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Solum Station Plans

Mar 2013

Guildford is caught between a series of piecemeal planning proposals, arising from the Council’s imperative to give the town continuing success, and the well-articulated need to set any new development into a long term plan to avoid development being self-limiting through the irremediable traffic congestion it would cause.

A Waitrose in Guildford is attractive, but the use of the Bellerby site - against the sentiments of the 2003 Local Plan and the 2006 Town Centre Action Plan - is much less reasonable. The Waitrose experience shows the value of constructive involvement by the Society early on, rather than opposition at the final stage when constrained by the planning process.  The to-date more successful opposition to the Bedford Road bus station proposal shows the value of acting early.

Both Guildford Borough Council (GBC) and Surrey County Council (SCC) are now showing signs of being much more open in consultation. The next substantial development is that of the railway station, by developers Solum.   Early consultation revealed that the need to address the town’s transport issues in the development was of greater concern than details of the development itself. The Guildford Society Transport Group is actively reviewing the impending project with this in mind.

A study by SCC and GBC of improvements to the gyratory system is under way.  But certain beneficial concepts, such as separation of pedestrian routes as far as possible from the principal through-traffic routes, are self-evident and should inform any such study. Of particular relevance to the Solum development are:

1 The railway station must connect to the west end of Bridge Street and to the Farnham Road bridge for all types of pedestrian and vehicular movement so as not to inhibit longer term plans.

2 Space should be allowed for an integrated high-level pedestrian route from the railway station to the town centre and bus station. This will improve both pedestrian and traffic flows. Such a concept should allow for radical changes and options for a bus interchange and might be supplemented with an upgrade of the route through the subway directly to the Electric theatre, including a new pedestrian bridge across the river.

3 Space should be allowed for extending the northern inner ring road, formed of York Road and Waterden Road, westwards to the all-too-important western assets of the town (the University, the Cathedral, the Research Park, the Sports Park and the A3,) via a new "Rail-Wey" road bridge. This route can also connect to Guildford Park Road for access to Farnham Road (particularly useful when the Farnham Road bridge falls due for essential maintenance).

These points make no reference to the quantity or quality of housing, retail, car parking or other uses of the railway station site, beyond demanding that traffic generation must at least be sympathetic to the capacity of the surrounding infrastructure, now and in the future.

In any redesign of railway platforms and given the advent of a Surrey Rail Strategy no organization is better placed than Network Rail to produce a solution. And as landowner of sites adjacent to the railway station, no organization is better placed to transcend piecemeal development by joined-up thinking applied to joined-up sites than GBC (in conjunction with SCC) exemplified by linking the Guildford Park car park, Bedford Road and Michel Harper’s Quadrant site with the railway land for planning purposes.

The Transport Group, based on the atmosphere of co-operation promised at G-Live in November 2012, met transport planners from GBC and SCC in January and discussed current plans particularly for traffic studies and modelling. In this exchange Guildford Society clearly expressed their fears, based on earlier exchanges with Solum, that the awaited Solum plans would ignore opportunities for future development of the town and its connectivity to the cathedral, science park and hospital as well as not adding to the gyratory’s congestion. This meeting was welcomed by all attendees which also included representatives from the Guildford Residents Association and the Guildford Vision Group and a regular, probably quarterly, meeting will be established

Posted by: Tim Langhorn and Chris Blow