Will the Wey and Arun Canal be permitted to cross the Downs Link footpath?

Waverley Tories were decidedly unimpressed with references to the Wey and Arun Canal Trust’s inclusion in the council’s Climate Change Action Plan which is expected to receive the go-ahead shortly. Though they want some minor alterations, the Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee has approved the ambitious plan.

Waverley councillor unveils Climate Strategy.

Some members of the Conservative Group questioned the inclusion of The Wey and Arun Canal as part of the plan, saying this should not be on the to-do list, as this was already being done. Conservative Councillors claimed they had been supporting the popular Trust for years. Nah, Nah, N, Nah, Nah!

However, The Trust efforts to forge ahead with its plans to open up the canal from Sussex across the border into Surrey and beyond is moving on apace. It has submitted planning applications to Waverley & Guildford Planners to create a further 1,000-yard extension to the canal between Bramley and neighbouring Shalford. Those who masterminded the Plan – believe the Wey & Arun Canal is an integral part of its plan to cut carbon emissions.

The Downs Link path running alongside the A281 Horsham/Guildford Rd at Shalford, looking towards the village of Bramley.

The Trust, backed by a vast team of dedicated volunteers from Sussex has been a high priority for the owners of Dunsfold Airfield soon to become a new Garden Village. It has supported the Trust’s work from the outset. But the latest phase of the project along a section of the popular Downs Link path may prove more problematical. It runs along the former Horsham to Guildford railway line through Ellens Green/Cranleigh/and Bramley. A line which Guildford MP Angela Richardson told the Commons she wants to see “re-purposed.”

Guildford MP pitches to open Guildford – Cranleigh train line.

The planning application will be considered by both neighbouring authorities and objections are already surfacing. Some fear the new section of canal will cause a risk of flooding to nearby properties and damage the environment with the removal of trees and wildlife habitat.  The Trust refutes this and it boasts a well-proven track record for improving the environment rather than damaging it. But another concern is that extension could scupper reopening of the railway line.

According to the application (Ref: 20/P/01752) lodged with Guildford Borough Council is for land between Gun’s Mouth Island at Shalford to Gosden Meadow, Tannery Lane in Bramley. The application seeks to include a new lock and bridges.

While the application lodged with Waverley Borough Council (Ref: WA/2020/0004) concerns land at Rushett Common in Bramley, for the “erection of new bridges, the construction of new canal cut, new footpaths and landscaping”.

Some residents of the eastern villages say the would welcome the re-opening of the railway line. However, former MP Anne Milton was vehemently opposed. She believed it would lead to a huge explosion of housing in Cranleigh and the eastern part of the borough. An area which has little or no protection from development. Part of the Downs Link footpath through Cranleigh now runs close to the boundaries and walls of houses on the Berkeley Homes development. Cranleigh Parish Council has yet to consider whether it will back the application – according to the Waverley website.

The Wey & Arun Junction Canal, from the River Wey at Shalford to the River Arun at Pallingham in West Sussex was opened in 1816. It was 23 miles in length and was formally closed in 1871. Its most impressive stretch is through Loxwood.

Never hugely profitable, a large factor in its demise was undoubtedly the opening of the railway line from Guildford to Horsham via Cranleigh in 1865. A line closed under the Beeching cuts in the 1960s.

 

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