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Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has today (August 28) published a draft Guildford Town Centre Masterplan prepared by Allies and Morrison who have been working on the plan for over a year.
Six weeks of detailed public consultation will start in October.
The blueprint to reconnect Guildford’s town centre with its historic, but formerly largely industrial, riverside is intended to transform underused areas and create high-quality, attractive new homes, as well as more retail, leisure, hotel and office space.
The masterplan is based on five key themes: “From concrete collar to major tree-lined park and boulevard [opening up the riverside]; a healthy approach to movement [tackling traffic problems]; the new riverside community park; growing a successful town centre; and planning for sustainable development.”
A council press release states: “The plan responds to local people’s feedback and ideas from the initial vision consultation in July 2014. It would protect the heritage and character of the town’s core and bring much needed transport and flood management improvements.”
Prepared by a team led by Antony Rifkin of Allies and Morrison, an urban planning and architecture practice, it is claimed that the draft masterplan answers calls from local residents and businesses to create a larger and more vibrant town centre.
Once amended to reflect outcomes from public consultation and viability testing, important deliverable elements of the masterplan will become a key part of the wider, 20-year Local Plan for the whole borough. It will also influence plans for the redevelopment of North Street.
The press release continued: “Action to address the town’s traffic problems and creating ‘streets for people’ are two core themes of the draft masterplan. A waterfront community park would open up public access to the river. And improved, safe pedestrian and cycle routes would connect the town centre’s existing facilities to the new residential, shopping, entertainment and business developments.
“There are also proposals to enhance crossings over the railway and river, improve traffic flows, offer better parking and promote sustainable transport. Under a separate plan, Guildford railway station would become one of a series of central hubs to connect all modes of travel to, from and within the town.”
“The planned changes would safeguard views to the surrounding landscape by maintaining ‘visual corridors’ to preserve the links between town and country, which are such an important feature of Guildford’s special atmosphere.”
According to the press release residents will be able to: “keep in touch with the latest updates by following news on the council’s website and social media, up to and throughout the public consultation period”.
The need for a masterplan for Guildford was only reluctantly accepted by the council following a campaign by the Guildford Vision Group whose legal challenge against a former draft Local Plan triggered the downfall of the previous council leader Tony Rooth (Con, Pilgrims).
After a initial stand-off period, the council under the leadership of Stephen Mansbridge, developed a friendlier consultative relationship with the group. In April this year the GVG published its own masterplan. Unsurprisingly, there is considerable overlap especially regarding riverside redevelopment and tackling the constraint of the gyratory.
Councillor Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South and Tongham), lead councillor for planning, said: “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 far-sighted 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 (Con, Ash South and Tongham), 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.”
Leader of the opposition at Guildford Borough Council, Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “I am very pleased that this is now moving forward, we need to have a clear direction for the town so that we can stamp the identity we want on future development.
“The importance of our heritage and the countryside around us has been acknowledged, as well as the need to enhance the river and improve life for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Improvements to our traffic management are key to the future success for the town and we need to ensure that when the final Town Centre Masterplan is agreed, we hold our nerve and create a town for future generations to enjoy, and where business can continue to flourish.
“I look forward to talking with residents during the course of the consultation, we need everyone to really engage with this important document for the future of our town.”
The council’s customer and community scrutiny committee will consider the masterplan on September 8 2015, before the GBC Executive reviews and approves the final draft for consultation on September 29.
More articles on different aspects of the draft masterplan and reactions to it will be published in due course. Please check back.