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Dragon Interview: Burpham’s Jim Allen, Fervent Campaigner

Published on: 20 Jan, 2016
Updated on: 21 Jan, 2016

Readers may have noticed that Burpham resident Jim Allen leaves a good deal of replies to the stories and articles on The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

We’ve published 349 of his comments so far, but not quite as many as Bernard Parke, who’s at ther top of the leader board with 500 comments published!

Moreover, they are similar in some ways in that they are both, of course, not afraid to make their strong views known, but at heart both care a great deal about Guildford and the changes that may be ahead.

Jim has recently written a long open letter (some you may have received it) in which he outlines his concerns for the Slyfield Area Regeneration Plan (SARP). Here, DAVID ROSE give details of the contents in his letter but also learns a bit more about the man with a mission.

Jim Allen on the towpath of the Wey Navigation pointing across the thw water meadows and flood plain.

Jim Allen on the towpath of the Wey Navigation between Slyfield and Burpham pointing across to the water meadows and flood plain.

Jim Allen is a tall man, with long black hair and a bushy beard. He reminds me of a musician who might have played in a American rock band from the 1970s!

Aged, 64 he came to Guildford 12 years ago and lives just off Clay Lane. He says the house was a bit of a wreck when they moved in, and he has done most of the renovation himself. Now retired, he loves wildlife and enjoys walks through the nearby Stoke Nature Reserve.

He had a varied career that began as an apprentice at Farnborough’s Royal Aircraft Establishment in the 1960s. He has worked on fire and safety equipment on oil tankers, had a servicing role with air ambulances in Scotland, worked in engineering in the textiles industry, was employed on barcode data collection, followed by a stint working with timber machinery, legislation of caravan registration, and so the list goes on…

So, it’s fair to say he’s been about a bit and seen a lot! And he is still a very busy man. Despite his local campaigning he is membership secretary of Remap, a charity in which engineers make all kinds of specially designed equipment to help people with disabilities. He is a member of the RAE Apprenticeship Association and the co-ordinator of the Burpham Neighbourhood Forum (that is up for referendum on February 18), and regularly undertakes clean-ups and litter picking, etc, along the lane where he lives.

About his views and comments on SARP he says: “I want to get people thinking rationally about this proposal. I’m trying to be brutally realistic about what I feel is wrong with the plans.”

In his study he has two monitor screen connected to his computer. He shows me some of the many, many images he has collected – based on aerial photographs, maps, and plans of the Slyfield / Jacobs Well area. He studies these in great detail, makes over lays to heighten aspects of potential flooding of the water meadows off Clay Lane and does all kinds of other assessments to the area in question.

You can’t knock him for the research he is doing. And some of it is historical as well. For example, he believes he has traced the now ‘lost’ route of Sir Richard Weston’s ‘flowing river’ that was dug in 1616-20 to flood, when necessary, his fields around Sutton Place so to keep the soil warm in winter and ready for sowing in the spring when the water level was dropped.

This open area beyond the Slyfield Industrial Estate is made up of household rubbish that was still being tipped there in the 1970s. Sir Richard Weston's 'flowing river' probably ran near to this spot.

This open area beyond the Slyfield Industrial Estate is made up of household rubbish that was still being tipped there in the 1970s. Sir Richard Weston’s ‘flowing river’ probably ran near to this spot.

In his open letter he writes: “I have serious reservations in respect of the current plans proposed for the Wey Valley Flood Plain, more commonly known as Slyfield Area Regeneration Project (SARP). I have avoided any comment on the marketing phrases or monetary comparisons used by those who support the project.

Jim says that the flood plain between the A320 and Clay Lane is now one third smaller in capacity than it was in the 1890s. He has concerns about what will happen if more open land is taken away and what will happen when the river floods.

He notes: “The Guildford water and sewage works were built on hard standing possibly before or during the 1890s. They are approximately 30 metres above sea level, above the Zone 2 flood plain and aligned with the level of the historic running river of the 1600s.

This sewage works site was chosen for its ideal technical position rather than for any financial considerations. The proposal to move the sewage treatment works from a site that has to date fulfilled all common sense requirements by being on solid ground, to an unstable land location is nonsensical and defies all good engineering principles.”

Thames Water's sewage treatment works near Stoke Lock. Jim Allen says: "Keep it where it is."

Thames Water’s sewage treatment works near Stoke Lock. Jim Allen says: “Keep it where it is.”

And he warns: “The proposed site (of the treatment works) will have to be stripped back to the level of the flood plain, to achieve the stable ground necessary for the siting of settlement tanks. It will then become Zone 3b active flood plain again.

“Historically, household waste and other refuse was placed directly on to the active flood plain roughly 27 metres above sea level, building up to Zone 2 flood plain, some 30 metres above sea level.

Area at Slyfield close to the sewage drying flats as noted by Jim Allen in his open letter.

