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County Council Climbs Down Over London Road Works – Further ‘Engagement’ Period Announced

Published on: 14 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 15 Dec, 2022

Image of London Road, Burpham taken in August 2022. Google Street View.

By Martin Giles

In an apparent climb down in the face of vociferous local opposition and concern, Surrey County Council has today announced that there will be “further engagement with local residents regarding the planned active travel scheme on London Road, Burpham in Guildford”.

A new meeting with residents, which Council Leader Tim Oliver will attend, is being planned for January 5.

Please see reaction comments below.

The scheme was due to get underway on January 9, but it is now to be postponed to allow more detailed discussion with the local community “to help ensure the benefits of the scheme are widely understood and delivered”.

Update: Cllr Fiona Davidson addressing Surrey County Council before the delay was announced…

Originally, the project was expected to last seven months, this was then reduced to five months “squeezed to reduce disruption as much as possible”. A new set of “engagement events” are expected to be announced, with the start date to be confirmed.

SCC has cancelled the drop-in meeting for the scheme due to take place on Saturday, December 17 at Burpham Church. A spokesperson said: “new engagement activity” [is] due to take place in the new year”.

Cllr Matt Furniss

On December 1, SCC Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Shalford), Cabinet member for Transport said: “I’m delighted that work on this major active travel scheme is starting in the new year… We have listened to the local community and have worked with our contractor to accelerate the works to reduce disruption.”

Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, said: “I have received a number of emails from residents over the past few days in relation to the proposed construction of the cycle lane along London Road.

Tim Oliver – Leader of Surrey County Council

“Whilst there is support from many residents, a great number have also raised concerns about the disruption the works would cause to this busy road.

“Consultation has been undertaken over the last 18 months, including with Guildford Borough Council, the local councillors, and a representative sample of the local community, however I appreciate that not all residents were fully aware of the detail and I have therefore agreed to delay the implementation pending further discussion with residents and their representative groups.

“It is important that we continue to invest in public transport and appropriate schemes that will promote safer walking and cycling routes across the county if we are going to reduce our carbon emissions, but it is equally important that residents are supportive of such schemes.

“Surrey is a great county to live and work in and we want to make sure we are enhancing that experience for the benefit of all.”

Cllr George Potter

George Potter, the Lib Dem county councillor for Guildford East, reacted:”I’m delighted that public pressure has worked and has forced the decision-makers at county hall to listen.

“Cllr Fiona Davidson [R4GV, Guildford South East] and I had a meeting with the Executive Director today where we were told that the purpose of the postponement is to allow further engagement with the community, and that the county council will be working directly with us to determine how best to carry out that engagement.

“Unfortunately that message was somewhat undercut by the press release announcing the postponement having gone out, without our knowledge, before we had the meeting but I am optimistic that fresh engagement will result in a plan for the scheme that avoids unnecessary disruption and that has genuine community support.”

Cllr Fiona Davidson

This evening Cllr Davidson said: “We are very pleased that Cllr Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, has responded to the significant and reasonable concerns raised by residents, councillors, businesses and schools about the current proposals for the London Road active travel scheme. The way the scheme has been managed so far has galvanised a level of anger and discontent that is unusual for Guildford.

“In my Members’ Statement at SCC’s full council meeting yesterday (December 13 – see video above), I reported that Guildford residents were incredulous at what was proposed, and thought that SCC was trying to strangle the town. I also queried what SCC means by resident engagement and concluded that, based on the scheme proposed, it appeared to mean railroading residents.

“The consultation exercise for this scheme was cursory and completely inappropriate given the
significant impact and consequences. It may have been statistically valid, but it was certainly not in the spirit of true consultation.

“We all now need to work together – residents, councillors, schools, businesses and Surrey County Council – to find a way forward that is acceptable to all parties. I look forward to being part of the revamped consultation exercise.

“Cllr Oliver has agreed to participate in a public meeting that I have arranged on January 5, and I appreciate his willingness to engage directly with residents.”

The London Road scheme was first aired in Guildford’s Local Plan in 2016, and was considered by Surrey County Council’s cabinet in March 2021.

Cllr Matt Furniss is understood to be away and unavailable for comment.

This article will be updated with further reactions as received. Please check back.

See also: Will Burpham Roadworks Wipe Out Conservatives in Guildford?

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Responses to County Council Climbs Down Over London Road Works – Further ‘Engagement’ Period Announced

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    December 14, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    If only they had properly consulted with the community.

