Skip to main content

Exciting plans for town centre

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 4 June 2020.

As you will all know, COVID-19 has stopped most usual activities for everyone. That includes our regular council meetings and activities, together with the start up of the summer events that we would be commencing around this time of year.

I want to update you this week on our plans for the regeneration of Farnham. Regular readers will know that this work has been ongoing under the three councils – Surrey, Waverley and Farnham – during the last year.

The work that was carried out in the initial stages will now be incorporated in a new project called the Farnham Infrastructure Improvements Programme. This is a collaborative project, overseen by a Board that includes members of the three councils under the leadership of Surrey County Council. When it comes to implementation, Surrey is responsible for the highways infrastructure, Waverley for the planning and placemaking, and Farnham for the community liaison and for injecting all the local views and knowledge.

This is a very ambitious project and it will be very expensive, as are any projects concerned with infrastructure and highways. Therefore, it should be led by Surrey County Council, and I would like to acknowledge the initiative they are taking for the benefit of Farnham. Surrey has recognised that Farnham has lagged behind in terms of investment over many years and is now committing to reverse that trend. The vision is to regenerate Farnham as an exemplar town in Surrey, recognising its important heritage, whilst making it a leading Surrey and national town for the future. The aim is to build upon all its existing strengths and make it an even better and economically prosperous town.

We all recognise that any highways changes have to be well planned and work together, so the Board will be looking at all the major highways problems around Farnham, alongside the longstanding intention to improve the pedestrian experience in the town centre. These are the key areas of consideration:

  • Town centre changes that improve pedestrian movements and link up the existing town centre with the new Brightwells and Woolmead developments.
  • Farnham Bypass and Hickley’s Corner changes that improve traffic flows, safety and connectivity between South Farnham neighbourhoods and the town centre. This should also address the problems around the station and the pedestrian connection to the centre.
  • Plans for a Wrecclesham bypass that takes traffic out of the village and surrounding residential areas.
  • Other highways improvements to address problem areas such as Upper Hale Road, re-routing of HGVs where they are causing damage, reduced speed limits where needed.

The project is also very conscious of the need to recognise current environmental, health, fitness and wellbeing aspirations. In particular, we will be prioritising improvements for cyclists, people with mobility difficulties, air quality and the need to reduce private car use in the town centre. This will include ways to improve public transport and consideration of how children get to school, so that connectivity around the town and between neighbourhoods is also improved.

You are probably wondering how all this will be paid for and how long will it take? We can’t provide answers to this right now. What we do believe is that sound plans, backed up by economic justification, will put these projects in prime position for major funding that will largely have to come from government sources through the strategic agencies, and through funding opportunities that are announced from time to time. We expect some of the projects to start soon and others are likely to span the next 15 years.

As you would expect, a major component will be engagement with the local community. We will be making announcements soon as to how we will be involving all Farnham people.

This strategic project must be seen in the context of current day urgencies. The Town Council has set up a COVID Recovery Task Group to focus on issues that will bring confidence for both residents and our business community.  Major changes in shopping habits mean that we need to design improvements in the town centre that attract people to the retail area. COVID-19 means that we need to make more space for pedestrians in the shopping streets. So, you will see some changes happening very soon; the resurfacing of Downing Street and The Borough are in preparation for this. We are also working with Surrey County Council to help them design a pavement widening scheme that will work best in our conservation area. Farnham will also have to contend with some essential gas roadworks and new building projects in the town centre this year, all of which will add to disruption in the short term.

As we begin to move out of a strict lockdown, I would like to encourage you to continue to shop locally and support our local businesses. This will give them every chance to recover in support of our local economy. Also, let all of us who are able, consider whether we can walk or cycle instead of using the car, for the sake of the town and the environment.

By Councillor John Neale, Leader, Farnham Town Council Published in the Farnham Herald on 4 June 2020

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

No address available