FARNHAM’S one-way system is to undergo its most comprehensive overhaul in decades next month – with a pioneering social-distancing pavement widening project set to coincide with a major gas upgrade in the town.

The government has given councils emergency measures during the coronavirus pandemic to temporarily create wider pavements and new cycle paths to ensure people can keep a two-metre distance from others.

The county council is waiting to hear its share of a national £250m fund to support this.

However, on the back of the inaugural meeting of the Farnham Project Board last Friday, charged with finding a solution to Farnham’s chronic traffic and pollution woes, plans have already been unveiled for pavement widening in Farnham, Godalming and Reigate.

Godalming Town Council has already been granted permission to close the town centre to traffic – but details are yet to be confirmed for the Farnham scheme, which is complicated by the lack of a north/south relief road for displaced traffic.

Instead, the Herald understands Surrey is exploring plans to close a lane of Downing Street and The Borough – with Farnham In Bloom volunteers potentially playing a role in using flower planters to separate pedestrians and cyclists from traffic.

Matt Furniss, cabinet member for highways, said: “There are huge economic, social and environmental benefits to creating temporary wide pavements and cycle paths.

“These range from helping people feel able to support their local traders, to improving mental and physical health, and reducing congestion and air pollution.

“This is a fast-paced response to the coronavirus outbreak, but it links with our strategic aim of creating healthier, happier streets in Surrey.

“The pilot in Farnham will test how pavement widening will work, and we will change as necessary to deliver better streets for residents.”

It coincides with utility company SGN’s announcement that it will shortly start “safety-critical gas network upgrades” in Farnham town centre – set to take place over 21 weeks starting this week.

An SGN spokesman said: “Following close consultation with Surrey County Council, our contractor I&G will be carrying out safety-critical and essential gas mains upgrades between Brightwells Road and Firgrove Hill in eight phases.”

As illustrated to the right, phase one began in Firgrove Hill on Tuesday (May 26), requiring temporary traffic lights.

Subsequent phases will see work continue in Brightwells Road from June 8, and lane closures in South Street from June 22 to August 17.

The most significant of these, phase five, will see a lane closure at South Street’s junction with the A31 at Hickleys Corner.

For around four weeks from July 20, no traffic will be able to access the town from the A31 via South Street, with no left turn into Union Road from South Street and no access along Longbridge Road heading south towards the bridge.

Work will then continue between the bridge at Longbridge and Firgrove Hill up to its junction with Saxon Croft, and eventually Trafalgar Court from August 17 to mid-September.

And finally, phase eight will see works return to Brightwell Road for approximately four weeks from September 21, to carry out final connections and reinstatement.

An SGN spokesman continued: “Vehicle access to properties will be maintained and our team on the ground will let customers know in advance in the unlikely event this is not possible. Access to car parks will be maintained and pedestrian walkways will stay open.

“We’re continuing to liaise with the UK government and public health bodies to make sure we work safely and in line with expert advice during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We have extra safety precautions in place to protect our colleagues and customers from catching or spreading the virus as we carry out this safety-critical project.”