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Planners Back Much-Debated Bridge at Ash Railway Station

Published on: 8 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 8 Jan, 2021

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

By David Reading

The controversial road bridge over the railway line at Ash has been approved overwhelmingly by Guildford council’s Planning Committee.

Ash level crossing

Pedestrian and vehicle congestion at the station’s level-crossing has plagued the village for years and this is likely to worsen as planned new homes are occupied.

But the project has stirred a deluge of dissent from residents, much of that expressed in Guildford Dragon letters.

Ray Rogers wrote: “Initially, the bridge cost was estimated at £15 million but that has now risen to about £26 million.

“When we are facing terrible Covid pandemic problems, with people losing their jobs and homes, families not being able to afford council tax, rents and mortgages and food banks becoming a necessity for so very many of our fellow citizens and children going hungry, can we really justify spending millions of our money to get rid of a set of traffic lights? I don’t think so.”

John Dymott

John Dymott, chair of the Ash Residents Association (Ashra), also fears the bridge will create knock-on neighbourhood traffic problems.

Although the project is supported by a Homes England grant and contributions from housing developers, Mr Dymott said whether borough taxpayers will have to foot the rest of the funding is still unclear.

The project still requires executive approval for funding, but work is expected to begin near the end of this year, the bridge opening in 2023.

Cllr John Rigg

Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), lead for major projects, said: “We received some very positive contributions from residents in our public information sessions last year, and there will be further opportunities for participation and feedback as we progress through the planning process.

“The road bridge, and planned footbridge, provides badly needed infrastructure investment following regeneration of the area, especially the arrival of new housing. The plan is to make the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and less congested for drivers while also improving air quality.

“The crossing barrier is down for up to 25 minutes every hour, and barrier downtime will increase with the expected increase in train services. This has a huge impact on local residents, especially as cars often queue for long periods with engines running.”

For Guildford-bound traffic on the A323, vehicles from Ash Church Road would take Foreman Road, joining a new roundabout roughly where the access is to the Ellsworth Park development.

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

A 30mph speed limit will be introduced on Foreman Road from The Croft to the junction with Guildford Road, along with traffic-calming measures on Grange Road.

The council says “significant” numbers of trees and hedgerows will be planted, and filter drains and areas of wet grassland created. The bridge’s planted embankments will protect wildlife habitats and increase biodiversity.

Cllr Jo Randall

Cllr Jo Randall (Con, Ash Wharf)also, an Ash parish councillor said: “I am delighted this necessary piece of infrastructure is now one step further on. It has been a long-standing wish of many Ash residents that there should be a bridge over the level-crossing not only to enable traffic to flow more freely but also for safety and health reasons.

“The area has had a substantial number of new housing developments without the proper infrastructure to support them. This long-desired bridge will go some way to rectifying this situation. It will be an asset not only for the present generation but for those to come.”

Cllr Paul Spooner

Cllr Paul Spooner (Con, Ash South & Tongham), the former leader of GBC who oversaw adoption of the Local Plan, said: “I very much welcome this project and also welcome the confirmation that a footbridge will be coming forward for approval in the next few months.

“This project has taken decades from the original idea to permission being granted and while there are still issues for local residents that need to be overcome, the project should be viewed very positively as significant infrastructure ‘gain’ to partly offset the uncontrolled development across my ward over the past few years.”

Although the borough council continues to insist large numbers of Ash residents support the bridge, this is not clear-cut. Many have expressed doubts over the three years The Guildford Dragon NEWS has been publishing stories and letters about the project.

Ashra’s Mr Dymott and others question why there seemed such a rush to approve the bridge. He said other proposed road changes in the area have yet to be evaluated. If those eased traffic problems, the bridge would not be needed, “saving council taxpayers millions of pounds”.

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test One Response to Planners Back Much-Debated Bridge at Ash Railway Station

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    January 18, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    Planners have approved AECOM designed scheme but I would like to pose the question whether the proposed alignment is the best solution.

    The alignment of the curved road results in a longer route and if I am not mistaken the carriageway requires widening for sight-line purposes. An alternative layout further west with a slight S-bend would result in a shorter length and standard carriageway width throughout.

    The roundabout proposed for the south junction, located further east, would connect the two roads and the access to the land would be off the minor road perhaps provided with a mini-roundabout.

    The use of reinforced earth or tied retaining walls, instead of earth embankments with 1 in 3 slopes, would free up land for other use such as shops, allotments, Garden Centre, parking and open leisure areas etc, when the adjacent areas are developed.

    If the final design has not been embarked upon, maybe such an alternative could be considered?

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