Councillors and business owners in Farnham town centre have expressed their frustration at the delayed water pipeline upgrade in West Street, which has caused significant disruption to the local economy and road system.
The project, which has closed West Street since early March, was expected to move on to the next phase by the end of April. But work is still ongoing – with a May 31 “target” date for the reopening of West Street looming large.
A crunch meeting was held between local representatives, business owners and South East Water (SEW) last Thursday to discuss the impact of the delay.
During the meeting, SEW agreed to take several actions to address local concerns. These include placing signage on the outskirts of town to direct through traffic away from the town centre, offering compensation claim packs to affected businesses, and potentially setting up a business support fund.
Five actions South East Water 'agreed to look into' after the meeting
- More signage on outskirts of town to direct ‘through’ drivers to avoid town centre. Also “event” style signage to flag up local businesses that are open and the street market later in May.
- All town businesses to be sent a compensation claim pack. Claims will be dealt with by a loss adjuster and can be submitted when the West Street works are complete. Businesses that are in real financial need can also request an exgratia payment.
- South East Water may offer a site visit for councillors and others to show what’s involved in the project.
- Farnham's town clerk, Iain Lynch, proposed that South East Water set up a business support fund to help Farnham Businesses who have been negatively affected.
- South East Water will look seriously now at employing extra teams and add more working hours to expedite work.
Ward councillor George Hesse, who attended the meeting, said afterwards: “While I recognise the need for an upgraded fresh water supply to the west end of Farnham, and the technical difficulties for undertaking a project so close into the centre of a town on a busy A road, a vital artery, there was a lack of notice or consultation in advance.
“The project has had a very damaging effect on the economy of the town, and many residents and business people are exasperated and not a little angry about the lack of urgency by SEW in completing the first stage of the project.”
The meeting was organised by county councillor for Farnham South, and herself a town retailer, Michaela Martin and held remotely by Zoom.