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Ash Aspect: A Bridge To Benefit Ash, A Vanity Project, Or A Key To More Housing?

Published on: 25 Sep, 2019
Updated on: 2 Oct, 2019

The proposed route of the new Ash flyover or bridge. Image courtesy GBC.

By David Reading

The proposed road bridge to take traffic over the railway line near Ash level-crossing has provoked a flood of strong feelings.

A planning application for the bridge (reference 19/P/01460) has been submitted by Guildford Borough Council for consideration by its planning committee later this year and residents will be invited to a drop-in session in early October so they can ask about the scheme.

The project would mean closure of Ash level-crossing, where traffic builds up many times a day when the gates are down, often causing long tailbacks.

The bridge would transform traffic flow through Ash. For Guildford-bound traffic the new route will pass from Ash Church Road (the A323) into Foreman Road, to join a new roundabout roughly at the access to the Ellsworth Park development.

Vehicles would then cross the railway via the new bridge, through the new Copperwood development, joining the roundabout at the end of Ash Hill Road (the Dover Arms site).

The approximate site where the new Foreman Road roundabout will go.

Comments from some residents have been published on the council website.

Those supporting the project primarily cite the noise and pollution from jams that build-up at Ash Station when the crossing barrier is down.

Objectors have a variety of reasons. One resident said that with the country facing a financial crisis, money should be focused on essential services, “not on this vanity project”.

Ash level crossing

Although the scheme aims to end the jams caused by Ash level-crossing, there are real fears the bridge will simply cause road chaos elsewhere in the Ash area. A traffic assessment report by the engineering company AECOM, commissioned to build the bridge, is believed by some to have missed vital points.

For example, there are concerns that with the bridge, vehicles from the Ash Church Road direction approaching the new Foreman Road roundabout will have to give way to vehicles from the Ash Green direction.

Some fear rush-hour traffic would back along the A323, up to the Greyhound roundabout and beyond. And at Ash Hill Road, vehicles approaching the Dover Arms roundabout would have difficulty finding a gap in the flow to turn left. Although the present level-crossing undoubtedly causes tailbacks, at least traffic turning left can find a gap easily when the gates are closed.

Some objectors believe any decision about the bridge should be deferred so further consideration can be given to the effects it may have on traffic hotspots.

No one is questioning the integrity of AECOM, but some believe elected members would wish to see independent evidence of traffic issues.

Even the actual purpose of the bridge scheme is being questioned by objectors, who believe its hidden purpose is to unlock yet more land for housing.

The borough council recognises that Network Rail will object to further development unless the level-crossing is closed. The transport assessment itself states the bridge would remove the barrier to future residential development.

A 2017 council “bid for funding” document concedes that not building the bridge would either significantly slow or preclude delivery of the housing necessary to meet the council’s objectively assessed need. This involves 1,750 homes, many already with planning permission.

The housing explosion throughout the Ash area will create a need for an increase in services and objectors ask whether the planning committee will consider if the project meets the overall needs of the community?

The council expects that planning for the separate footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists near the station will be submitted before the road bridge application is determined at the end of 2019-early 2020. Some residents wonder if there is a danger funding may no longer be available then for this vital piece of infrastructure.

The footbridge will also be stepped, posing problems for people with mobility difficulties and parents with pushchairs. Neither would be able to use the footbridge.

Some believe any decision on the road bridge should be deferred until the design of the footbridge is published so people can see if it meets the needs of all pedestrians.

The council says a date for the public drop-in session will be given shortly. But residents wonder whether this will give them an opportunity to influence the outcome, or simply be informed about what has already been decided.

Update: Ash Road Bridge Drop-in Session Tuesday 8 October (3-7pm)

Plans to replace the level crossing with a road bridge (ref 19/P/01460) in Ash have now been submitted.

A GBC spokesperson said: “If you have any questions on the plans, please drop-in and meet the team on Tuesday 8 October between 3-7pm at the Victoria Hall, Ash Hill Rd, Ash, Aldershot, GU12 5DN.

“This will be an opportunity to ask questions about the planning application and the technical work that has been completed. The drop-in will be run on a first come first served basis.”

For more information on the plans visit guildford.gov.uk/planning.

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test One Response to Ash Aspect: A Bridge To Benefit Ash, A Vanity Project, Or A Key To More Housing?

  1. David Weller Reply

    September 26, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    I would like to post an objection to the bridge. It will be a modern bridge, within a circle of country lanes. It is a pointless exercise as traffic will be continuous over the railway line and the increase in traffic will lead to congestion in all surrounding areas. At least at the moment, when the gates are closed, it gives relief in both directions for other traffic to flow.

    My main objection is the impact on our heritage assets.

    The proposed route of the bridge brings it within 160 yards of Ash Manor/Old Manor Cottage a Grade II* listed building, within a group of Grade II listed buildings. It comes even closer to the Grade II listed Ash Grange. This is directly against the Local Plan adopted a couple of months ago, where it states: “all views to and from Ash Manor must be protected”.

    And yet the very same council who passed this Plan, now wish to break its own laws. What is the point of having rules if the council sees fit to ignore their own principles?

    My main concerns are that at the moment the planning application is outline only. There are no detailed drawings or figures available for examination.

    Building a bridge of this proportion on an area prone to flooding (it lies on approximately 300 feet of clay) will need considerably deep foundations and piling which will cause untold damage to the underground watercourses. This, in turn, could affect the whole area.

    Ash Manor sits on approximately 15 inches of flint foundations on 300 feet of clay. There has been a house on this site for over 1,000 years. The current building, renovated in 1469, has remained upright, on what is generally considered to be poor building ground. The stability has been allowed because the clay has, over the centuries, had a consistent level of groundwater.

    If the groundwater level changes and the very existence of these valuable heritage assets will suffer substantial damage. Other houses in the area are also on shallow foundations, and these too could be in risk. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that any proposed building application should avoid or minimise any danger to such assets.

    But the council are still proposing to go ahead with this application, without the detailed necessary drawings, against the NPPF and against its own Local Plan.

    How can this be justified?

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