Fringe Box



Letter: Hotspots Project Raised My Temperature

Published on: 24 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 24 Jul, 2020

From: John Ferns

In response to: Collaboration Gives Green Light to U-turn on Blackwater Valley Hotspots Scheme

That all was not well within Millmead was obvious to concerned residents, here in the west of the borough, before last year’s elections and there had been no noticeable improvement since, until yesterday’s (July 22) welcome announcement regarding the Blackwater Hotspot’s project.

Things came to a head when it was announced that the Executive proposed to shut down the project a month ago.  I had secured a speaking slot but was deprived of that opportunity when the agenda item was withdrawn 24 hours before the meeting.

A group of us, all concerned residents within South Ash & Tongham quickly obtained the LEP application document and it was only then realised that things were actually far worse than ever could have been imagined.  A minuted meeting of the Guildford/SCC Joint committee recorded on December 11, 2019 that, “a tender will be published in the next couple of weeks”. As the milestoned date for completion of tendering was October 2019 this confirmed our fears that someone was “asleep at the wheel”.

I am bemused to read that the parties to the collaboration had ‘found the money’. The money was there already and over the preceding 36 months, we had been tracking the individual sources as each local planning application was being approved. What we did not know, until we studied the LEP [Local Enterprise Partnership] document, was that the cost estimates had included a 40% “fudge factor”. This will almost certainly be needed now if the project is to get back on track.  And the tender process is yet to start, so it will be a miracle if the February 2021 project completion date is achieved.

It probably sounds a bit churlish to be writing in this vein when the “bells are ringing out joyfully” around me.  There has been a lot of pain and sleepless nights getting to this point, so my hope is, that hard lessons have been learned and that a new spirit of cooperation will restore the mutual respect and trust that should exist between our elected representatives, ourselves and the teams of hard-working officers in junior positions who keep the ship sailing smoothly for the benefit of us all.

It is only a pity that party politics and silly point scoring continue to get in the way. And it irks me to hear that the Lib Dems are claiming credit for this result when it was them that were intent on cancelling the project in the first place.

Finally a word of warning to those in positions of power. You can treat the masses as ignorant fools only for so long before the masses start rolling out the tumbrils.  We will still continue to track their actions until trust is restored.  They must be open and honest with us and be prepared to admit mistakes. If they do I’m sure they will regain respect, certainly from me.

I will sign off as ‘Angry from Tongham’.

See also: How Consultation With Informed Resident Identified Route to Solving the Hotspot Issue

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