    Thank you Dragon readers. We win again!

  2. Sam James Reply

    December 14, 2022 at 4:07 pm

    Shame. It is unlikely that such a scheme will now be afforded to this area.

    I hope that those who are too posh to get out their cars and walk, or who were not prepared to drive in a different manner to that they think they have a right to, are proud of themselves.

    It is sad that those with young children cannot use that road safely by bike, and the Nimbys have won. Shame on them all.

    Perhaps next time they are invited to be involved in a consultation they actually spend some time doing so, and not wait until after the money has been spent on design to moan.

    There are lots of ways to be involved in local policy and consultations – if one choses to – but most are too busy making sure ‘they’ are OK to engage.

    Do not blame SCC for this, nor if they can no longer afford any form of scheme along this busy road.

    • Paul Robinson Reply

      December 14, 2022 at 7:39 pm

      I believe the objections were raised because the local community was not consulted.

      The first most of the people who live in the area knew about it was when the road closed notices went up. The Burpham Community Association was not consulted. Not even the local SCC councillors were aware of the scheme. It was presented as virtually a done deal.

    • Malcolm Stanier Reply

      December 14, 2022 at 11:03 pm

      Who said that the scheme had been completely dropped and will not be afforded? There was minimal consultation in the vicinity of this scheme, was Sam James one of the lucky ones to actually be invited for his opinion? I don’t know what “posh” has to do with it.

      Closing London Road to northbound traffic for five months would have caused chaos.

    • Andy Clapham Reply

      December 15, 2022 at 9:57 am

      Sam James is mistaken to say that people couldn’t be bothered to be consulted. Many people tried to be involved but were ignored.

      The so-called consultation was by invitation to a selected group of people. I attach an extract from a much longer statement from SCC:
      “With regard to the consultation we undertook in 2021, we engaged a consultation agency to undertake the consultation to ensure its independence….. it was a series of workshops … targeted to residents who live close to the scheme representing all demographics and age groups.”

      • Ian Barrow Reply

        December 17, 2022 at 8:58 am

        I live within the area of the scheme and I was not informed. The first I heard of it was when the closure signs went up. How can that be? By the way, I am in no way posh.

  3. George Potter Reply

    December 14, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    I think I should add, to be completely transparent, that my personal view remains that the goal of the scheme is still very worthwhile and needs to be achieved. If we can make walking and cycling safer then more people will do it and that, in turn, will result in fewer cars on the road. Temporary disruption is a price worth paying for that goal, in my view.

    But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about doing such a major project, and so far it’s been done the wrong way. I really hope that the new engagement exercise will result in things being done the right way; by addressing the arguments of sceptics and winning them over, making adjustments in response to valid criticism, finding ways to minimise disruption, and working with the community to deliver a scheme that works for the community, rather than riding roughshod over it.

    George Potter is the Lib Dem county councillor for Guildford East

    • Ian Barrow Reply

      December 17, 2022 at 9:03 am

      Has Cllr Potter considered that the majority of the cars using that part of the London Road do not live in Guildford and are have a longer commute? Walking and cycling would not be an option for them, regardless.

  4. Martin Davies Reply

    December 14, 2022 at 6:55 pm

    A sudden attack of common sense. Seems extraordinary that SCC considered railroading local residents to boost their green credentials.

    It’s time all agenda-driven schemes were given the litmus test of local agreement.

    • Nathan Cassidy Reply

      December 14, 2022 at 10:31 pm

      Martin Davies says ‘agenda driven’ like it’s a bad thing. All policy should have an agenda, whether it’s reducing poverty, ending homelessness or reducing pollution.

      If we care about the climate crisis a green agenda is a good thing.

  5. David Williams Reply

    December 14, 2022 at 8:10 pm

    That’s bad news. I was looking forward to being able to cycle safely from Burpham to the town centre.

    London Road is far too dangerous now for cycling. It’s not surprising that there is gridlock on London Road. Everyone uses a car and in most cases with only one person in it.

    I agree completely with Sam James.

  6. Anthony Mallard Reply

    December 14, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    I am incredulous at the comments Sam James makes.

    As a now elderly and disabled person, I am not too posh to get out of my car. Indeed, I would very much like to have the ability to use a bicycle, walk or indeed use public transport, as once I could.

    The former two are not a viable option for me and the latter, due to cuts in the service and total unreliability is equally no longer an option.

