Last week the group set up to transform Farnham’s infrastructure met – and at last it feels like change is on the way.
We were presented with an extremely detailed Optimised Infrastructure Plan which spells out in great detail the priorities not just for the centre of the town, but for Upper Hale, Wrecclesham and Hickleys Corner.
As someone who has seen many such reports over the years, I have to say I was impressed: it does not just try to address long-standing issues but also looks forward to the kind of changes necessary to make the town environmentally sustainable as we move to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
This will be challenging – to say the least – given Surrey estimates that total traffic on the roads will increase by 40 per cent over the next 30 years.
We also made excellent progress on the HGV ban, re-routing the A325 so it does not go through the town centre and including Wrecclesham Hill as a proposed location for a 20mph speed limit.
But what is most encouraging is that Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver, who chairs the Farnham Project Board, is putting his money where his mouth is.
On Tuesday the Surrey cabinet approved in principle capital spending of £2.5 million to deliver the programme’s ‘quick wins’ project and for ongoing feasibility studies.
While the full business cases are being developed, there are ‘notional’ amounts of £115 million projected for Hickleys Corner, £100 million projected for Wrecclesham and a further £18 million projected for the town centre.
Surrey will be looking for help with the funding from planning contributions by developers, from the Local Economic Partnership (the LEP) and, of course, from the Department of Transport.
I will be adding my voice to theirs as we both campaign hard for these vital changes, but for such funding to be approved in principle at this stage is a vital step forward.
It is now incredibly important we move forward quickly. We don’t just have a climate emergency to deal with, we also have – in parts of Farnham – a pollution emergency.
I argued at the Project Board we need to see real progress in the town centre within the next three years and I am still hopeful that will happen. When there is so much disruption in the east of the town it seems sensible to do as much at the same time as possible – and make sure we capitalise on the momentum now mobilising behind this vital project.
The next step is a formal consultation which will allow everyone in Farnham to have their say – and that could happen as soon as next month.