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The impact of traffic and parking has been overlooked by Waitrose in its planning application for a store in the centre of Guildford, according to a local pressure group.
The Guildford Vision Group (GVG), the body that is also critical of Guildford Borough Council’s Town Centre Masterplan, has said that Waitrose’s planning application is badly weakened by the quality of its traffic assessment (TA) which underestimates the traffic impact of the proposed food store and its 168 public car parking spaces.
The TA is a study required by any planning application of the size and type recently submitted by Waitrose, on which public consultation closed last Friday, July 27.
The Guildford Society commissioned a professional review of the TA. This has been shown to the GVG.
The GVG states that: “In lay language, the review indicates that the TA is flawed because: required traffic counts have been taken at a quiet time, ie during a school holiday, and not at ‘neutral’ times recommended by established guidelines. Required traffic comparisons are skewed, as the site is currently derelict and not attracting traffic. No account is taken of new, additional traffic that Waitrose will want to attract. Queuing survey figures do not include current queuing right by the site itself. The TA does not include the traffic impact of future agreed development of the Friary Centre, nor that proposed in North Street.
“Perhaps most crucially of all, the 168 public car parking places sought by Waitrose are more than three times the number allowed under current planning guidelines.”
GVG adds that it recognises that a retailer of the quality of Waitrose is a good thing for Guildford – “but only in the right location, adding: “The York Road site is outside the existing retail ‘envelope’ and also brings large delivery lorry traffic to an area identified by the council until recently as best suited for residential development.”
GVG director John Rigg said: “If approved, the Waitrose development will fly in the face of the current development plan and policy guidelines, with unfortunate consequences for the future of our often gridlocked town, and may well set a dangerous precedent for other applications.”
Karen Fredborg lives near to the proposed site of the store. She said: ”I like the application generally, I have nothing against Waitrose.”
“I hope there is a way of keeping the underpass. Some have suggested letting it lead away from York Road on the southern side, following the curve of the entrance to Waitrose which I think is a very good idea.
“The survey that was carried out found that on weekdays more than 2,600 people use the subway to cross York Road between the hours of 7am and 7pm. That includes children going to and from Sandfield Primary School and the Guildford Children’s Centre as well as students from Guildford College and local residents and commuters.
“York Road is a very busy A-road and it frequently becomes congested; anyone who uses it will know that queuing from the roundabout to the crossing with Stoke Road and beyond is not a rare sight. I fear that that traffic will queue through the proposed pedestrian crossing and cause a great danger for all users of the crossing.”
Whatever the outcome of the Waitrose plan, other changes to Guildford’s shopping centre have this week been announced. Hermes Real Estate, the owners of the Friary shopping centre, has bought the adjacent Dominion House for £1.85 million.
The chief executive officer of Hermes, Chris Taylor, said: “Guildford has been under-provided by the top aspirational brands. I think the town has got terrific potential to grow. There are a number of opportunities that now exist for a new department store operator to come to Guildford.”
Speculation is that this my be John Lewis.
Hermes asset manager Ben Tolman said: “We remain committed to Guildford, having recently purchased Dominion House, which now gives us ownership of some 60% of the wider Guildford town centre expansion site.”