WE LIVE in unprecedented times. Having suffered three long years of Brexit, how many of us remember the detail now in April 2020 – and, to be honest, care at the moment.
I am not saying it isn’t important – it is. But put in perspective, less so than what we face now.
My intention was originally to write about the success of the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan at referendum. Again, it was only four weeks ago and it seems like an age.
The plan’s main function was to allow us, as residents, to influence where housing was to be located in Farnham. I think we did that.
Now we have to stand as an even stronger community and fight the coronavirus Covid-19. The streets are deserted, most of the shops closed and residents are, in the main, following the advice given and staying home.
All the construction sites appear to have closed down as well, some following the lead and common sense and doing so immediately, others doing so but not so quickly.
Bellway’s, who have a site at Little Acres, Badshot Lea, announced they were going to continue work at 7am on Wednesday, March 25, but by 10am had issued another statement saying they were closing down all sites by the end of the week.
When asked for a further comment, they confirmed there was no provisional recommencement date for work on site but have been the most helpful in responding.
Berkeley Homes were one of the last large developers to announce they were closing down sites. The Woolmead site has been closed for months anyway, the CEO trying for a reduction in car parking space for the residents from 141 to 79.
The latest I hear is they may have listened to the residents of Farnham. We shall see.
Talking of listening to the residents, there’s Crest Nicholson – the highest achievers in not listening.
Having checked with the Waverley Borough Council portfolio holder for Brightwells, I was told Crest Nicholson posted on Tuesday, March 24 that they planned to continue to operate their sites, but on Wednesday a decision to shut down the Brightwells Yard site was taken – with the exception of a skeleton staff to make sure the site was safe and secure and will be monitored by security guards during the shutdown.
When I contacted the Brightwells Yard community liaison team on behalf of Crest Nicholson, they reiterated the information already provided and were unable to comment further, which I found disappointing.
One would have hoped for a statement to the effect they were continually reviewing the programme and options for recommencing works.
CALA Homes, who are developing the site on Folly Hill, announced closing their site on Wednesday, March 25. Their CEO Kevin Whitaker’s message the most heartfelt of all of the developers. They responded to a request for a statement about Folly Heights by saying the site was closed, yes, and we’re taking each day as it comes.
Taylor Wimpey was the first developer locally to announce a decision, their Abbey View site closing on Tuesday, March 23. They had also started work on their Green Lane site in Badshot Lea, but this is also closed.
A Taylor Wimpey spokesperson said: “We will continue to closely monitor government guidance and will reopen our sites only when it is safe to do so.”
House-building works at Tice’s Field, renamed Skylark are, as far as I know, complete.
Many tasks within the construction industry require tradesmen and trade support working closely together in internal spaces.
Some of the images you probably also saw in the media were those of ‘builders’ within the designated two metres of each other outside the building under construction, and in the open air – not forgetting images of them in mess rooms at dining tables shoulder to shoulder.
As residents, we must ensure we abide by the two-metre rule, whether in the open or in the shops we still visit. The sooner we get back to normality the better.
The Farnham Society, although acknowledging Brightwells is going to be built and that it will destroy our town, still feels an opportunity exists for the developer and both councils to have a rethink during the pause in construction work.
If you want to help the community of Farnham, please consider volunteering to help others during these challenging times, register to help by emailing [email protected]
* By David Howell, chairman of the Farnham Society planning committee