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Letter: SCC Behaviour on London Road Scheme Does Not Instil Confidence

Published on: 30 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 30 Aug, 2023

From: Pat Gallagher

In response to: Action Group Unhappy With SCC Meeting on London Road Proposals

See also: New Plan for London Road Scheme ‘Engagement’ Receives Mixed Response

I feel sure that I cannot be the only member of the public who is becoming totally confused, about which is the most accurate published information on the creation of the revised consultation on the London Road cycle scheme, as there exist several conflicting reports.

I have tried to piece together how the process is being developed, by reading what has appeared on Surrey County Council’s relevant website, what has been written in local media outlets, what has appeared as regular newsletters on the London Road Action Group’s (LRAG’s) own website, and occasional updates on the G-BUG website.

This appears to be the story so far. Following the postponement of its original plan last December, Surrey County Council (SCC) announced that it would re-engage with the public, using the services of an independent consultation organisation.

Under the instruction of SCC, this organisation arranged to gather together a number of stakeholders (representing persons who would be affected by the scheme) to assist in producing a method of presenting the details of the scheme and the management of traffic during its construction. A series of meetings of this stakeholder group started in late March.

I presumed that this group would ensure that all of the concerns raised at the public meeting of  January 5, as well as those LRAG reported, which they had presented to SCC at a later meeting, would receive comprehensive answers, explanations and justifications as part of the public engagement events.

This appeared to be a reasonable process, except I read that, at the second meeting, SCC provided the group with only provisional, undimensioned drawings of the scheme. That seemed a strange action, if the group was supposed to be developing a method of how to present what impact the design might have on all of the community’s daily lives. It came across as an inhibition on the influence that the group’s stakeholders might be allowed, in creating the right questions and answers.

It was reported that there was an expectation that traffic-management plans should have materialised for stakeholder contemplation, well in advance of the third meeting. However, this did not appear to be realised, although reports indicate that some plans were presented at the meeting.

SCC has repeatedly indicated that any suggestion of a five-month carriageway closure is no longer the case. Construction would now be achieved by overnight working, with no daytime traffic constraints.

Looking back through my notes this seems to contradict the position stated at the public meeting on January 5, which was that for environmental reasons overnight working in residential areas was not appropriate.

The only reference I can find to the duration of the works is from an LRAG newsletter indicating that 60 weeks of construction would be necessary for the entire scheme. Recent media reports about similar constructions in Farnborough have reported an 18-week overrun and adjacent businesses folding as a result! I don’t suppose anyone will relish one-and-a-half years of red-and-white cones and bollards in the interest of the greater good, but at least it is less than for M25 J10 at Wisley.

Another strange anomaly was that it was reported that information was only to be shared within the members of the group. Several of the stakeholders were heads of community groups and must have a responsibility to reflect not just their own views, but more importantly those they represent. That also seemed like another example of control freakery on the part of those responsible for this SCC policy.

On August 3, The Guildford Dragon NEWS ran an article [Action Group Unhappy With SCC Meeting on London Road Proposals] based on the London Road Action Group’s apparent disquiet about the conduct of a meeting on July 26. When asked whether the LRAG report was a fair and accurate account County Cllr Matt Furniss [Con, Shalford], the chair of the stakeholder group, is reported as “avoiding the question”.

Finally, on August 25, on their website, when SCC published the minutes of that meeting, I compared them with the LRAG reports, and it is almost as if the two protagonists were in different rooms at times! The LRAG report suggests that the leader of Surrey County Council had taken an interest and had attended, but it is not possible to confirm this from the absence of identification of personnel in SCC’s minutes.

Looking back at minutes of previous meetings, published on the SCC website, I couldn’t detect a mention that the participants concurred that minutes of the previous meeting were an accurate and agreed record, as usually occurs in business.

Perhaps I overestimate the formality of these stakeholder meetings. However, it seems they are supposed to be the means that will provide the public/local community with sufficient and appropriate information to reach a conclusion about whether the cycle scheme should proceed. If some stakeholders are unhappy with the outcomes of the meetings and the records, this ought to be public knowledge.

I would love to be a fly-on-the-wall on September 6, at the next meeting of the stakeholder group, to hear the discussion about whose version of the minutes was correct!

Unfortunately, the public at large will only be able to decide who to believe and trust from what they are allowed to read.

I look forward to comparing the next set of SCC minutes with the views of others present, to see if the contradictions are untangled. It doesn’t instil a lot of confidence that SCC is actually accepting the stakeholders’ inputs in this whole process though, does it?

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Responses to Letter: SCC Behaviour on London Road Scheme Does Not Instil Confidence

  1. Anthony Mallard Reply

    August 30, 2023 at 2:41 pm

    I fear a Judicial Review is looming if Surrey County Council continues to behave as is suggested by Pat Gallagher’s and other correspondents’ recent comments.

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