The latest plans for Guildford town centre’s regeneration are set to be unveiled next month at the ninth time of trying. A planning application is due to be submitted by developers in July which would include new homes, bus station and the pedestrianisation of North Street.
Councillor John Rigg, Residents for Guildford and Villages, Holy Trinity, told a meeting of Guildford Borough Council’s executive on Thursday (June 23) that all councillors would need to get behind the project to help it succeed. He said: “I just hope that we can try and make some progress rather than finding obstacles for the progress. We’ve had 30 years and eight failed schemes on this site. We’ve really got to do better this time, if we can.”
In March, the council exchanged contracts with the developer, St Edward, for a part of land it owned within the North Street development site. Cllr Rigg explained that the council had two separate roles in the application, in that it sold the land for the site, but also would make a decision on the planning application when it came forward.
The plans will include the widening of Leapale Road and a single entrance and exit to the north of the bus station, which developers say would remove southbound buses from the town’s gyratory. Cllr Tony Rooth, Residents for Guildford and Villages, Pilgrims, asked several questions on the forthcoming application, which has been out for public consultation on two occasions.
He said he was a regular bus user and had visited the bus station three times that day. Cllr Rooth said: “And what a wonderful place it isn’t. It clearly needs an awful lot of work to make it acceptable to the public, bus users and bus operators alike.”
He asked for the “professional calculations” that had been made around changing the entrance and exit to the bus station, which he called a “major change” that could impact congestion and bus routes in the town. Cllr Rigg said he was not ready or able to answer the “tome of questions” put forward by Cllr Rooth and said nothing was being approved in the meeting, but councillors were being asked to give authority for part of the plans to be approved as part of the contract.
Meeting documents stated: “Under the terms of the sale contract with the developer the council as landowner needs to approve (or reject with reasons) detailed plans and specifications for [the bus station and the pedestrianisation] before a planning application is submitted. At which time the local planning authority will consider the detailed design and specification as part of the planning process.”
Councillor John Redpat, Residents for Guildford and Villages, Holy Trinity, pointed out that the plans had been discussed at a now-disbanded working group, and that consultees including Thames Water, Surrey County Council, bus companies and others would have a chance to respond to the planning application when it was submitted.
He added: “Everyone from the Pope to Peppa Pig, including Councillor Rooth, will be able to put in his comments of any concerns that he might have at that stage. And that will all be a totally open and transparent process.”