The Herald's postbag was full to the brim with readers' reaction to Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver's column last week calling on residents to get out of their cars to help tackle Farnham's congestion problem. Here is a selection of your letters...
I cannot be the only person to be completely aghast at Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver’s column last week on reducing car use.
The headline to his column suggests that ‘reducing car use is key to the success of the town centre roads plan’.
It’s a promising, if rather obvious, start. But, astonishingly, he then goes on to explain that not only is there no current plan to encourage alternatives to car use but also that there won’t be one in the foreseeable future either. The obvious conclusion, then, is that the town centre road plan is destined to fail.
Cllr Oliver seems completely unperturbed by this and is clearly without any sense of urgency. He is completely vague about when the elements of his much trumpeted ten-year Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan will be delivered. He does not target a month, a season, or even a year. All he will say is ‘it’s a long journey’, oblivious to the pun.
To add insult to injury, he attempts to take credit for short- and medium-term interventions, which include upgrades to Borelli’s Walk and the Hale Trail.
These have been touted for donkeys’ years, but once again he offers no timeframe for when work will get under way.
If they’re short-term, I dread to think what he thinks long-term means. Little wonder that Pete Goodman and his cycling campaign are hopping mad; it’s mañana culture, writ large.
The map accompanying his article is criss-crossed with worthy but meaningless lines which purport to be walking or cycling corridors. But the truth is these are no more than that – lines on a map drawn by expensive consultants. They’ve not been consulted on.
And they’re flawed because when they reach the town centre, cyclists and pedestrians alike will have to take their chances on Farnham’s busiest roads, including the one-way system.
It’s a deeply unattractive prospect so I am not sure how it is supposed to encourage people to walk or cycle more.
It hardly needs saying that Cllr Oliver says nothing about the other less-polluting transport options that Surrey County Council claims to prioritise, such as public transport and car clubs, other than to list them.
It’s time this lackadaisical approach ended. The plans to support all of the more sustainable means of transport have to be accelerated. They should run in parallel, if not ahead of the town centre roads plan – they shouldn’t be an afterthought.
And we need clear target dates for delivery so we can hold our politicians and their staff to account.
It’s time we stopped being fobbed off with these long-winded excuses for inaction.
Stoke Hills, Farnham
Surrey County Council leader Cllr Tim Oliver would have us believe he is doing as much as he can to make life in Farnham easier and healthier in promoting the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and its target to reduce car use across the town.
Unfortunately this is not true – he has taken his eye off the ball that is the massive amount of development allocated, built, at application or appeal between Weybourne and Badshot Lea (see my plan above).
That is 537 dwellings covering over 23 hectares; 332 dwellings outside the agreed Built-Up Area Boundary total, more than the 320 dwellings permitted in principle on May 18, 2021 on 11.44ha at Coxbridge Farm, which is allocated in the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan.
Much to everyone’s annoyance, South East Water freshwater pipe infrastructure to facilitate the Coxbridge development, even though it has not yet got full permission, is currently blocking West Street.
What infrastructure is planned for north Farnham? The sewage works are at capacity, the schools are over-subscribed, health provision is over-subscribed, the roads are at log jam, and not one of the applications in the past year have received so much as a comment from South East Water as to freshwater capacity.
Proposed – a few remodelled crossings and lots of four-metre wide shared cycle/footpaths.
Highways and the lead local flood authority are both Surrey’s responsibility and time after time they allow developers to either recycle reports from earlier applications and appeals, or to fail to produce comprehensive, up-to-date reports.
In some cases, the validity of the flood risk assessments that the LLFA are happy to accept must be questioned as they were produced before the update to the NPPF on July 20, 2021 which was changed to include all flood risk.
That includes groundwater risk; this winter, Lower Weybourne Lane was flooded, lower Monkton Lane was flooded, and closed, for a month. Getting to Sainsbury’s from Weybourne involved negotiating flooding on two roundabouts on the only open route.
Three of the developments above all intend to use the same south-flowing ditch down to Water Lane – down to an area that already floods.
Taken individually, case by case, as planning tends to do, that might be viable, but there has been no assessment of the cumulative effects of all three.
Waverley Borough Council are autonomous in planning decisions, but they need county bodies to recognise the growing unsustainability in north Farnham, and to give WBC the ammunition to fight off financially-motivated speculative development.
Cllr Oliver needs to give them the focus and impetus to do so, or he will end up with around 1,000 extra cars before he can even dream of an improved bus service and grannies going for a spin on an e-bike.
Upper Weybourne Lane,
IN A HOLE...
I thought the leader of Surrey County Council, Tim Oliver, already had a viable policy for getting cars off the road in Farnham.
It is called potholes.
Cascade Way, Farnham