Villagers have mobilised against “rushed” plans by South East Water to close the main road through Tongham for 21 weeks with no prior consultation and just two weeks’ notice.
Hogs Back Brewery, which will be badly impacted by the road closure in The Street, held a public meeting last Friday attended by 120 villagers, councillors and South East Water officials.
Echoing its reasons for the delayed four-month closure of West Street in Farnham, the water company says the £350,000 works are needed to strengthen the water network in Tongham “as the community grows”.
Six hundred metres of new pipework is to be installed along The Street, from the new Taylor Wimpey housing development opposite the brewery to the parade of shops just north of The White Hart public house.
Work is planned to start on Monday and is due to take approximately 21 weeks to complete.
However, according to brewery owner Rupert Thompson, the works have “not been thought through” and are being “imposed” on Tongham “without proper consideration of the consequences”.
He added: “It is a complete and utter failure of the democratic mandate that a utility company can tell local residents with just two weeks’ notice that their road is going to be closed for 21 weeks. South East Water says it is their ‘only option’, but their argument is completely unconvincing.”
Mr Thompson said the works were initially scheduled for November – which would have avoided Hogs Back’s hop harvest and Hop Harvest Party which attracts thousands to the brewery every September.
However, it was abruptly brought forward, with South East Water telling last week’s meeting the new pipeline is needed to cater for more new housing planned on the east side of The Street – with Tongham locals expressing their suspicion that Taylor Wimpey seeks to add to its 254-home ‘Admiral Park’ development.
“It’s like South East Water has been tipped off about a new development,” said one villager, who asked not to be named. “We suspect Taylor Wimpey has asked them to supply water for a development that is not yet in the public domain, that they may not even get permission to build.”
Brewery boss Mr Thompson added: “The roadworks will have major implications for the whole of Tongham. South East Water say they are ‘investing’ £350,000 in the village, but the cost to local residents and businesses over 21 weeks will be much greater.
“Where are our rights in this? These utility companies must consider the communities they are supposed to be serving.
“This must be stopped to protect the interests of local people until there is a proper consultation and all options are considered – including potentially taking the new water main through the new development, instead of The Street.”
A South East Water spokesman thanked villagers and businesses for a “constructive dialogue” and said it was now “collating the feedback we received”.