Letter to Surrey Advertiser (unpublished)
I attended the Waitrose exhibition and I have considered long and hard what I saw and heard and, however much I would love to have Waitrose in Guildford, I simply cannot see why it should be on the Bellerby Theatre site.
As a property professional with almost thirty years of experience, I know that it would be a much better idea to have both John Lewis and Waitrose anchoring the Friary extension and regenerating the area that has been all but set aside for tens of years pending development. The combination of these two sister stores in a large format could well be the difference between a viable development or not. Furthermore, the development of a new residential quarter should be capable of generating attractive returns for the Council’s site.
Access to the Bellerby theatre site has not been resolved by the Waitrose scheme (which does not comply with the original tender document) which envisages trucks using the very narrow road past the telephone exchange (which itself should, perhaps be a candidate for relocation but at what cost?) – an unwarranted intrusion in an ostensibly residential area.
The configuration of the main customer access from and onto York Road, though, is intuitively barmy. Bad for the already fragile one-way system (and I gather there has not been an overall traffic study of the gyratory system and its feeder roads to determine whether they can cope even at peak times) but horrendous for rush-hour traffic to and from schools and work – especially if there are cars queuing to get into the car park whilst shoppers manoeuvre into and out of the parking spaces near to the entrance.
And this is even before considering the impact of yet another traffic light junction and a pedestrian crossing. The underpass which children use safely at the beginning and end of the school day, will be lost in favour of this crossing so that they can wait for the green man in the rain or, heaven forbid, rush across the road, hoping the stationery traffic does not suddenly spring back to life after many minutes of inactivity.
Having taken almost an hour on Saturday lunch time getting from the station to Onslow Village along Walnut Tree Close and Woodbridge Meadows, I know only too well how Guildford’s traffic needs re-planning. Putting Waitrose in an already heavily congested area could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – but surely it cannot be good for Waitrose to have long periods when potential customers can neither enter nor exit from the store, and when the challenge of shopping there overwhelms the initial enthusiasm to have this excellent store in our town.
I can assure your readers, the Council and Waitrose that I will watch closely to ensure that the level of evidence for satisfaction of highways concerns is sufficient to confirm that the gyratory system and all its feeder roads can cope, and I would like to remind Surrey County Council of the seriousness of its statutory consultee role in advising Councillors and officers when it comes to determine a planning application from which Guildford Borough Council stands to gain considerable capital receipts.