New Farnham town centre to be delivered ‘by end of 2025’ – but only if people want it...

By Daniel Gee   |   Head of Content   |
Saturday 2nd July 2022 6:00 am
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Traffic in Downing Street, Farnham (Photo: Chris Chittock) ()

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The biggest overhaul of Farnham town centre for 150 years is going out to public consultation this summer – but it could be three years before works are completed in the town.

Surrey County Council has revealed a revised timeline for its multi-million pound Farnham Infrastructure Programme at a meeting at the town council offices.

Councillors, and town MP Jeremy Hunt heard the programme team now hope to deliver:

  • A new 20mph zone in the town centre by December 2022;
  • ‘Medium-term interventions’ including new cycle paths in Farnham Park and Borelli Walk and a new A325 Water Lane roundabout by March 2023;
  • An overhaul of the town centre and further ‘cycling routes and walking zones’ by October 2025; and
  • A new A31 Hickleys Corner junction by November 2027.

The most significant of these works – the overhaul of the town centre – will most notably include permanently-widened pavements throughout the town and a return to two-way traffic in The Borough between Castle Street and Downing Street, and South Street.

Pedestrianisation, full or part-time, is not currently on the table  – but an update report by officers stated: “Later phases to this work could include pedestrianised or bus-only routes within the town centre.”

As part of the public consultation on the plans, dates have now been released for the Farnham Infrastructure Programme’s first physical, in-person public exhibitions this summer.

A total of 14 virtual consultation events have been held by the programme team since August 2020, each focusing on different elements of the multi-million-pound project to overhaul Farnham’s congested and outdated road network.

A website will be launched in coming weeks seeking the public’s views on a proposed overhaul of the town centre, to include permanently-widened pavements and a reversal of parts of the one-way system.

Adding to this will be a series of public exhibitions so people in Farnham can find out more and ask questions of the programme team. These will be held on:

  • Saturday, July 16, from 9.30am to 12.30pm at Farnham Maltings
  • Tuesday, July 19, from 9.30am to 12.30pm at UCA Farnham
  • Wednesday, July 20, from 1.30pm to 4.30pm at The Bush Hotel
  • Thursday, July 21, from 3.45pm to 6.45pm at Farnham Leisure Centre.

South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt has hailed news that a consultation on “big changes” to Farnham town centre is set to get under way this summer.

Surrey County Council is to call for public views on its Farnham Infrastructure Programme (FIP) plans from now until the end of September.

As well as online surveys and a leaflet drop to all households, a series of public-engagement events will take place before and after the school holidays – including a new virtual reality fly-through of the proposed new town centre, funded by the Department for Levelling Up.

The tri-council, cross-party project to deliver a less-polluted, greener and more family, cyclist and pedestrian-friendly town has already delivered an HGV ban in Castle Street and Upper Hale Road – albeit with mixed success – and will soon add to that a new 20mph zone and ‘wayfinding’ network of signposts and maps in the town centre.

But a timeline for the more meaty town centre works – including permanently-widened pavements, a reversal of the one-way system in a section of The Borough and South Street, and new cycle and pedestrian routes – was revealed last week, with Surrey targeting an October 2025 completion date.

This is, however, pending the results of this summer’s consultation – with Farnham residents called on to back, object or set out possible revisions to the town-centre works.

Responding to news of the consultation, Mr Hunt said: “The big news is that a public consultation will start this summer on planned changes to the town centre to reduce pollution and make it more pedestrian friendly.

“It is not the full pedestrianisation that I and others have long yearned for.

“But it will be a big step forward towards the outdoor cafés, widened pavements and cycle routes which could ultimately lead to the removal of cars.

“Alongside big changes in the town centre will come important improvements to other parts of the town including Hickleys Corner, Wrecclesham and north Farnham.

“If things go according to plan the new changes, including walking and cycling routes, will be implemented in the next three years.

“That may feel a long way off but as Cllr Andy McLeod told [last Friday’s] meeting, these changes have to be planned and implemented very carefully to make sure you get them right. And this meeting agreed to a very thorough consultation this summer to make sure any changes reflect the wishes of the people of Farnham.

“Particularly encouraging is the consensus between all the local political parties which means these changes are likely to stick.

“Finally it feels like there may be some real improvements on the way – which after 15 years of campaigning is welcome news!”

Councillors were also asked towards the end of last Friday’s Farnham Board meeting whether or not they wished to retain, or modify, the current Covid-era pavement widening measures in Downing Street – given it could be another three years before the pavements are permanently widened.

Elaine Martin, project manager, cited “new safety concerns” by cyclists merging with traffic at the bottom of Downing Street, and suggested extending the lane closure to the Longbridge junction.

Cllr Michaela Martin, county councillor for Farnham South and a shop owner in Downing Street, said it would be a “backward step” to remove the Covid measures entirely, and Surrey leader Tim Oliver added there would need to be a detailed assessment of risks before a decision could be made.

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