From GetSurrey, Underground car park and town square now in North Street plans
An underground car park for 500 vehicles, a new town square and closing part of North Street to traffic are among the priorities of the company tipped to redevelop part of Guildford town centre.
The project proposal by Land Securities, which will be recommended by the borough council’s evaluation panel in September, aims to create a “masterplan” for Guildford, focused on improving walking and traffic routes through the town.
The panel’s decision represents a complete U-turn on its conclusion earlier this year, when it backed rival bidder Lend Lease for the project.
The Lend Lease bid was on the cusp of gaining approval from the council’s executive in April when Prupim, the new owners of the Friary Centre and surrounding properties, asked for it to be reconsidered.
The council deferred the decision, before revealing that it would form a partnership with Prupim’s property fund M&G Real Estate to move forward with the project.
Deputy council leader James Palmer said: “The panel assessed the developers’ compatibility with the primary landowners, together with evidence of relevant and recent experience, capability and an appreciation of our development objectives.
“In reconsidering our position, the panel has reached a different conclusion, which we believe brings forward the most timely and effective development programme with the primary landowners and the right development partner.”
The Land Securities’ bid shares several focuses with that of Lend Lease, and also suggests bringing department store John Lewis to the town in one of three possible locations on the site.
It also proposes a car park with a capacity for 500 vehicles beneath North Street and the creation of a new east-to-west route through the town.
The bid highlights traffic management as “the most pressing need for the town centre”.
It adds: “The masterplan can only emerge with clarity once there is a solution to the highways.
“Whilst we do not yet have a realistic long-term proposal, and certainly not one which has any agreement with county highways, we share the aspirations of the stakeholders in the desire for a long-term solution that takes traffic away from the River Wey, opens up key high-profile river frontage development sites and restricts traffic on much of Onslow Street.
“Such a long-term move would have enormous benefits to the environment and attractiveness of the town centre. Technically difficult and costly, but worth exploring.”
The recommendation was given tentative support by the Guildford Vision Group. Member, and chairman of the Guildford Society, Bill Stokoe said: “Obviously the decision has not yet been ratified by the executive and we have to wait until a decision is made in September.
“If Land Securities ends up as the developer then that bodes well for Guildford.
“I think the combination that the council has set up augurs well for North Street.
“However, the key factor in this remains making sure that the people of Guildford have a say in what North Street looks like.
“They have not had a comprehensive chance to do that yet.
“This is a council decision and we have not seen all of the detail of the plans.
“From the point of view of the Guildford Society, I hope that North Street becomes a destination and not just a shopping mall.”