However, if you watched the webcast of Waverly’s Joint Planning Committee you may be totally confused by Crest Nicholson’s bid to carry out work affecting the A31 24/7.
HERE’S THE Q.
To close, or not to close, a lane on the A31 – 24/7? This would enable developers to build a bridge over troubled waters, to gain access to the Blightwells Yard development site during the busiest trading month in Farnham shopkeepers’ calendar?
The developer already has permission for partial road closures but believes complete closure 24/7 could shorten the predicted disruption from 16-weeks to between 4-6.
However, any work on Surrey’s roads is embargoed by the county council between 19-Nov and 7th December to minimise disruption to travellers.
After one of the most confusing and turgid debates, peppered with discombobulating explanations by Richard Cooper Surrey County highway’s supposed road planning ‘expert.’ The debate was so muddy and unclear, it made the effluent going into Farnham’s sewage treatment works look clearer than Evian Water!
When the Webcast wasn’t switching off Farnham Resident’ Councillor Jerry Hyman – it cannot be coincidence, can it?!?! He was able to join others in expressing concerns that changes to existing conditions supported by Waverley’s planning officers – could be catastrophic for Farnham businesses.
“Do we really want our residents shooting off to Guildford or somewhere & else to do their Christmas shopping?” Do we want to gridlock Farnham Town Centre – and kill off trade in this town at a critical time of year?” He also predicted dire consequences in roads around Farnham station and South Street due to 3-second phasing changes at the lights.
Farnham Councillor Andy McLeod said the town’s Christmas lights would be turned on this week – three weeks before the introduction of the county embargo. If the developer went ahead next week, work could, if the condition was changed, take place for 3 weeks 24/7 prompting chaos in Farnham town centre.
He claimed If members followed officers advice not only Crest Nicholson, but both the county and Waverley council’s reputations would be damaged! Car park closures would damage trade too. He wasn’t suggesting work should not take place, merely postponed until mid-January.
Others pointed to the developer’s failure over many years to get on with the job, which four years ago former councillor Adam Taylor-Smith had described as being “shovel ready!” Godalming councillor Paul Follows said his local research revealed the strength of local feeling. “We have to do what is best for the residents of Farnham, not a developer!” The application should definitely be deferred until after Christmas.
Officers argued there was a short window of opportunity before demolition of Berkeley’s Woolmead development began, with its resulting HGV movements. To miss that could cause even more traffic problems. Crest Nicholson had an extant permission and could start work immediately during limited hours – until 7 December when the county council embargo would be triggered until 7 January.
However, councillors narrowly refused by 11 votes to 10 to change the planning condition.
However, should it wish? The developer can close one lane of the A31 between 9am-5pm from Monday.