    Had the proposal been thoroughly, transparently and publicly aired, properly planned rather than railroaded through, then maybe, just maybe, with compromises, it could have been achieved to the benefit of all those whom he identifies.

    The current proposal serves no one. Neither the residents, visitors to the town nor the shops and business community of Burpham or the wider environs of Guildford. It was and remains yet another folly whether of an individual, or Surrey County Council. It would have been a waste of public money, money that could be more wisely spent.

  7. Jan Messinger Reply

    December 14, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    Just remember everyone there are local elections next May.

    I think we all know why there is a delay to a controversial plan that would have caused such disruption of one of our villages, Burpham, by putting a huge strain on already very busy roads and delaying residents trying to get from one village to another.

  8. J Rendon Reply

    December 15, 2022 at 8:28 am

    There are more important and urgent road repairs that are needed in Guildford than the London Road project.

    SCC and GBC should get together and do what is needed and taxpayers want and not what they want to do with our money.

  9. William Lawrence Reply

    December 15, 2022 at 8:41 am

    The needs of the disabled community appear to sidelined by this scheme. The floating bus stops are particularly hazardous to those with a visual impairment and those in wheelchairs.

  10. Graham Hughes Reply

    December 15, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    I may be coming late to the party, but it seems to me that this scheme has been ill-conceived from the start.

    No matter what adjustments are made to kerbs and pavements, this stretch of road is never going to be attractive for families to cycle along as it is always going to carry a heavy weight of traffic. The disruption anticipated with the proposed closure of the road to northbound traffic for five months is a clear indication of what a significant route it is in the context of Guildford as a whole.

    Has enough attention been paid to finding alternative routes for cyclists? I am aware that there is a long green park-like area all along the northern edge of Burpham, just south of the A3, from near the western corner of Burpham Lane right through to the Spectrum. It has footpaths and trails at the moment and does not lend itself to bicycles, but it would probably cost just a fraction of the amount proposed to upgrade a route right through to the Spectrum and the Stoke Park routes. It would surely create a far more attractive route for families to cycle than alongside the very busy London Road.

    Obviously, a lot of time and effort has gone into planning the proposed works and it will be difficult to back out of all that. But it seems to me that the problems that will be created by the disruption for such a long period of time will create huge hostility to cycling in general and make the scheme counter-productive in the end.

  11. Graham Richings Reply

    December 17, 2022 at 11:36 pm

    Sam James’labelling of others as “posh” sounds pompous. Many of us are too old to cycle and need to use a car for other than very local journeys.

    I will never take my car out if I can walk. Mr James, like all of us, is not getting any younger and one day he will not be able to cycle because of his age.

    Cycling is OK when the weather is fine or there are no uphill inclines. There is also the question of carrying goods or purchases.

    Cycles have their place but you can not generalise as to their use. And as for the Dutch style roundabout planned for the Boxgrove end of this proposal, it could injure more cyclists than it saves. There will be chaos and confusion in that area.

  12. Jane Hepburn Reply

    December 19, 2022 at 7:44 am

    As daily cyclists, my husband and I cannot for the life of us understand why the London Road in Burpham has been chosen for “improvements” to the cycle lane. Most of the comments above are to do with the disruption to the area during the works, which it goes without saying would be considerable, but only J Rendon has mentioned anything to do with the need for “improvements “ in the first place.

    There are so many other roads through and leading into Guildford that urgently need making safe for cyclists. A London Road improvement would be the icing on a cake we don’t yet have.

    I would urge the council to sit down with cyclists to determine and prioritise which cycle routes are needed and which could be improved. I could mention a few, off the top of my head, that we navigate daily.

    Some of those writing above are under the impression that objectors to the London Road proposals are Nimbys. Not at all. We would love nothing better than more cycle routes where they are actually needed.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      December 19, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      As a long-departed but keen ex-cyclist due to disability, I appreciate Jane Hepburn’s comments. As with bus routes, planners, should, by default, ask the public before deciding.

      A prime example was the proposal in the first Neighbourhood Plan in Guildford. It was for Burpham. I am personally proud of it as the technical coordinator. It was proposed the footpath down the east side of the A3, through the local green spaces designated in the plan, should be upgraded to an all-weather cycle and footpath coming out at the Spectrum Leisure Centre. The idea was ignored by GBC. As was cycle storage – removed by the examiner.

      One thing which I learnt through that experience and others is that sensible suggestions are nearly always rejected by the powers that be.

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