The roadside planters in Downing Street are here to stay – despite fears emergency vehicles are being held up in the current Farnham town centre gridlock, the town council has ruled.

Councillor George Hesse relayed concerns that an ambulance on an emergency call had become trapped in Downing Street at tonight's Farnham Town Council meeting.

He commended the town council on the planters, which he said are “beautifully maintained”, but expressed his fear they were now acting as a “block” to emergency vehicles.

On one occasion last week, an ambulance was held up in traffic in Downing Street, with eyewitness reports putting the length of the delay at between seven and 11 minutes.

As a result, Cllr Hesse said the planters had “served their time, done their job, and should now be removed”.

He added: “I’m not a traffic engineer, but the planters are presenting a problem and if someone was to die because an ambulance couldn’t get through Downing Street, it would sit on our conscience.”

However, Cllr Hesse’s fellow councillors took a different view.

Cllr Michaela Martin, who is herself a Downing street retailer, spoke up for the planters, saying they have “stopped pedestrians being hit by car mirrors, stopped boy racers, and stopped cars ending up in shops”.

She continued: “Downing Street is to be widened permanently as part of the Farnham Infrastructure Programme and the planters should be kept.”

Cllr Mark Merryweather agreed, saying he was “old enough to remember what Downing Street was like before the planters”, when he said the traffic was just as bad but the cars were just closer to the pavements.

“The planters are not the problem, the congestion in town is the problem,” he said. “The congestion has to be dealt with. Going back to the way Downing Street used to be is not the solution.”

Town clerk, Iain Lynch, also reminded members that the planters were originally installed for safety reasons, to prevent pedestrians tripping over the ‘orca’ rubber lane separators installed by Surrey County Council during the pandemic when Downing Street’s pavements were first widened.

Cllr Andy MacLeod, county councillor for Farnham Central, vowed to write to the county council’s highways department to relay the town council’s concern at the present gridlock in the town centre.

Councillors were also informed that scheduled roadworks in Park Row had been deferred after South East Water confirmed its pipeline project in West Street had been delayed a month, with the road not set to reopen until late May.

As a consequence, the town clerk advised this would likely have a knock-on effect for repairs to the Andrew Windsor Almshouses at the junction of Park Row and Castle Street – calling on South East Water to compensate the almshouses trustees for any additional costs incurred.

The closure of West Street is believed to be the main catalyst for the current traffic woes in Farnham town centre. Read more here.