Weyside Urban Village: What will it mean for us?

March 1, 2021| Past Issues, Editorial

Illustration showing the approximate area of the proposed development.

The urban village is a brownfield development of 1550 houses with some space for retail, business and a surgery. It will stretch along the north bank of the River Wey, with the current lock at its mid point. If you like to visit the riverside park, it will be your new view across the river.

Unlike the proposed Gosden Hill development to our north, this one has had very few objections so far, except from gardeners who have allotments earmarked for closure on part of the site. Supporters have gained support from the Secretary of State to preserve at least some of them. The rest of the site is currently used for council amenities – the depot, the tip, the sewage works – and most of these will be moved further north beside the industrial estate, and therefore closer to us.

If you like to visit the riverside park, Weyside Urban Village will be your new view across the river.

We can be pleased that a site has been found where housing will be welcome because there is still pressure for homes on this side of Guildford.

However, the spared allotments mean there is less land for developers, who may now look to protect their potential profits by cutting out the so-called ‘affordable housing’. But what does ‘affordable housing’ mean when the measure is calibrated against an area of high-cost housing? These might not be dwellings that our children or young families can afford. Possibly they will appeal to affluent Londoners looking to leave the city.

Less appealing for Burpham is the traffic it could generate. New access roads will enter and exit from Jacobs Well and Woking Road, so people heading into town will go that way. But 1550 houses will create a lot of traffic and some of it will inevitably head for the A3. Picture yourself on that side of the river wondering which route to take to the A3: through the clogged interchange at Stoke Rd (to go north) and on to Wooden Bridge (to go south) or a quick trip through to Burpham and Send?

The planning documents (see Transport Assessment 1) are enthusiastic about linking the estate loop road into the so-called Sustainable Movement Corridor which will run from east to west across Guildford to keep traffic moving. It is shown leaving the development onto Park Way then continues up the London Road to the hairpin adjacent to the slip road, and then down Merrow Lane to a fictitious railway station called West Clandon at the top of New Inn Lane.

How much bigger and how much busier can London Road be when commuters take that route, when shoppers park and ride there, and when Gosden Hill estate is added? What fate awaits New Inn Lane when people realise it’s a perfect rat run? And is this it for ancient Merrow Lane? Residents thought they had dealt with this traffic trauma when they saw the plans for Gosden Hill, but here it is, back again.

I will leave it to more knowledgeable colleagues to explain the knock-on effects of building on a flood plain, but I know that it is going to need very particular attention. After the extensive floods in recent years, I understood that flood plains were meant to be left to do their job?

When estates are built, it’s the retail and social facilities that come last, when there are enough residents to make shops and surgeries viable. Before that, newcomers look to existing services nearby. That means they’ll come to our supermarkets, surgeries, parks and other facilities. I am guessing that families might well look to our wonderful high-achieving primary school for their children. There will be pressure on our services for a few years until they get their own.

Traffic aside, though, it’s not bad for us. The artist’s illustrations look great to me. Life on the river will be good, and I’m genuinely glad to see more homes in Guildford. But I do wish planners would look with honesty at the impact outside the building zone, and consult more specifically on major changes to roads. We need an honest discussion about the Sustainable Movement Corridor because it has the potential to ruin Burpham.

Sue Hackman