Bricks & Mortar: Downing Street barriers are a nightmare

By David Howell   |   Planning and property correspondent   |
Tuesday 28th July 2020 6:25 am
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Cafe Nero and Bill’s took advantage of Castle Street’s widened pavements. The move was popular with customers, but they have now been told to use only the space on the pavement ()

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THE SUGGESTIONS for alternatives to retail outlets in the Brightwells development, which I included in my report a couple of weeks ago, have received quite a lot of support.

If you have any thoughts on other uses, please do let the Herald have them by emailing [email protected] with ‘Bricks and Mortar’ in the subject line. Now to return to the thorny issue of the pavement widening.

* Feedback from shops

I have been talking to a number of shop owners and managers in the town about their thoughts on the pavement widening. It has been in place for six weeks now, with at least another six to go (September 5).

Downing Street especially is a nightmare for the shops. Residents are getting used to it, but many customers are telling shop staff they dislike the barriers.

Deliveries are incredibly difficult, with some vans blocking the road to everything other than cars.

They are taking business each day and week as it comes. Some good days, some not so good. There isn’t a gradual increase in footfall.

Some Saturdays have been worse than weekdays.

Some comments:

* “People think it will be busier so avoid coming out.”

* “I see mothers with prams not being able to pass each other.”

* “It doesn’t inspire confidence or look at all nice.”

* “Why couldn’t we have had one direction flow on the pavements in Downing Street? It works elsewhere.”

Some said the pavements needed to be wider in Downing Street anyway.

* Current pavement widening

I personally dislike it. It cheapens the town. I think it is deterring visitors and putting off potential shop businesses when we should be doing absolutely everything we can to encourage them to set up in Farnham rather than somewhere else.

As I said last time, the planters do help, but it could have looked so much better.

Sorry to be repetitive but don’t you so wish Surrey had allowed Farnham Town Council to control the pavement-widening process?

You heard Surrey’s scheme at Reigate has been removed and that work cost in excess of £15,000. And as you will have read last week, Surrey want to abolish Waverley and take control. A disaster waiting to happen, looking at their efforts with highways.

Did you see the move by Nero’s and Bill’s in Castle Street, setting up tables and chairs in the road within the area formed by the widened pavement? So much for allowing social distancing when access has tables on either side of the remaining pavement. I am all for café pavement culture but not at the moment, not like this – and someone in authority agrees, as they have now been told to stop.

* Parklet

I hear steps are afoot to relocate the taxi rank in Castle Street, located outside Lloyds Bank, to the under-utilised West Street rank (outside Space UK, BHF, Sweaty Betty and Bartlett & Austin).

The ironstone paving to the space in Castle Street could be reinstated and made a ‘parklet’, or community space for residents and visitors to sit and relax.

Wouldn’t that make sense?

* Making empty shops

look better

Talking of doing everything we can to attract potential shop businesses to Farnham, Sylvia Schüller, the owner of the Blue Bear Bookshop, has come up with a fantastic idea to lift the appearance of the empty shops and educate residents and visitors on the history of Farnham.

The best ideas are nearly always simple, and you wish you’d thought of them.

Sylvia has suggested the windows and doors, and hoardings if erected, have plastic vinyl applied with images of local historic residents or events alongside an explanatory narrative.

So for example, Harold Falkner and Charles Borelli, who did so much for Farnham (the latter responsible for establishing The Farnham Society in 1911); Mike Hawthorn, Formula 1 world champion driver in 1958; and,of course, William Cobbett. Think of the possibilities. Would the town council fund the work, I wonder ?

* Pedestrianisation

I went to Winchester last week. They have a pedestrianised high street, which was lovely, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the people cycling down the pedestrianised road three abreast, chatting away expecting pedestrians to get out of their way.

Winchester’s road layout allows traffic to be rerouted more easily to allow pedestrianisation than it would in Farnham.

* Bowley’s & the Pump House

Nothing back from the new owners of Bowley’s shoes. Watch this space. Also, no update on the Pump House in Kimber’s Lane. But rest assured I have not given up.

* Accessorize

Staff in Accessorize aren’t allowed to comment on branch closures but all of them in the Farnham branch – and they are all lovely ladies – are working on the basis they are staying. I really hope they do.

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