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Farnham in the 21st century

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 2 July 2020.

We will be announcing soon how the people of Farnham will be invited to get involved with the new Farnham Project. This project, called the Farnham Infrastructure Programme, was announced in the Herald a few weeks ago, and covered in this column.

The project will be addressing all the difficult highways issues around Farnham and in the town centre, in order to provide infrastructure, transport and connectivity improvements across the town and to help regenerate the town. Against a backdrop of severe pressure on local government finances, I hope Farnham will be well-placed to take advantage of new opportunities for some of the investment just announced by the Government.

One of the big questions that we will be asking for your views on, is what type of town do we want to see in the future? We are all aware of the big shift in shopping habits brought about by online shopping and, more recently, by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of this we have climate change and other environmental issues, together with a broad acceptance that we need to encourage a reduction in car usage and improvements in health and fitness.

That’s a lot of issues to contend with. Maybe we are fortunate that we are now planning for changes in the town, knowing all these new factors need to be covered. Now is a good time for us all to be thinking about this, so that we can bring our ideas forward to the project.

Many towns around the country have already made changes in their town centres. Generally, the trend is towards greater priority for pedestrians, and the desire to see adapted centres offering a greater focus on experiences and more community features that will attract people in. Farnham people have already given the green light to improved pedestrian access, so we would expect to move in that direction.

Whatever we do, we will want to capitalise on the existing merits of the town – including the fascinating heritage of the conservation area. We will need to make the most of the new Brightwells centre, even though its existence remains controversial and uncertain in the current economic climate. Alongside this backdrop, we must ensure that Farnham is smart, vibrant and welcoming, a place that has something to offer for all members of our community, young and old.

One of the major strengths of Farnham is the independent retail economy. This is something that we should all support and can build upon as part of our future. This year we will be launching initiatives to capitalise on our new status as a World Craft City and hopefully see this underpinning an evolving high street. Farnham Town Council will be working with the Chamber of Commerce and wider business community on how we can support the business community, thus sustaining our established businesses and encouraging new ones. Our events programme is currently on hold because of government restrictions, but we will restart activities as soon as we are able to, within any new guidelines.

I believe we have every reason to be upbeat about our town. Farnham is well-placed to come out of the COVID catastrophe and we look forward to discussing with you how we can create a revitalised and connected Farnham, building on the immense community support that has carried us through the crisis. Working together with our partners and with you, I am confident Farnham will emerge as a stronger and more resilient community.

By Councillor John Neale, Leader, Farnham Town Council Published in the Farnham Herald on 2 July 2020

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