Radical plans to transform Guildford Town centre move a step closer to reality today (8th September).
The draft of the Guildford Town Centre Masterplan is being put to the borough council’s Customer and Community Scrutiny Committee.
The large document of proposals, published last week, promise a rejuvenation and expansion of the town.
It is a transformation many in the town, such as the Guildford Vision Group have been calling for, for years.
At the heart of it, is a focus on the River Wey and creating streets for people, rather than cars.
The Masterplan does seem to promise it all, covering parking solutions, traffic solutions, addressing the controversial gyratory, cycle routes, the pedestrian walkway into the town from the train station, new housing, shops, offices and green space.
Here are some of the specifics:
A new ‘gateway’ into the town
Walnut Tree Close Footbridge is to be replaced in plans
As well as ‘attractive new homes, retail, leisure, hotel and office space’ the council wants Guildford town centre to be all about the pedestrian.
One focal point of the Masterplan is the walk from the train station into the town and the area around the Odeon.
It wants to replace Walnut Tree Close Footbridge with a new grander crossing for shoppers and visitors.
It also wants to exploit the riverside and make it a more attractive place for people to enjoy.
The cinema could also be transformed with the draft plan stating: ‘There is identified capacity and interest in approximately six additional screens in Guildford.
‘The current Odeon building arguably represents a poor use of the riverside site.’
Train station to be ‘transport hub’
Guildford Train Station is set to be at the heart of transport in the town
Action to address the town’s traffic problems and creating ‘streets for people’ are two core themes of the draft Masterplan.
Suggested improvements to safe pedestrian and cycle routes would connect the town centre’s existing facilities to the new residential, shopping, entertainment and business developments.
A draft also includes plans for a new multi-storey carpark on Guildford Park Road.
As well as ideas to enhance crossings over rail and river and promote sustainable transport, the Masterplan works alongside a separate plan for the train station to become one of a series of central hubs to connect all modes of travel to, from and within the town.
Traffic limiting on the gyratory
Guildford’s dreaded gyratory
A number of suggestions to tackle Guildford’s dreaded gyratory are included in the draft Masterplan.
The document says changes to the gyratory could ‘open up valuable riverside land and reconnect the town centre with the river.’
Therefore it wants other modes of transport to be promoted ie. cycling, walking, train, park and ride to reduce traffic and make this happen.
However, it says ‘It may also require limiting traffic entry to the gyratory, for example, traffic (with the exception of buses) would be prevented from entering the gyratory via Farnham Road and Walnut Tree Close.’
A new riverside green
The George Abbot Pub will be the cornerstone of a new green
One of the easier, and quicker developments in the Masterplan is the suggestion of a new riverside green where Portsmouth Road Car Park is.
‘This project can be introduced as a short term quick win through the installation of temporary landscaping and pop-up uses, pending more complete transformation in the medium to long term.’
Here is an artists impression of what the space could look like:
‘a larger and more vibrant town centre’
Working alongside the Local Plan and plans to re-develop North Street the Masterplan puts forward proposals for the town for up to 30 years in the future.
Thousands of new homes could be built if it gets the green light, with the whole plan costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The draft addresses flood management improvements and does include moves to preserve Guildford’s heritage, with what the council is calling ‘visual corridors’ to the surrounding countryside.
Councillor Paul Spooner is Guildford Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Planning.
He told Eagle, if everything goes to plan, building work on the Masterplan could begin in the nest 12 months:
“Guildford, the High Street and the elements of the heritage in Guildford are fantastic, but there are some really ugly places around.
“So any opportunity to improve the centre of town, where we can highlight those historic areas of heritage, are going to be great for us all.
“We’ve probably not done all that we should’ve done over the past 20, to 25 years, we are playing catch up to a point.
The plan focuses on making the river more accessible to the public
“The draft Town Centre Masterplan puts forward a radical vision for Guildford’s future, based on local people’s clearly-expressed wishes.
“Our borough’s success has been built on the farsighted and brave decisions of past generations. Now is the time for us all to show the same conviction, by thinking big and investing in the town’s future.
“This is still very much a work in progress, so we look forward to hearing people’s views on the proposals.
“Feedback and suggestions from the public will help us to create a plan that can support Guildford’s growth, prosperity and quality of life for the rest of this century.”
Councillor Stephen Mansbridge, Leader of the Council, said:
“We want Guildford to be a better place to live, work and visit. The draft Masterplan proposes some exciting designs to regenerate the town centre and secure a vibrant future.
“We’re committed to delivering what the town and borough need for the benefit of local people.”
Urban planning and architecture practice Allies and Morrison have drawn up the Masterplan for Guildford Borough Council at a cost of around £200,000.
Once it has been viewed by the Scrutiny Committee today, it will go before the Executive to be reviewed and approved on the 29th September.
The final draft will then go before the public in a six week public consultation in October.
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