Area at Slyfield close to the sewage drying flats as noted by Jim Allen in his open letter.

“The sewage drying flats were also laid first on to the flood plain and built up two or three metres to present day levels. Prior to any new building, the site will have to be cleaned and all the contaminates removed, which will lower the ground to its pre 1900 level, i.e. the original flood plain.

“It should be noted that these contaminates will include hazardous organic and inorganic chemicals such as asbestos, silver nitrate, cadmium, chromium and mercury. Such site cleaning would need to be done during the dryer summer months which could lead to highly toxic dust contaminating the borough.

“Recollections from three local gentlemen, noted in separate conversations, give details of past practice in getting rid of the solids flushed down the sewers. It seems that household refuse was spread across the site and then raw effluent was sprayed across the same area thus filling the gaps in the refuse.

“It is not known when this started but their anecdotes suggest it continued into the 1950s. This waste would have included heavy metals and other contaminates (listed above) from local businesses generically now called ‘industrial waste’. There has been methane build up on the site, necessitating the installation of methane vents; it is noted that the drill test engineer working in 2014/15 was required to use a breathing mask while removing test samples from the ground.”

He explains to me that he believes the SARP plan can be made better if the authorities and planners really listen to the fears of communites and take some of their advice, and likens it to the M3 expansion at Winchester. He says: Local people said ‘No’ refusing to compromise at all for 30 years to a scheme that was going to happen anyway. So the Ministry of Transport decided to drive the road straight through. If everyone had worked together a much better solution for all could have been reached at Twyford Down.”

Traffic flow in the area is another of Jim’s hot topics. He notes in his letter: “Traffic problems on the A320 are not isolated – in general they correlate with problems either in Slyfield or on other surrounding roads – the A3 and Clay Lane.

Moorfield Road on the Slyfield Industrial Estate.

Moorfield Road on the Slyfield Industrial Estate.

“The traffic problems of Slyfield Industrial Estate are a direct result of poor traffic management on the estate. Vehicles simply spill off from the site onto the A320.

“Simply adding an additional road will not prevent this problem, unless the traffic management behaviour of those using the site improves. It has never been unambiguously established where traffic arriving at the Slyfield estate either comes from or goes to. This is essential information that needs to be established prior to any road building proposals.”

He also warns about the consequences of the proposed 1,000-plus houses earmarked in SARP. He has been doing his number crunching and says: “By current statistics that will generate 1,800 vehicles which have no point of exit or entry either onto the A320 or anywhere else – the roads around Bellfields are simply not suitable for that level of traffic.

“Encouraging all the traffic on to Clay Lane which at peak times is currently running at one vehicle every two seconds is simply impractical and a recipe for further congestion.”

When asked whether he is worried about the proposals, Jim said: “No, I am not worried, as that implies a person who is not aware of all the facts, but I am very concerned.”

He then adds: “I just wish that the people making these decisions would go and seek some older people who have lived in the area for many years. They can say a lot about the place and what changes they have seen and what things were like before. We can learn a lot from them.”

In Jim’s letter he offers his simple solution in six-points:

For the overall site to be cleaned to ‘industrial levels’ not ‘human habitation levels’.

For the Thames Water treatment works to be modernised on site, increased in capacity and reduced in land take.

For the satellite industrial sites of Guildford to be moved on to the industrially cleaned land at Slyfield.

For the then vacated satellite industrial land – complete with existing infrastructure – to be utilised for housing.

For traffic management on Slyfield to be improved with a one-way system introduced on Westfield Road and Moorfield Road and a second entry/exit at the GBC depot. But a proper entry/ exit direct on to Bellfields roundabout would make more sense.

A four-way intersection at the intersection of the A320 (Stoke Road) and the A3 would solve access to London and the south coast. This being the shortest route to a main transport artery. Least noise and pollution to the environment.

He is bold enough to say: “These are my views. If I have got things wrong when all is done, I will admit that. I just want to get people discussing the issues.”

Jim has added a number of video clips of traffic at Slyfield and Clay Lane on to You Tube to highlight his comments.


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Responses to Dragon Interview: Burpham’s Jim Allen, Fervent Campaigner

  1. Keith Kerr Reply

    January 23, 2016 at 7:20 am

    Jim talks a lot of sense suggesting that Slyfield should remain an industrial area, the sewage treatment plant should remain and homes should be built at the vacated industrial sites dotted around Guildford.

    I am not sure about the one-way system but easier access to the north/south routes of the A3 would lead to less congestion.

    One of the main problems of congestion in the area is the constant flow of vehicles to and from the rubbish/recycling plant.

    If this was relocated adjacent to the A3 on the scrub-land near the Send exit (where some industrial units already exist) then many vehicles would not need to use the Woking Road.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    January 25, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Mr Kerr, I apologise for failing to make the Burnt Common (Send) observation, but it makes rational sense.

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