We have now completed the first series of nine Local Liaison Forums associated with the programme. These were public consultation meetings covering the main themes of the project, where we wanted to get views and ideas from the people of Farnham.
The meetings ran from last August up to last week. They were all held as video conferences using Zoom – obviously a first, but it all worked out quite well, with just a few technical glitches along the way. Here is a summary of the sessions.
This meeting had representatives from residents’ associations in Farnham and from the Farnham Society. Views were expressed on all topics, but especially local neighbourhood issues. There was a lot of interest in future changes in the town centre and how improvements could be achieved without just shifting the traffic elsewhere.
The main focus of this meeting was the importance of improvements so that the businesses could thrive again once the pandemic restrictions have been lifted.
The meeting coincided with the second lockdown, so there was a lot of discussion about the pavement widening measures in the town centre and whether we could expect longer term changes to eliminate through traffic.
In this meeting we wanted to get views on the wider aspects of the programme: how infrastructure improvements could improve the quality of life for everyone.
We were interested in what type of town centre was wanted in terms of community features such as street markets, and what changes could be brought in to the distinct communities that make up Farnham.
Cycling, walking, the scope for more convenient bus services and general safety concerns for children getting to school were discussed.
This session concentrated mainly on the road system in the town centre itself. Views ranged from those interested in a full pedestrian scheme, to those who wanted to retain the traffic routes, and some wanted a hybrid solution.
Various ideas were discussed including declassifying the A roads, options for deliveries, and provision for cyclists and buses.
There was a general expectation that cars would be limited, and the programme team emphasised that creating a better ‘place’ was a top priority, so that coming to the town centre would be a more enjoyable experience.
Major roads around Farnham
There were three forums to discuss the major road challenges.
These focussed on the A31, the area around Hickley’s Corner and the station, and the problems caused by high traffic flows through Wrecclesham village and the north Farnham neighbourhoods.
The proximity of Hickley’s to the station and its level crossing is one long standing issue recognised as needing a major intervention, whilst the two outer areas really feel choked and unsafe for local residents.
North Farnham presented numerous ideas relating to their concerns, coming to the meeting with a detailed presentation and proposals, including some that local residents could tackle themselves such as overgrown hedges on pavements.
As might be expected, there was a lot of discussion about a potential western relief road or bypass, and the challenges of how such schemes can be delivered within Government funding guidelines.
In the last of the current series of meetings, we wanted to consider issues affecting young people from the perspective of teachers and youth leaders.
One young person from Heath End School gave us an excellent slide show talking about the problems in getting around Farnham safely, and other comments were made by pupils from More House School.
The programme team are planning additional engagement events with young people themselves, including visits to schools when circumstances allow.
Throughout these sessions, the programme team have been stressing the need for changes in the way we move around, not only as the most realistic way of reducing car use, but also to improve health and lifestyles.
We also have the need to address climate change and other environmental issues; this is expected by government and the councils.
We will be hearing a lot about the term ‘active travel’ (walking and cycling) and public transport, for those journeys where these options might be possible.
So, we now have a huge range of ideas and views from the community, and you will see many of these reflected in the programme.
The programme team will be presenting their first stage proposals imminently and that will be covered in the press.
At this stage, don’t expect specific proposals, everything will have to be considered in more detail with a second round of consultations before real projects are pursued.
Details of the events held to date and copies of the questions and answers raised can be found at www.farnham.gov.uk/LLF
Further details about the programme can also be found at www.surreycc.gov.uk by searching for ‘Farnham Infrastructure Programme’.