Local opposition to £150m plans to re-develop the train station are at odds with Guildford’s new found status, says chartered surveyor Steven Drennan.
“As the fastest-growing town in the country the town centre is crying out for a metropolitan makeover if it’s to live up to its promise.”
Steven Drennan, head of office at Bruton Knowles in Guildford, says first impressions are important for the town’s many business and leisure visitors.
“Clearly the railway station in its present form – built in 1845 and updated in 1880 – is not of the standard visitors would expect from a ’Top 10’ town.
“While accepting we shouldn’t be rushing to replace every building with a Shard-style skyscraper, we need to be thinking big and thinking bold.”
Guildford was recently voted top of the 2015 Vitality Index as the most productive, entrepreneurial and fastest-growing town in the country.
It also scores highly as one of the most highly educated and affluent.
But plans to regenerate the town’s railway station submitted to Guildford Borough Council by Solum Regeneration have attracted criticism from a local alderman and members of the public.
The £150m regeneration scheme envisages a 15-storey building, incorporating 450 new homes, shops and a 440-space car park.
The 48,000 sq project is the largest development ever proposed in Guildford.
Adds Steve Drennan said: “Many of our clients and the people we’ve been speaking to have welcomed the prospect of a carefully thought out makeover.
“The station is an increasingly significant link on the mainline between London and Portsmouth and acts as the gateway to a particularly vibrant business and commuter hub.
“Network Rail is investing billions to upgrade the network and has just completed a vitally important upgrade at Reading. The upgrade proposed for Guildford would be fully funded by the commercial development.
“In addition to the railway facilities, the regeneration will provide much needed new homes for local people and will help reduce pressure to develop the green belt.”
“New development proposals frequently run up against objections and it is right these plans should be considered very carefully indeed – they are after all the most significant proposals ever put before the council.
“But if Guildford is to live up to its Top 10 billing we can’t allow much needed improvements to our infrastructure to be shunted off into a siding or watered down to a mere window-dressing exercise.”