Fringe Box



Letter: There Should Be a Development Moratorium in Ash Until the Bridge Funding Is Sorted

Published on: 5 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 4 Mar, 2022

From: Sue Wyeth-Price

In response to: Ash Road Bridge Costs Could Double – Council Still Has More Money to Find

The funding issues and delays with the bridge should come as no surprise to anyone as residents have raised this at GBC Executive meetings, planning meetings and in correspondence with both officers and councillors, including Cllr Rigg, for over three years now. Yet the attitude seems to be to press on regardless of the ever-escalating cost.

The article doesn’t cover some key questions:

  • Why have the costs of the project increased by £11.49 million in the last year?
  • Why does the council’s budget statement give a £5.89 million shortfall rather than the £11.48 million one as provided in evidence from GBC at the Ash Manor Inquiry?
  • What are the additional costs for the four Compulsory Purchase Orders already approved/issued to provide the land required for drainage?
  • How is GBC expecting to cover the shortfall?
  • How did the scheme ever get permission in January 2021 without Network Rail approving the design?

Have the councillors ever really known what they were approving?

The cost of this project has nearly tripled since its inclusion in the Local Plan (then £15 million). By 2019, the costs of the whole scheme (footbridge and road bridge) were £22.8 million. By 2020/21 this had risen to £27.3 million and as of 2022, it is £38.79 million, which apparently does not include the cost of the four separate Compulsory Purchase Orders for the land this will require and is expected to increase.

The costs simply cannot be covered by the council without further borrowing. Even the planning inspector challenged the council on affordability.

The council cannot raise enough money in contributions from developers to cover the remaining costs. The remaining 409 homes planned for Ash and Tongham (as presented at the Ash Manor Inquiry) will only deliver £4.1 million at the current “bridge tax” of £10,000 per house.

In reality, much of the remaining land is not for sale, and a large amount is required for the bridge drainage, leaving space for only approximately 290 homes which will only realise £2.9 million.

To cover the full shortfall, 409 houses would need to contribute an unrealistic £28,000 per house. 290 homes would require £40,000 per house.

This is not what was presented to the councillors at the budget meeting in February. Whilst the costs are the same, the financial shortfalls are substantially different. The budget figures have somehow included unspecified contributions or grants totalling £32.9 million, making the shortfall look considerably less.

Now even Cllr Rigg acknowledges that SCC and Network Rail will not be funding the project, so where will the remainder come from?

The council can now only rely on reserves or borrowing to make up more than 25% of the costs. Alternative they could adopt the approach of shaving costs from the budget (cheaper materials? no landscaping? less drainage?)  Could this be a reason why Network Rail is not giving its approval?

And what is this all for? Cllr Rigg describes the crossing as “dangerous” which is simply not the case. Even Network Rail have demonstrated that the issue is with pedestrians, not motorised vehicles, which the council seems to prioritise. All that is required is the footbridge and that hasn’t been designed or costed yet, let alone submitted as an application and is now years behind schedule. All to save motorists five minutes off a car journey to Guildford.

We were promised the infrastructure before the houses, yet SCC is not planning on carrying out most of the remaining highway improvements until after the bridge is built, if that ever happens.

Surely the time has come to place a moratorium on any further planning approvals and stop any further work on the bridge until the design, costing and funding sources have been openly established, published for comment and approved by the councillors.

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Responses to Letter: There Should Be a Development Moratorium in Ash Until the Bridge Funding Is Sorted

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 5, 2022 at 11:12 am

    I could not agree more, and the moratorium should apply to the whole borough. Residents do not want, or need, 20,000 new homes.

    Given current affairs, we cannot afford to sacrifice so much fertile farmland as is included in the plan. Importing 60 per cent of our food is no longer sustainable, and is likely to end up with serious food shortages, even starvation.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    March 5, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    Isn’t there a perfectly serviceable pedestrian and cycle bridge, scheduled for removal over two years ago at the Stoke Interchange?

    Yes, it would need modification of the site or bridge but surely it would be less expensive or time-consuming than the current fiasco.

    Or have SCC and GBC changed the Guildford plan without telling anyone.

  3. Peter Alan Tugwell Reply

    March 6, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    Yet again GBC is to blame and have totally mishandled the whole issue.

    No more houses should be allowed to be built in this area until the bridge is sorted out or the crossing updated.

    Developers Bellway only got approval of their plan because the bridge was going ahead.

    So now what? Will there be a big hole in their site where the road to the bridge was going to go?

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    March 14, 2022 at 10:31 am

    1. We shouldn’t be here in the first place and would not have been if Guildford Borough Council had based its Local Plan on objective population projections.

    2. There should have been a moratorium as soon as the Office for National Statistics admitted that its projections for Guildford were wrong/out by a mile.

  5. Raymond DSa Reply

    March 21, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    Typical of GBC.

    The new homes should not have been built until the bridge was under construction and/or plans had been agreed. Now we are stuck with more traffic and people and the crossing causing us even more problems.

    In the 10 years we have been in Ash, the traffic has increased significantly and the number of trains has increased too; I cannot exit my drive at most times.

    Whatever happened to the near misses at the crossing and unsocial behaviour late at night? We feel that GBC never intended to build the bridge. It was a ploy to allow more building by making promises they would not keep.

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