St Marys Wharf - Second Consultation -The Society Responds

11 May 2021

Your Opportunity to Comment on the Evolving Scheme

Native Land, have now who have acquired the Debenhams site, have now issued an interim update on their emerging ideas.  The site has been renamed as St Marys Wharf.

The update, which is available for comment until the 21st May, builds on the previous presentation providing more detail on a two-building approach to the site, which includes opening a view from Millmead of St Mary’s Church. 

The presentation provides more detail on the lower levels of the development including public spaces and landscaping.  Potential architectural treatments are also described.

The Society is disappointed that the developers are not providing details of the potential height of the buildings and the roofscape.  Mass and Scale are important of these key sites and developers should be providing the public with more information on the trade-offs inherent between height and coverage of the site. There are obviously issues with creating a viable scheme.

Please see the video 

The Society has now Commented on the 2nd Consultation.

We have answered the 5 questions posed, the voting buttons limit comments so these were added in question 6 plus two further comments.

Question 1 - Do you support the evolving vision and building design of the St Mary’s Wharf redevelopment?

Disagree - The plan of the site has many positive aspects we do have concerns that:

1a A opportunity is being missed to re-open the tunnel under Millbrook and to provide a direct link to the Theatre with a Bridge.

1b Building Design is difficult to judge as the Height and Mass are not being displayed or the Roof treatment.  One of the illustrations show 6 stories and it is a real concern that this height in a dark brick form will just be another mass like Debenhams (which being light colour with step backs is less obvious).  The eastern aspect along Millbrook is a particular concern and how it will relate to the historic building’s opposite

Question 2 Do you support the provision of a new view of Holy Trinity & St Mary’s Church from Millmead via an avenue in our scheme?

Strongly Agree -  We are supportive of this view being provided.  The view may be limited by the large tree in the small park on the opposite riverbank

Question 3 - Do you agree that our proposed riverside uses – including a potential restaurant offer together with landscaping features such as stepped seating, lawns and a riverside promenade – would be something you would welcome?

Agree - The proposals for the riverside look positive.  It is important that it is considered as a promenade not as part of an Active Travel corridor.  Understanding the final size of the open areas is important.  The riverside if stepped due to flood protection measures may be very cramped.

Question 4 Do you agree that the principle of using a mixture of traditional materials including brick and stone identified for the external facades of the new buildings reflects the heritage of Guildford town centre?

Disagree - We are concerned that the details presented we are in danger of getting a ‘pastiche’ warehouse.  Good design  (unless it is  a heritage building) should be contemporary and originate from a designer /architect’s skill in individually  responding to the local culture, townscape, materiality and brief.  We would welcome an exploration of other options as Guildford in the past has moved the Architectural vocabulary on e.g. Arts and Crafts. 

The emerging North Street Development may adopt a similar design language which is a concern.  Although Guildford had warehouses/factories e.g. the Billings in part of the town the Townscape was varied.  A succession of similar Buildings will be a missed opportunity.

Question 5 Do you agree that, when considering the extent of public accessibility within the completed St Mary’s Wharf redevelopment, an adequate degree of privacy for residents is provided alongside exciting new open spaces for the whole community to enjoy?

Agree - Impossible, to comment as to an extent it depends on what activities are proposed for the ground floor.  The Society has argued that the site could have public facilities e.g. Arts Facility, Surrey Hills Interpretation Centre etc as well F&B.  There is a role for ‘placemaking at St Mary’s Wharf with suitable anchor tenants to effectively create a new riverside quarter linked to the Town Centre.

Question 6 Other comments

It is vital that Native Land use the GBC VU.City system to properly show the design in a model of the Town Centre and surrounding countryside. We note that St Edward the developers of North Street comment that - We are working with companies like Vu.City to create modern and visual aids to assist the public in seeing and understanding our design proposals. We believe these tools are extremely useful to contextualise designs, and we very much hope to roll out such a tool when we are progressed enough.

The Site is in a Flood Zone, we believe this will require access arrangements at the time of flooding, and ground floor spaces built that can be bought back into operation quickly post a flood.  This may impact the first floor levels as facilities such as Kitchens for F&B may need to be located at a higher level.

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