THERE were tense exchanges between councillors last week as non-Farnham members complained their areas are getting a raw deal compared to the “huge sums of money” being pledged to the Farnham Infrastructure Programme (FIP).
This year marks the tenth anniversary of councillors signing off new on-street parking charges in Farnham in 2011, on the proviso that any surplus parking ticket revenue be reinvested into the town’s road system.
In recent years – with major changes in Farnham stemming from the Brightwells and Woolmead redevelopments, and latterly the FIP on the horizon – councillors have opted to pool this cash, building up a fund of around £500,000 ring-fenced for Farnham.
And last Friday, Waverley Local Committee was asked to finally release this on-street parking windfall for use by the FIP’s decision-making project board.
A spiky debate ensued, led by Godalming councillor Steve Cosser who said: “Given the huge sums of money going into Farnham from Surrey centrally, I just can’t understand why we as a Local Committee are being asked to provide £500,000 on top of that?
“I am sensing in my community a feeling that they are not always being best served by their councillors because nothing much is being invested outside of Farnham.”
Haslemere councillor Nikki Barton also spoke out, commenting “the rest of the county has been left out in the cold”.
And Farnham Residents councillor Jerry Hyman backed Cllr Cosser’s call to “redistribute” some of the £500,000, saying he would rather the money go elsewhere, than see the Farnham Project Board “waste it on more consultants”.
But Farnham’s three county councillors defended the project.
Farnham North councillor Stephen Spence said: “This committee agreed a long time before we all became councillors that Farnham’s on-street parking surplus would be ring-fenced for Farnham.
“Nothing has been done to improve Farnham’s roads for 50 years – we’ve had report after report, but nothing has been done. This £500,000 now needs to be spent, and we want our money please.”
Farnham Central Cllr Andy MacLeod said it was not true to say the project board is “wasting” cash, adding the £500,000 parking surplus will “enable the quick wins identified by the project to happen”, including an HGV ban through Farnham town centre and Upper Hale, and potential 20mph limits and a reclassification of A-roads.
And drawing a line under the debate Tory member for Farnham South, Cllr Wyatt Ramsdale, said: “I will get really annoyed if people try to pinch our money.”