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Emerging from the lockdown

Black circular sign post with Farnham painted in white letters around top of circle

Farnham Voice by Councillor John Neale. Published in the Farnham Herald on 25 June 2020.

Life for all of us has changed a lot this year. Our daily routines of 2019 and before seem an age away, as we spend most of our time at home. Some people’s lives have changed dramatically, others have been able to carry on regardless, by working from home. We all have a different story to tell.

Everyone is looking forward to the time when we can carry on doing the things we used to do. In Farnham Town Council we have tried our hardest to help ease the difficulties, working in partnership with Farnham Maltings. Now we are thinking more about what we should do for the future.

The Helpline we set up in the early days has helped many local people. We are now getting fewer calls for assistance as people can get out and about, and new support arrangements with neighbours and others have developed. We are continuing with the service for the time being (01252 745446), between 9am and 2pm every day, for those who are isolated and still need support. The Share Farnham initiative has also been a success, and this may evolve into a separate community led project.

The Coronavirus Support fund has, thanks to your generosity, now raised over £33,000 and has so far helped over 40 people facing hardship. Lee Moran of Farnham Rants is currently running an auction to raise more funds.

How about the pavement widening scheme? This works to the extent that it provides more space for pedestrians, whilst keeping the traffic moving. However, reaction from the public and the shops has been mixed. The town council was pressing for a scheme that involved fewer barriers, cones and extra signage. We argued for the use of planters and more aesthetic barriers, so that the scheme would look better, whilst helping the public to get to the shops. However, our partners, Surrey County Council, who have responsibility for safe working, pressed for what we have today. Expect changes as we go along; there will be more planters and fewer barriers. The diversion signs to deter HGVs entering the town centre are now in place and we hope this will have a positive effect.

Uppermost in our mind is the aim to provide a positive and safe environment for our local business community; we are listening to all the feedback and we are trying to support their many and varied needs. With SCC support we will also be installing new, high tech cameras to monitor the scheme. Not only will we be able to check traffic movements online, but we will be able to collect (anonymous) data about the types of vehicles and their movements. This will help us in planning for the future of the town centre – part of the project we announced recently. We may be able to extend this upgraded camera technology to other parts of Farnham that also need attention.

The Farnham pavement widening scheme was the first in Surrey. It was implemented very quickly so it would be in place for the main shop reopening date. Surrey brought forward a planned road resurfacing project, and to help the businesses we prepared a four-page pamphlet summarising the scheme and listing some measures that would help them prepare for the reopening. Our staff delivered these leaflets by hand just before the start date. We are also grateful to the volunteer ambassadors who have been assisting pedestrians and delivery drivers.

So, to all the shops, businesses and people in the town, please keep telling us your views and we will try to help as best we can, working with our county and borough partners.

On a brighter front, we are enormously pleased about our new World Crafts City status for Farnham. This recognises the fantastic craft heritage the town has, the contribution the University for the Creative Arts brings in teaching craft makers of the future, and the talented individuals and businesses that contribute to the local economy. As we emerge from lockdown and face a much-changed High Street, we hope the creative arts will play a more significant part in the economy of our town. Farnham Town Council will continue to work with Farnham Maltings and other local partners in developing this great achievement. This accolade will broaden our recognition nationally and internationally, giving Farnham a stronger foundation as we move forward after the pandemic.

By Councillor John Neale, Leader, Farnham Town Council Published in the Farnham Herald on 25 June 2020

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