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Council Prioritises Five Transport Schemes To Support Local Plan Housing Targets

Published on: 31 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 1 Sep, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford Borough Council’s Executive prioritised five transport schemes to help “meet current housing targets in the adopted Local Plan”, at its meeting on Tuesday last week (August 24).

Digital model of the £250 million M25 Junction 10 improvements.

The council (GBC) said it would work with the relevant authorities to attract government funding for the projects, subject to agreement by Surrey County Council and National Highways (the rebranded name for Highways England).

But others have expressed doubts about the council’s priorities.

Guildford Labour is sceptical and said there is a “well of hostility” from local people against the road developments.

The Guildford Greenbelt Group said the cancellation of the A3 widening raises questions about whether the houses can be delivered.

The Wisley Action Group, that opposes housing development at Wisley Airfield, said Guildford Borough Council were “fantasising the facts”.

Cllr John Rigg

John Rigg, (R4GV) and GBC’s lead councillor for regeneration, said the schemes would help to “revitalise the borough” and allow delivery of “affordable housing”. He said the road schemes would “ease traffic congestion and make travel easier, greener and safer”.

He added: “We will continue to work with Surrey County Council, Highways England [sic], Network Rail and other agencies to improve investment into our infrastructure. Work includes traffic analysis and modelling, air quality and climate change monitoring. Some of these schemes still need funding, which we will be applying for. ”

The schemes are:

  • M25 Junction 10 Wisley Interchange. The Wisley Airfield housing development is dependent on this scheme to manage A3 traffic. The plans include widening a section of the A3 between Ockham and Painshill and a new roundabout. It is expected to improve air quality and road safety, as well as reduce congestion at the M25 junction.
  • New Guildford west (Park Barn) and Guildford east (Merrow) railway stations are said will reduce local and longer distance trips using a critical section of the A3 and improve the air pollution. Workers at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, the Surrey Research Park, the Surrey Sports Park and the University of Surrey are expected to benefit but detailed analysis is still required.
  • Sustainable Movement Corridor plans sustainable transport links from the Royal Surrey County Hospital and the University of Surrey to the town centre and Blackwell Farm, Gosden Hill and Weyside Urban Village. Design and costs of these projects is to be progressed.
  • A3 northbound on and off slip-roads at the A247 Clandon Road is said to be crucial for the Wisley Airfield development as it manages traffic on the B2215 through Ripley. This scheme includes adding new slip roads at the A3 junction with the A247 Clandon Road.
  • A new bridge on the Ash Road and a new footbridge has received planning permission with the objective of replacing the level crossing at Ash railway station. Extra funding was received from Homes England in April. The project is expected to help deliver new housing, improve rail safety and reduce traffic, pollution and delays in Ash.

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty.

Ramsey Nagaty, the leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, said: “Without the A3 widening, the deliverability of these key [housing] sites is questionable. It is highly mis-leading to expect the remaining five infrastructure proposals to support the proposed development.

“This is a further reason the Local Plan review must happen at pace. If not, sites will need to be mothballed or dropped.

“I welcome plans for additional rail stations and modal shift. Siting the station at Park Barn may assist with NHS staff and visitors, as well as for the research park and university but not necessarily for future residents at Blackwell Farm who may find the main line station more convenient. A station at Park Barn could seriously add to the congestion outside the hospital with private cars, taxis and buses coming and going from the station as well as attracting additional parking in the area.

“Additional park and ride facilities should be considered a priority too, especially one for the A281 before Shalford and another to take cars off the south-bound A3 approach to Guildford.

“The reality is Guildford is a gap town with narrow roads compounded by the A3 cutting through the town as well as the river. This together with the constraints of AONB [areas of outstanding natural beauty], AGLV [area of great landscape value] and green belt does not support the ever greater spread of development. As Cllr Rigg is endeavouring to deliver more town centre and brownfield development close to existing infrastructure, is the way forward.”

Howard Smith.

Howard Smith, vice-chairman of the Guildford Labour Party, said: “Why is the council so preoccupied by expanding and increasing the road system? The climate emergency is here and we should be looking harder at alternatives to end traffic pollution by promoting public transport as well as walking and cycling options.

Labour spokesperson Sue Hackman added: “Ask anyone local to these road developments and you will find a well of hostility, the Wisley interchange being one example.”

Mark Bray-Parry of the Green Party.

Mark Bray-Parry, spokesperson for the Guildford Green Party, said: “These transport projects must be the start of a new focus on public transport and active travel. It is essential that all stakeholders are engaged and that these projects are not delivered in silo given their potential to compliment each other.

“In regards to the Wisley M25 junction, the upgrade of the junction is compatible with the climate emergency. Highway England’s assessment failed to include the impact of emissions from use and we would be wise at looking at sustainable transport alternatives to accommodate any housing developments that are retained within the Local Plan.”

Tony Edwards.

