Bricks and Mortar: Sainsbury's car park set for £500k upgrade, but at what cost?

By David Howell   |   Planning and property correspondent   |
Monday 11th May 2020 5:40 am
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A view of the Brightwells scheme, as seen in May 2020 from the top deck of Sainsbury's car park in South Street (Photo: David Howell) ()

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WHERE do I start ? Despite us still being in lockdown, there is much to report –although not in the areas I would have wished.

Talking of lockdown, one question on the lips of many has been what impact has this had on the air quality in Farnham?

The chair of the society’s air quality committee has informed me the diffusion tube nitrogen dioxide (NO²) monitoring system run by Waverley Borough Council has had to be suspended for the time being because of the current Covid-19 crisis.

However, the automatic monitoring equipment at the Royal Deer junction continues to operate.

The published online data show that following the lockdown, NO² concentrations fell by around 50 per cent through April to a very acceptable average monthly level of 16 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m³).

No doubt this will rise as the lockdown restrictions ease.

Interestingly, however, the particulate matter PM10 readings have not reduced, pointing to the fact that particulate matter, which can have more pervasive health impacts than NO², is mostly the result of factors other than traffic.

For Farnham, it is at levels well below the UK government objectives (20 µg/m³ compared with 40 µg/m³ government guidelines).

There are fewer cars and vehicles on the streets, but I have sensed several are travelling significantly faster than the 30mph limit. It reminded me we should be pressing the authorities to look at introducing a 20mph limit in the town centre. Would you support that when we return to the new normal, hopefully soon?

Councillor Andy MacLeod was quoted in the March 5 edition of the Herald talking about the proposed work in the South Street Sainsbury’s car park. The car park is in an appalling condition – the lower deck leaking worse than a sieve, the structural columns looking suspect.

The council were briefed last year about the finances of the Brightwells Yard project. The figures didn’t make comfortable reading. Included within the figures was the budgeted expenditure of £500,000 on the car park by Waverley. I am unsure of the scope of works but am asking around.

At the same time (well, one hopes) Crest Nicholson are undertaking work described as ‘alterations and enhancements’ to the existing car park and access that can be found in their ‘assessment of construction traffic movements programme’.

This, I have been told by a councillor, includes upgrading the passenger lift and staircase from the lower deck, with the programme of work due to be completed by October.

Crest’s ‘method of construction’ document illustrates this work starting at the end March but there is no sign of it yet. I assume this work will include some widening of the Brightwells Road which will provide vehicular access for HGVs to the M&S Simply Food store loading bay.

I suspect the line of trees to the north of this road will be lost, and envisage this work will involve a lane closure on South Street and changes to the car park access, or complete closure of the car park. We will have to wait and see.

While shopping in South Street recently I parked in the top deck of the car park. Have you seen the building going up next to the car park wall?

Talk about overly-dense urbanisation! Is this what Waverley and Crest want our town to look like? Not to mention the loss of mature trees.

Other work we were told was due to start shortly is the upgrading of the gas mains. I understand this will be done in several phases over a period of four months or more, with local traffic disruption caused by temporary traffic lights. We have been promised advance notice of the work. Let’s hope it is in good time and in sufficient detail.

I have exchanged emails with two local commercial property agents who said activity is very depressed but hasn’t completely dried up. Occupancy in Farnham was higher than many other country towns before we entered the current crisis.

There have been issues with the replacement of paving to the west side at the lower end of Castle Street, from The Borough to Long Garden Walk, but that is for another time. Meanwhile, have a look if you are walking past within your exercise period.

Also, Surrey County Council are exploring the possibility of trialling a two-way cycle lane in Downing Street as we emerge from the lockdown, effectively making the road a single-vehicle carriageway. The society has expressed strong concern.

Will we ever return to our perception of normal as it was before March this year? It is going to be a while, I think.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy.

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