Next week will mark two months since Surrey launched its social-distancing trial in Farnham, in partnership with the town council, and as phase one of the Farnham Infrastructure Programme’s efforts to solve the town’s pollution and traffic woes for good.
However, discussing the pilot scheme at last Thursday’s full council meeting, councillors expressed frustration that Farnham’s streets are still dominated by unsightly cones and barriers – and pressed for more to be replaced by planters.
The debate was sparked by a recommendation for the town council to underwrite the £10,000 cost for 20 additional planters to improve the look of the scheme.
But Waverley Borough Council leader and councillor for Shortheath and Boundstone, John Ward, bemoaned the fact the town still looked like a “building site”, littered with “wretched sandbags and cones” two months into the scheme. And he asked if the council could have “any confidence” that the new planters would be utilised given Surrey is “wedded to barriers and cones”.
Mr Ward’s comments were echoed by a number of members, including Farnham Castle councillor George Hesse, who said Surrey had “made a right pig’s ear” of the town and queried when the “experiment would finish?”
Town council leader John Neale replied it is a “12-week exercise”, which would take the scheme up to mid-September. But added he expects it will “go on for some months more”. The leader did, though, add the county is exploring alternatives to barriers, including the potential for temporary kerb stones.
Town clerk Iain Lynch confirmed funding was in place until March 31, 2021, adding it is hoped the additional £10,000 outlay will be covered by Surrey’s on-street parking revenue.
He also reassured members: “If additional planters go in, the barriers would definitely be removed.”
The clerk recognised there have been “a number of issues” with the scheme, but stressed there is no certainty when Covid-19 will disappear, and said several older, previously shielding residents have express how much they appreciate the extra space.
Mr Lynch also informed members Surrey has packed in the barriers so tightly as it is “very nervous” of children running between them into the road, and urged patience, commenting: “We have to let the scheme bed down.”
The recommendation was agreed, with just one vote against.