Waverley Borough Council: It's complex and should be done properly

Monday 10th February 2020 3:00 pm
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Waverley's deputy leader Cllr Paul Follows attended the summit last November ()

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IN A LENGTHY response to the Herald’s accusations of inaction, Waverley Borough Council said it took the issue of air quality ‘extremely seriously’.

But it, too, failed to specifically answer the questions we put to the authority – and said plans ‘should not be rushed’.

It said: “The council has a statutory duty to monitor the borough’s air quality and draw up an action plan outlining what is needed to improve pollution levels. However, it does not have the responsibility or ability to carry out all of the actions.

“In Farnham, the main contributor to air pollution is traffic, which is why we have been working with our partners at Surrey County Council and encouraging them to suggest and implement improvements to the traffic network.

“In addition, a lot of other work has taken place to progress solutions to the pollution issues. These include:

Investigating how we can use our powers to influence residents to change their behaviour. One example is the council will be putting up new signage by the level crossing to remind drivers to turn off their engines while waiting at the barriers. As part of the council’s parking review, we will also be looking at how we can use tariffs to encourage people to park further out of town and walk in, to help reduce traffic and congestion in the town centre.

We are in early discussions with Surrey County Council as part of a new on-street electric vehicle charging pilot scheme.

We are finalising arrangements to get electric charging points fitted in Central car park.

We have funded £7,000 towards an air quality education and behaviour change programme for schools.

We have committed to a ‘park-and-stride’ scheme as part of the Brightwells Yard development.

We are developing our borough-wide Climate Emergency Action Plan; some of those actions will benefit the borough’s air quality. Other actions will include lobbying, for example asking bus companies and Surrey County Council to put on more buses to encourage use of public transport.

We have backed Surrey County Council’s commitment to the Hickley’s Corner project, which should help to reduce town-centre pollution levels by diverting traffic out of the town centre and improving pedestrian and cycle links.

We have also been working with Surrey County Council on developing their new Waverley Local Transport Strategy and schemes schedule.”

Councillor John Ward, the leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: “A lot of work has taken place behind the scenes since the summit and this council has been a key driver in pushing to find a solution for the town.

“However, I do feel the January deadline to publicly produce costed plans was not a realistic one – and at the event, deputy leader Paul Follows was hesitant about agreeing to any deadlines for the same reasons.

“The solution to sort out Farnham’s traffic and air pollution issues is complex and it is important it is done properly so we achieve the best outcome for the town. We said at the meeting we need to ensure we have the right solutions, expertise and money in place to make sure any plans are a success.

“This will affect the town for years to come.

“This is not something to be rushed, although, we all agree it is a priority and action is needed sooner rather than later.

“The council’s new executive took on this project from the previous administration and we have had to spend time getting to understand a wealth of new information.

“During this time some of the scope of the project has changed to a more bottom-up than top-down approach, which, naturally, has caused a slight delay.

“But, rest assured, we will continue to press on with this work over the next year.”

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