Tony Edwards, from the Wisley Action Group, speaking about the M25 Junction 10 improvements, said: “Air quality would undoubtedly deteriorate if the £250 million project ever proceeds, If GBC believes otherwise they are, quite simply, fantasising the facts.

“We have yet to see any evidence at all of ‘affordable housing’ in the proposals at Three Farms Meadows, the former Wisley airfield. The widening gap between average salaries and house prices indicates that affordable housing will be a scarce commodity anywhere.”

A spokesperson for the Guildford Bike User Group (GBUG) said: “It is disappointing to see three proposals focused on adding road capacity, further embedding the role of private cars in daily journeys, increasing air pollution and exacerbating the climate emergency. We need to see this funding directed towards cycling and walking infrastructure.

“Guildford’s growth should be focused on compact urban development that is connected by public transport and infrastructure that supports active travel (walking and cycling).  The Park Barn stations and the sustainable movement corridor is a start but much more is urgently needed.”

Guildford Conservatives were also contacted to respond.

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Responses to Council Prioritises Five Transport Schemes To Support Local Plan Housing Targets

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    September 1, 2021 at 6:39 am

    Cllr Rigg appears to have forgotten that R4GV were elected to review the Local Plan, not to build roads to enable it. So much for the promised review then.

    The review would demonstrate that these road schemes are not needed, so they should get on with it, before considering what roads are needed.

    As to “affordable homes”, where is the evidence?

  2. George Potter Reply

    September 1, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    A rather misleading headline by the Dragon. How can you possibly describe railway stations as a “road scheme” with a straight face?

    “Five transport schemes” would be more accurate.

    Editors note: You are right, the headline was incorrect and it has now been changed. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Steve Wright Reply

    September 1, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    An increase in road infrastructure will result in an increase in traffic, pollution and loss of valuable trees that take away this pollution.

    If anyone on the council seriously thinks that creating new developments will not result in an increase in traffic they are seriously deluded.

    The planned developments are the result of poor judgement. Money from developers is swaying the judgement of the council. No thought is ever given to existing residents or the countryside.

  4. Ray Briggs Reply

    September 1, 2021 at 3:33 pm

    To put forward the current Local Plan without a proper infrastructure evaluation and plan was always the height of folly. Cllr Nagaty is absolutely right when he highlights the special challenges our town faces.

    It’s difficult to see how the Plan can deliver anything other than significant further congestion, worsening of air quality and further degradation of our green spaces.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    September 1, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    A simple problem faces the proposal for a new railway station proposal at Merrow, distances from London Road and West Clandon stations and the gradient at the location.

    Better a pedestrian , as in Disney World, to take potential passengers to West Clandon than keep trying to get Network Rail to plant a station in the wrong place technically.

  6. Clive Hamilton Reply

    September 2, 2021 at 9:44 am

    Well, what about the improved access to Skyfield? That would help air quality immensely

  7. Sue Reeve Reply

    September 9, 2021 at 7:34 am

    Why are road widening schemes being discussed by a borough which has declared a climate emergency? GBC is failing on every count and doesn’t seem to understand the words “climate” and “emergency”.

    We should not be encouraging increased car use at all. To top it all, the developers are rubbing their hands in glee as GBC is only asking for 20 per cent sustainability on the build profile of any of their sites.

    When asked why not go for 100 per cent sustainable sites their pat answer is GBC only requires 20 per cent.

  8. Mark Percival Reply

    September 9, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    £250 million for a motorway junction. Just let that sink in, £250 million. It’s a huge sum of money that could be used to develop some good quality, active travel schemes that begin to offer the public viable alternatives to using the car all the time.

    The Surrey County Council Transport Plan states in its opening paragraph: “Transport accounts for 46 per cent of Surrey’s carbon emissions.”

    Building more lanes and pouring money into these road schemes hasn’t fixed congestion in the last 50 years; it isn’t going to fix it now.

    Jim Allen also makes a fair point on the railway stations, Guildford would have four stations and no easy way to get between them without a car.

  9. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 9, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    Sur Reeve should refer again to John Rigg’s letter in reply to her earlier concern. It is on

    Part V of the Development Acts 2000-2002 allows a local authority to require developers to set aside up to 20 per cent of new developments of five or more houses for social or affordable housing. Also, she should see the changes in 2021 in where a lower 10 per cent is applicable.

    Part V Changes

    20 per cent requirement.
    This will primarily apply to land purchased on or after 1 August 2021. All new planning permissions for housing development on that land will have a 20% Part V requirement.”

    10 per cent requirement.
    This applies to land with existing planning permission or land that has been purchased between 1 September 2015 and 31 July 2021 and planning permission is granted before 31st July 2026.”

    It is my understanding that local authorities are not at liberty to increase developers’ social housing contributions.

    A review could alter the housing targets but until that happens, the council is right to explore avenues to improve road infrastructure.

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