It would be “madness” to go ahead with a Guildford road improvement scheme in the face of “huge opposition”, according to Surrey County Council’s leader. (source: Guildford Dragon News)
The proposed closure of London Road in Burpham was due to start on Monday (January 9) but has been postponed for further consultation and was the subject of a public meeting on yesterday (January 5). The meeting at George Abbot was attended by over 400 people.
The £4.2 million funding for the scheme to improve cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings on the busy road was approved by the Department for Transport in 2020
Cllr Oliver, at the outset of the meeting, made no bones about apologising for the consultation on the changes not being carried out “sufficiently or appropriately” and said the meeting should begin a process of further consultation on the scheme and on how works could be carried out.
He said: “These schemes are government funded, we don’t have the option to take the £4.2m and use it for other things, as much as I might like to do that.
“This money is available to design these transport schemes but if, at the end of the day, there is huge opposition to this then it would be madness for us to go ahead, and we’ll have to deal with the government over that and explain.”
He said the meeting should be a chance to “take this conversation forward in a practical and constructive way” and confirmed it was his decision that officers should pause the scheme.
The proposed closure raised a level of anger “not seen in 30 years in Guildford”, according to Cllr Fiona Davidson (Residents for Guildford and Villages, Guildford South East), who set up the public meeting and raised the issue at a council meeting in December.
Plans for a cycle lane along London Road risk major disruption in Guildford in first half of 2023. This article tries to keep on top of the facts. I will update it based on information I receive.
What is happening?
A cycle lane is being constructed along London Road from Burpham to the roundabout by Stoke Park. Works will take pace from 9th January 2023 to 31st May 2023 (reduced from original 22nd August completion). During that time it will not be possible to travel out of Guildford northward along the road
How will this impact the town?
There appears to be no impact assessment in the public domain. Anyone living in Guildford knows that during heavy rain the town quickly gridlocks. The traffic in Guildford during rush hour is bad enough so there is a high risk that of gridlock. Local County Councillor Fiona Davidson says “There is a risk of gridlock across a wide area of Guildford, misery for many, and further detriment to Guildford’s economy. There are no less than nine schools in the immediately impacted area – five are independent/faith schools with wide catchment areas”.
Is this cycle lane necessary?
It would obviously form part of a Guildford wide cycle strategy but such a strategy does not appear to exist or is not being pointed to by SCC on their website. As Martin Giles points out (see below) the issue is lack of routes across the town. Another issue is that this scheme will narrow the width of the road and make bus lanes impossible. Perhaps they are impossible on the that road anyway but it is a fair point that this green solution could rule out other green solutions
Who is responsible?
Surrey County Council (SCC) manage the roads so they are responsible. Guildford Borough Council is not involved. The Lead Councillor for Transport, Growth and Economy is Councillor Matt Furniss, Councillor for Shalford and Former Councillor for Guildford, Christchurch i.e. someone with local knowledge
When was this annouced?
It appears the first most people knew about this was 1st December. Councillor Matt Furniss announced this on his Twitter feed on 1st December and referenced a SCC press release stating “New walking and cycling facilities get green light on the A3100”. Locals around Burpham received a leaflet on 9th December. Local residents groups were not aware of this scheme until its “imminent start date began to leak out” around start of December. (See Guildford Dragon)
Why is SCC pushing this through at such short notice?
Not clear, but they have received Government funding for this so possibly there is an urgency in order to keep the funding but this has not been explained.
Is this part of a SCC transport strategy?
The Surrey County Council website quoted by SCC talks about a Surrey wide strategy but not specifically Guildford. Statements from SCC are very general: “Surrey has the highest number of cyclist casualties and is the fifth highest for pedestrian casualties in Great Britain…With 41 per cent of Surrey’s carbon emissions coming from transport, we are committed to doing all we can to make Guildford and the whole of Surrey a cleaner, greener place to live and travel.”
Has there been a consultation?
Not on the disruption this will cause. Surrey County Council states a consultation was run in 2021 and 58% of residents and businesses were in favour. However, this was clearly about the scheme and not the disruption it will cause.
SCC has announced a drop-in session will be held on Saturday, December 17, at Burpham Church in New Inn Lane between 9.30am and 2.00pm for people to find out more, see the plans and raise any questions. Regular updates and a timeline of works will be available on a dedicated webpage throughout – https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/activetravelburpham
It appears that Geoge Potter, Guildford Borough Councillor (Liberal) for Burpham and County Councillor for Guildford East was not consulted. Fiona Davidson (R4GV, Guildford South EastI told The Dragon: “The decision-makers at Surrey County Council have declined to engage, with both myself and Cllr George Potter [Lib Dem, Guildford East].
What should happen next?
Burpham Community Association have said “We request a postponement while proper consultation is carried out and a less disruptive solution is found.”
However, it does not appear that all the right people are talking to each other. Surrey County Council, local County Councillors and Borough Councillors, Guildford Borough Council, residents associations and residents all need to be part of the discussion. Instead SCC is just railroading this through
What cycle strategy does Guildford need?
Guildford Borough Council and the Guildford Society have examined this problem. There is a need to bring any strategies, thinking together. Martin Giles, Editor of the Guildford Dragon has given some views.
“I happen to be a cyclist who has cycled all the major roads in and out of Guildford. None are great for cycling but the London Road is not the worst by a long way. It is straight and flat and wider than some.
A far bigger and off-putting problem is the lack of cycle through-routes in the town. When I commuted, and cycled the single mile from St Catherine’s, along Portsmouth Road to the railway station, I had the choice of taking on the gyratory or cycling on pavements. It is similar for cyclists heading for the station from most directions and similar for cyclists who simply want to go to the shops.
Who is deciding how to improve cycle routes? Are they cyclists? Are any councillors in Guildford cyclists? If there are, they are very few and don’t appear to be putting their experience to good use.
Unconnected stretches of cycle lanes, especially if they offer no real separation from motor vehicles, which are frequently parked in them without apparent sanction, are not the answer.
Some changes, and real improvement, could be made at little expense, for instance making suitable one-way streets two-way for bikes (as, for example, Bury Fields already is).
We need a far more urgent, imaginative and inclusive response to creating a usable and encouraging cycle infrastructure. As I have suggested before, why not hire a Dutch expert to advise us. The Dutch have proven expertise.”