RELIEF roads for Farnham and Wrecclesham have hit a stumbling block as neither are likely to attract Government funding, councillors have heard.
A council review found the Western Link Road and Wrecclesham Relief Road did not fully align with national or local policies, which favour infrastructure that encourages more sustainable travel.
This will make it challenging to get government funding – and without that they will not be able to go ahead, the Farnham Board was told on Wednesday (December 22).
Programme manager Elaine Martin said: “It is highly unlikely that central government funding would be forthcoming for these schemes, if promoted as stand-alone projects.”
The board, which includes representatives from Surrey County Council, Waverley Borough Council and Farnham Town Council, has postponed a decision on how to proceed until predictions have been made on traffic.
A relief road to direct traffic away from the A325, which runs through the village of Wrecclesham, was investigated as far back as 2002.
It gained momentum after mum-of-two Amy Harris died in 2017 while walking her dog on Wrecclesham Hill, when she was hit by a van that mounted the pavement.
Waverley borough councillor Peter Clark (Farnham Residents, Farnham Wrecclesham and Rowledge) said: “I’ve listened to people that live in Wrecclesham and many of them live in fear, because of two things – the speed and volume of vehicles going down that hill, and the constant strikes on the railway bridge.”
A Wrecclesham bypass has the support of South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt, who said at today’s board meeting: “It’s very sad to hear your assessment; I don’t doubt it is accurate.”
He wanted to continue with a feasibility study for Wrecclesham but supported an option to stop work on the Western Link Road.
Mr Hunt said: “I have a concern that if we carry on exploring the possibility of a western bypass, it will make the whole project extremely controversial environmentally.
“This is not one where there is a united view throughout the town. But I think the same is not true for the Wrecclesham bypass, where there is very strong support in Wrecclesham for that.
“I just think it would be really good to see if there is any possible way we can make a Wrecclesham bypass consistent with national objectives.”
Mr Hunt added that realistically neither is going to happen in the next five years.
Farnham Town Council leader John Neale said the town council was still minded to want to carry forward both schemes.
The western bypass was first voiced in 2008 and is considered by some councillors as a prerequisite of pedestrianisation in Farnham town centre.
Surrey county councillor Catherine Powell (Farnham Residents, Farnham North) questioned whether there is strong support for Wrecclesham and thought one should not be done without the other.
She said doing the planned town centre work without a new road could be “intolerable”.
Pedestrianisation of Castle Street, The Borough and Downing Street would “create a massive impact, not just on the Upper Hale Road – we’re talking about up to 50 per cent more traffic there – but also on the narrow section on the Hale Road… that is the narrowest section on the major road network in the whole of Surrey.”
She added: “Also we’ve got 8,000 new houses being built in very close proximity to that area.
“Anything we do to widen the pavements in the centre of town, which is the right thing to do in terms of improving the pedestrian experience, will displace traffic onto not just the roads in North Farnham but also roads particularly around the train station.”
Cllr Clark said the two relief roads should be treated as separate, and Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver said he was reluctant to take either bypass off the table at the moment.
He said: “Bearing in mind the amount of time and money that we’re putting into this project it would be a shame not to complete that bit of work to an appropriate level.
“We have to be realistic that neither of these longer term projects would fit with current government policy at least; that’s not to say that we can’t engage with government and see if we can persuade them of their merits.”