Hogs Back Brewery has called out South East Water for misleading Tongham residents after a proposed 21-week road closure was reduced to just six weeks.
Having caused four months of traffic misery in Farnham with a drawn-out closure of West Street earlier this year, the water company late last month dropped the bombshell it would be closing the main road through Tongham for more than five months.
However, following a series of public meetings hosted by the Hogs Back Brewery, South East Water agreed to reduce the road closure first to 18 to 19 weeks, then to 12 weeks and now just six.
The water company initially told villagers it had “explored all alternatives” and had no choice but to close a 715-yard stretch of The Street south from Poyle Road, “to meet increasing demand from a growing community”.
Brewery director Rupert Thompson said it has since become clear South East Water “did not explore these alternatives in much depth”.
After ground pressure tests proved it was viable, the water company will now tap into the existing pipe just north of the brewery and run a new pipe to the connection point just south of the brewery, closing just 187 yards of The Street.
This will take place over six weeks from Monday to September 4, spanning the school summer holidays, and access for the brewery will be maintained at all times.
County councillor Matt Furniss has hailed the reduced closure as a victory for residents, saying: “I feel we have pushed as far as is reasonable now within our powers as the highway authority.”
But brewery boss Mr Thompson is less satisfied, claiming South East Water is yet to present any evidence the new water main is required for the current number of new homes proposed in the area.
He added other routes for the new water main, such as through Taylor Wimpey’s new Admiral Park development, would be cheaper, quicker and less disruptive – and has offered to fund an independent expert to review alternative options.
"If the expert finds South East Water are correct in saying they have 'no other option', we'll pay the bill – but if the expert finds there is a better alternative, the water company pays," said Mr Thompson.
South East Water is yet to take up the brewery's offer.