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Ash Aspect: A New Bridge for Ash – Solution or Nightmare?

Published on: 2 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 3 Apr, 2019

By David Reading

Is the new bridge that will take traffic across the railway line at Ash really the best answer to the area’s road congestion problems?

This is the question being asked by some concerned residents in response to Guildford Borough Council’s £22.8 million project.

On the face of it, the proposed bridge would seem to be an ideal answer to Ash’s traffic problem. It will enable Network Rail to remove the level crossing on the A323 and alleviate the severe jams that build up when the crossing barrier is down – which happens for more than 20 minutes every hour. This congestion will, of course, get worse as many hundreds of new homes become occupied.

But there is concern in some quarters that the project may be moving ahead too quickly without enough consideration being given to the consequences. Some residents believe there is a danger that the traffic problems may simply be shifted to other parts of Ash.

The project is now approaching the planning permission stage, after which detailed design work will be carried out. The general idea is clear. For traffic heading in the Guildford direction, the route will take vehicles from Ash Church Road (the A323), right into Foreman Road, where they will join a new roundabout roughly where the access is to the Ellsworth Park development. Traffic will then pass across 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, see below).

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

A separate footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists is planned in the vicinity of the station, to follow the construction of the road bridge.

Six members of the public raised concerns about the project at a lengthy borough council executive meeting on March 19. They included members of both Ash Residents Association (ASHRA) and Ash Green Residents Association (AGRA).

One of their key concerns relates to the Foreman Road end of the bridge, where a new roundabout is proposed. It’s obvious that a great deal of traffic will approach this roundabout from the new Ash Lodge Drive development, via Grange Road, and this will have priority at the roundabout. So the question arises: Will this simply end up being a new congestion spot?

There are also concerns that there will be congestion at the roundabout of the A323 and Ash Hill Road (the Dover Arms site), because this will not only be taking traffic from the new bridge but also from the Copperwood development. The approval of this development is likely to take place soon – although at present it is subject to the signing of an S106 agreement between the local authority and the developer relating to the developer’s obligations.

ASHRA and AGRA say they are not actually campaigning to stop the bridge from being built – they are simply anxious to determine if it is the most cost-effective way of alleviating traffic problems without moving those problems elsewhere, with the resultant danger to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. They are also keen that council taxpayers won’t be burdened with financial risk should additional traffic management systems be required in the area.

John Dymott, chair of ASHRA, and his fellow residents, said in a statement: “The council have agreed they will undertake traffic flow modelling to look at this issue. We have provided them with a report that makes specific requests as to what they need to look at so that there is an holistic approach to managing the traffic in the wider area.” This report puts forward numerous questions relating to how the new traffic system will work in practice.

They added: “The basis for the officers’ report presented to the executive was the improvement to safety but that was never quantified within the report or explained at the executive meeting. It is still to be determined. It is also noted that GBC is suggesting that the bridge will help to ‘regenerate’ the area. This seems an odd choice of word. We believe that the correct word is ‘develop’.”

The word ‘regenerate’ was repeated by Cllr Paul Spooner, leader of the council, in a press statement following the executive meeting. He said: “I’m very pleased we are moving forward with this important infrastructure project. I would like to thank residents for their contributions to date and for attending the information events. Further opportunities for participation and feedback will follow as we progress through the planning process. The new road bridge – and planned footbridge – support our plans to regenerate the area with further new housing while removing the safety hazard of the level crossing and easing traffic congestion.”

ASHRA and AGRA believe insufficient information was provided by the council to the people of Ash in advance of the March 19 the Executive meeting. The council contests this, pointing out that 4,000 letters were delivered to local households and two public information events were held in January 2019 at Ash Centre. Furthermore, says the council, the principle of the bridge featured in the emerging Local Plan consultation process going back to 2016.

The two residents’ groups agree the plans were presented – but this did not amount to consultation.

The council says feedback from the public information events was strongly in favour of the bridge. However, the council recognises there is continuing technical work that will need to be done to address residents’ concerns, principally around traffic issues.

The council’s Executive agreed to approve the overall capital scheme cost of £22.8 million. It is hoped this will be fully funded by grants (including Homes England and Network Rail) and developer contributions. The executive agreed to move the project from planning permission stage to the pre-construction stage which includes detailed design. A planning application for the bridge will be submitted in the spring and construction is likely to start in the spring next year, with completion in 2021.

The council has promised that more information will become available during the planning process, and concerns will be addressed.

Cynics might conclude that the council needs the new bridge because this will help to support the case for more development. This has been challenged by councillors. They have made the point – depressing for many people – that there are going to be houses built in Ash whatever happens. There is already a considerable amount of development consented and under construction. The total Local Plan allocation is around 1,750 homes in the area until 2034, including development that already has planning permission.

But the key question remains: will the bridge project result in traffic solutions or a traffic nightmare? It is hoped that this question will be fully addressed over the coming months before construction starts.

See also: Ash Bridge Proposal Overshadows Longest Council Executive Meeting for Years

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test One Response to Ash Aspect: A New Bridge for Ash – Solution or Nightmare?

  1. Patricia Paget Reply

    April 2, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Has anyone considered the new Ash Lodge Park development and the access road onto South Lane which in turn connects with Grange Road then onto Foreman Road another 400 cars a possibility?

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