LAST week’s meeting of the Farnham Project Board was the closest experience to take-off a non-pilot can have: there is a still long way to go but there was a sense that we are on the cusp of transformational change for the town.
These forums can often be talking shops (and there has been a lot of that!)
But I always think in politics actions speak louder than words and a number of short-term interventions have already started to happen, not least the HGV ban in the town centre which is now up and running.
Three more things are now being addressed:
New signage to inform HGV drivers they cannot come into the town centre, which will be on the A287 and B3349 roundabouts.
Enforcement against the breaches, of which there have been a number.
Updating Google Maps to declassify the A325 which is under way.
Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) and speed limit orders for the new 20mph limit in much of the town centre are now complete and signs will start to go up before the summer.
Eleven ‘medium term schemes’ are also being progressed – whittled down from a massive 106 initially considered.
These include the Borelli’s Walk ‘Park and Stride’, improvements to Scholars Greenway and Eastern Greenway in Farnham Park, cycle shelters and cycling and pedestrian routes in Gardeners Hill Road.
A set of priority cycle routes has now been identified. There was also discussion of the urgent need for more new measures near the Wrecclesham Bridge following yet another lorry being overturned.
I have worked on this for years and although I succeeded in getting new warning signs put up, we clearly need to do more.
But most encouraging was the progress made on the town centre transformation.
A topographical survey has now been completed and two schemes are now under consideration: firstly a widening of the pavements and ‘public realm’ in Castle and Downing Streets to allow outside cafe tables and cycle racks and secondly changing the traffic patterns to make South Street two way and allow right turns at the bottom of Castle Street.
This is not going the ‘whole way’ on pedestrianisation but a big step towards it. It means that as traffic patterns change over time it will become possible at a later date – ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’ as the French saying goes.
Change of this magnitude is not possible without the wholehearted support of the people of Farnham.
There will be disruption and we need to go into it with our eyes open.
We hope to be in a position to put all these plans out to consultation before the summer, including the chance for Farnham residents to have their say through a postal response mechanism.
Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, has been extremely supportive from the outset and came to Farnham for most of Friday morning which is a sign of his personal commitment.
He has made the town one of his top two priority towns in Surrey. But it isn’t just Tim: what is planned at this stage also has the support of all the local political parties and so the signs are good that we can achieve a lasting consensus that makes these changes possible.
If so it will be the result of decades of campaigning by many of us and a wonderful step forward for the town.