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‘Don’t Tarmac Our Beautiful Old Bridleway’, Plead Dagley Lane Campaigners

Published on: 13 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 15 Aug, 2021

Dagley Lane that runs from Shalford waterworks, behind the Seahorse Pub down to Shalford cemetery: Image Alison Hall

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Users of an ancient tree-lined bridleway near Guildford are distraught at plans to replace it with a lit-up tarmacked cycle route.

Residents have now set up the Dagley Lane Preservation Group and according to some users of Dagley Lane, which runs alongside Shalford Road, it would be “a big blow” if the plans go ahead but other locals think the bridleway is impassable at wet times of the year.

Map showing route of the bridleway it is proposed to tarmac (Click on image to enlarge)

Surrey County Council said it wants to make the path more accessible by widening it to three metres and cutting back vegetation on either side.

Founder of the group Alison Hall, of Shalford, said: “Whilst Surrey County Council loudly pronounce that they are planting 1.2 million trees in the county by 2030, they are planning to spend some of the active travel fund on ripping out dozens of trees to make way for tarmac.

“It’s going to change the environment forever, there’ll be no going back. It really is a big blow.”

Campaigners’ notice posted by the lane

Dagley Lane is one of nine “active travel” schemes in Surrey aiming to enable communities to embrace more sustainable travel options, for which SCC received a total of £6.45 million from the Department for Transport in December.

Ms Hall, who received an MBE for her charity’s work helping to develop self-sustainable communities in East Africa, said: “Having helped give a voice to people in Northern Uganda, I now feel like a voiceless person myself.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “We are always keen to listen to and engage with local residents, which is why we have started this consultation.

“Dagley Lane is a safer alternative for walkers and people on bikes than the A281, and by improving the surface and providing lighting it becomes a route that can be used all year round, allowing walkers and people on bikes to avoid the busy A281 in the winter.

“However no decision has been made yet regarding either the surface or lighting, and we will factor the results of the consultation into any decisions going forward.”

The new path would connect to existing cycle routes that reach Guildford and Godalming, and Ms Hall thinks speeding cyclists would put walkers off using the route.

According to the 2011 census, 1.8 per cent of people in the Guildford borough cycled to work while 8.2 per cent walked, though, a decade later, percentages could have changed.

Dagley Lane runs alongside Wey Valley Meadows, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and many worry that the proposed lights every 15 metres would disturb bats, owls, stag beetles, slow worms and dormice.

View of Wey Valley Meadows from Dagley Lane. Image Alison Hall

SCC says it is working with Surrey Wildlife Trust and there would be no lighting May-September to allow bats to breed and feed. Between October-April, for most of which time bats are hibernating, the path would be lit from dusk to 11pm and from 5am to dawn.

Scores of people have taken to the Guildford Town Past and Present Facebook group to voice their, mostly hostile, opinions on the plans.

Karen Bailey said there was no need for lights as “bikes have lights and walkers have torches”, and the path was wide enough without cutting down trees.

But Simon Firth replied that without light “the use of cycling is significantly reduced due to fears of personal safety”.

In another post, James Davis said it was “practically unusable during winter months” and a “hardened path would be a massive improvement as a motor traffic-free link” and would “improve accessibility for wheelchairs and mobility scooters”.

Lisa Wellstood responded: “As a wheelchair user I’d rather it wasn’t destroyed in my name! I fully accept that there are parts of nature I will not be able to access all of the time.

“And there are far better options that are sensitive to the surroundings than tarmac.”

Guildford resident Sophie Garrett posted: “I’ve walked and cycled along there dozens and dozens of times in my life and I can’t say I’ve ever thought ‘Gee, this could do with a bit of tarmac’.”

The consultation runs until Sunday, August 15 and can be found here.

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Responses to ‘Don’t Tarmac Our Beautiful Old Bridleway’, Plead Dagley Lane Campaigners

  1. Judy Lee Reply

    August 13, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    I say, no tarmac, no lights. Leave it alone.

    Why must humans always interfere with nature and the ecosystem?

    If the mud bothers you stay away. leave as nature intended, let things grow, stop being so fussy.

    • Andrew Calladine Reply

      August 16, 2021 at 10:01 am

      It’s not enough to say leave it alone, if you don’t have an alternative solution to get more people to travel in a more environmentally and healthy manner. And don’t say Electronic Vehicles because they’re not the silver bullet.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    August 14, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Street lighting – the epitome of urbanisation. Introduced by remote civil servants wasting other people’s money in complete ignorance of the countryside or nature. Typical of SCC and GBC.

  3. Charlotte Gray Reply

    August 15, 2021 at 6:10 am

    Stop urbanising the countryside, it ruins it.

  4. Theresa Coleman Reply

    August 15, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    I back into this path and totally support a proper road and lighting. I want to feel safe, and safe with my grandchildren.

    Walking is very difficult and almost impossible for pushchairs, poorly-sighted people needing a cane, wheelchairs. Putting in this proper road will make sure the countryside more accessible for all. It should not be just for those able-bodied and also capable of self-defence.

    • John Perkins Reply

      August 16, 2021 at 6:34 pm

      It won’t be countryside if it’s covered in tarmac.

  5. Nigel Burke Reply

    August 16, 2021 at 11:02 am

    This project will provide a viable alternative for local residents to leave their cars at home and reach Guildford safely by active travel (cycling, walking, wheelchairs, disability scooters, hand tricycles etc). It will be usable all year in all weather. It forms part of the Guildford-Godalming Greenway which will provide an active travel route between the two towns. Both supporters and opponents are motivated by valid environmental concerns, and I hope SCC/GBC will arrive at a compromise which will satisfy the majority.

  6. Peter Mills Reply

    August 16, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    It’s the countryside – leave it alone. What next – the towpath?

  7. Robert Good Reply

    August 16, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    This beautiful bridleway is a lovely walk, largely made of all-weather wheel-chair friendly compressed gravel.
    I have seen plenty of other walkers there, but never a bicycle.

    There are hundreds – probably thousands – of miles of footpaths in Surrey that are nothing but a massive quagmire when wet.

    Rather than spending our money needlessly tarmacking the countryside, footpaths could be easily improved by a few tons of woodchip or gravel and the help of volunteers.

    Besides bridleways are supposed to be for horses, and horses do not prefer tarmac.

  8. Mike Heath Reply

    August 17, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Please do not destroy even more precious countryside by tarmacking paths so the area becomes generally tidied up, gentrified and suburbanised.

    The appeal of walking on a country path is that you are walking in a wild area on a rough path. I am sure there are far more deserving projects in the Guildford area that this money should be spent on.

  9. Dave Middleton Reply

    August 17, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    The alternative to this, the A281 Shalford Road is not a cycle, or indeed pedestrian, friendly route. It is narrow in places, carries a high volume of traffic, some of which are large goods vehicles.

    The proposed improvements to the national cycle route and bridleway along Dagley Lane, will provide a safe, all year useable route for pedestrians, cyclists, and indeed horse riders.

    I think it’s a good idea.

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