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What action can we take?

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Farnham Voice by Councillor John Neale. Published in the Farnham Herald on 23 January 2020.

You will remember how, last year, I was talking to you about our plans as a council to tackle the climate change emergency. Farnham Town Council, along with Waverley and Surrey all declared a climate change emergency and committed to taking steps to reduce our carbon footprints. In the short space of time since then, the issue has taken even greater prominence in the world’s eyes, prompted by Greta Thunberg and Australian fires.

As a town council, our ability to make a direct impact on this subject is limited. However, by working with you, our community, we can together make changes that will reduce vehicle emissions and, at the same time, improve the air quality around the town centre, the station and schools. This is all about making changes to how we move around. Many of us have become highly dependent on our cars; they enable us to manage our busy lifestyles – kids to school and activities, parents to workplaces, old folks to the surgery.

Yet we all know that this modern way of life has its downsides, not only in carbon emissions but also in health and wellbeing. We will all probably have to change course at some stage, the only question is when. Do we wait until we are forced, or can we be proactive? I know some people and organisations are up front: more people are cycling; some schools have tried walking buses. I would like to think that Farnham can be in the vanguard.

The council is currently working hard with partners to see if we can upgrade the pedestrian experience in the town centre. The main motivation here is to improve the centre as a place to visit and to maintain its economic viability. We want to draw more Farnham people and visitors to the town centre by smartening the area, reducing the dominance of cars over people, introducing more community features and hopefully enhancing the shopping experience. But to do this, we will inevitably have to restrict vehicle access. That will have impacts on car use and road use in the outer areas.

Where you can help us most on all these issues is by working with friends, colleagues and schools to find alternative ways of reducing your car use. The council will, at the same time, try to find ways to help you. For example, to make sure the town centre is easily accessible, we could seek to introduce new, north-south and east-west bus routes through the centre using eco-friendly, pedestrian-aware electric buses. If well used, they would be frequent enough to be convenient and hence become economically viable.

So, these are some options that would help us make improvements. You will hear much more from us as we engage with the community on these topics. But for now, I would like everyone to help by giving us your reaction to these ideas and by making suggestions as to what you and the council can do together.

Everything here is becoming more and more urgent; we need to make changes not only for climate change, air quality and the damage to our town centre caused by heavy lorries. Our MP, Jeremy Hunt, is trying to get our councils moving more quickly to solve these problems. I want us all to respond to this by agreeing to solutions where we are clearly helping ourselves. Please contact me or your local councillor with your thoughts or use the medium of The Herald to share your ideas.

By Councillor John Neale, Leader, Farnham Town Council Published in the Farnham Herald on 23 January 2020

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