portsmouth Road has also been empty for years. What we need in Guildford is a lot more housing in the town centre, which will encourage more firms to move to the area, and improvements to the traffic. We need facilities for the elderly, who have been forced out of the town centre by GBC. We need lots of independent shops which will encourage shoppers who can’t find that elsewhere. The Friary Centre is quite big enough for chains of shops. We should encourage the cultural facilities currently being down-graded by GBC. No-one would take a city seriously which gets rid of its orchestra and has a splendid Guildhall which is hardly ever open to the public. Thank goodness that the Guildford Vision Group is looking for a bolder vision for the town.
At the Planning Committee next Tuesday, 6th November, councillors have a golden opportunity to set the town on a new path, to take the first step to ensure our town flourishes well into the 21st century, and to open an exciting new era of attractive, pedestrian and business-friendly planning in the town centre.
Their first step must be to reject Waitrose’s application for a supermarket on the Bellerby Theatre site along with 168 surface parking spaces.
There really can be no sense in adding to the two main challenges Guildford faces – congestion and insufficient housing that local employees can afford.
However you play around with the traffic studies, across the fragile town centre gyratory and feeder system, it’s plain that congestion, and pedestrian and cyclist safety, in York Road and the surrounding streets will get worse, not better. You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to work that out. It’s bad planning. Continue Reading…
Next Tuesday Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Committee will decide whether to grant planning permission for a retail led mixed use development on the Bellerby Theatre site. The principal component is an out of town format (trolley-based) Waitrose foodstore with 168 surface car spaces accessed by a new traffic light junction half way up York Road between Woodbridge Road and Stoke Road.
In many ways the decision to be made by the Planning Committee next week draws comparisons with the decision the Executive Committee were asked to make on 6th September to adopt the Interim Town Centre Framework in which the Bellerby Theatre site also featured.
In both cases a single planning officer has waded through lengthy and conflicting representations made for and against the particular proposal and came up with a recommendation in a report to the Councillor decision takers. In both cases the electorate, the vast majority of whom have qualifications or experience other than that related to planning, have been presented with the product of many months work and expected to comprehend that product and respond to it in a matter of days. In both cases the opportunity for concerned residents and local traders to have their say is restricted to a few slots of three minutes at the relevant committee hearing. Continue Reading…
Traffic Implications Don’t Add Up
I attended the Waitrose presentation and fully support their entry into the Guildford market. I am, however, disappointed that the size of the site available to them does not allow them to share the site with a John Lewis store which I understand to be their preferred format.
The absence of a proper longer term plan to tackle Guildford’s chronic traffic problems also gives me serious concern about this development. Waitrose say they have done a traffic survey and the impact of their development will be acceptable. Without knowing the details, I cannot judge if this analysis is correct. However, what alarms me is the cumulative impact of the 25 developments described in GBC’s “Masterplan”. What assurance do we have that this has been properly analysed? We set off with an infrastructure deficit before any of these developments has started.
We have to find a solution to getting through traffic out of the centre of town. We know there is no money short term; that is why we have to plan long term and stop short term decisions blocking steps to solve Guildford’s long standing problems. Continue Reading…
Guildford desperately needs to address its traffic congestion (clearly confirmed by the meeting of 150 to 200 people on 21st March launching the Guildford Vision Group) and to create a vision for a better town to meet the needs of all its stakeholders.
The Council’s Draft Town Centre Masterplan, with minimal consultation over the busy Christmas period, has been widely criticised as “woeful”, “badly researched”, “lacking any vision” and “fundamentally flawed” – mainly because it did nothing to address congestion and the impact of traffic routes on pedestrian access between the station, the town, the river and elsewhere.
I entirely agree with Mr. John Scott (Letters, 6 April). A feature of the Railway Station scheme is that 400 car parking spaces on the east side would be relocated in new multi-storeys on the west, with access to and from an already congested Guildford Park Road.
This is just another example of the piecemeal town centre development, which is encouraged by the Masterplan (apparently to be renamed the Interim Town Centre Framework), without any consideration for its effect upon roads, traffic and pedestrians. Traffic matters are to be resolved later, we are told, by studies for the town centre which will be fed into the Core Strategy for the whole borough. In the meantime a number of these isolated but substantial developments will be allowed to go ahead. Continue Reading…
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.
I write with reference to the public consultation on the draft Town Centre Masterplan prepared for Guildford, which ends this Monday 23 January (www.Guildford.gov.uk/towncentremasterplan).
As a local resident, and someone involved in the property industry, I am deeply concerned about the quality of this document, and the missed opportunity if not detrimental effect it could have on our town over the next 20 years.
I applaud John Rigg’s observations and arguments in his letter last week, the thrust of which I fully support. I am certain that I was not alone in feeling immensely energised by the thought of transformational change that could unlock the huge untapped potential of this community. Change on such a scale however would clearly require three essential components.
Firstly, we need to be clear and agreed about who we are and wish to become. John Rigg rightly emphasises the need for a long term vision and his reference to towns such as York, Bath, Chester, Oxford and Cambridge echoed aspirations raised by the Guildford planners themselves at the launch of their public engagement on 23 June. Yet the substance of the council’s process thereafter, and indeed in the surveys they undertake via the website, rapidly descends to a focus on the minutiae of specifics, of new retail development opportunities for example and the need to sustain and grow our “zone A retail rent” performance! Continue Reading…
I write with reference to the Council’s invitation to respond to consultation on the Town Centre Masterplan. (www.Guildford.gov.uk/towncentremasterplan).
My proposition can be stated simply: Guildford is currently falling a long way below its potential, and the opportunity should be taken now to have an imaginative plan prepared that will raise its standing in the eyes of residents and the world.