Fringe Box



Letter: Until All Parties Take Responsibility There Is No Hope for Tumbling Bay

Published on: 27 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 27 Feb, 2023

Tumbling Bay Weir’s closed footbridge

From: Bernard Quoroll

See: Tumbling Bay Weir ‘Not Our Responsibility’ Says GBC and Choose the ‘Do Nothing’ Option

As a keen walker, often found treading the footpaths around Guildford, I was dismayed to see that our Liberal Democrat-led borough council has decided to kick the can down the road once more, in the ongoing Tumbling Bay saga.

It was correctly described in the debate as being of “huge importance” to local residents.  It is or rather was, an important public asset and plays a part in the opening up of the riverside.

A somewhat opportunistic Conservative manifesto pledge which has just come through my door, asserts that if elected, they will “arbitrate” the reinstatement of the Tumbling Bay footpath.  Arbitration implies that the council, under its political leadership, would identify a miscreant and order it to do the right thing.  Good luck with that.

It is a step in the right direction, only insofar as it identifies the more central role our council (and I would say, our MP) should be playing.

Here is another way forward.

I accept the logic that the management of the footpath is intimately bound up with the future management of the navigation.  If the council took ownership of the land, it might create more problems than it solves.  It could however use compulsory purchase powers to secure land assembly, if needed to make a scheme happen.*

It could also make a clear statement now, that alongside other agencies, it would be willing in principle to make a proportionate financial contribution to a replacement path, something it has, to its great credit, already done before in respect of the emergency works and to the tune of nearly half a million pounds.

It could invite our hard-working local MP, Angela Richardson, to convene a meeting of all the interested agencies, upon which The Dragon could report.  I counted five such bodies in the latest committee report but there may be more.  That should include all the relevant government departmental representatives.

She might also later approach one or more government ministers to explore what contribution could be made from national pots via ongoing bidding processes (of which there are many}, once cost and viability have been established.  It is, after all, what we elect MPs to do.

The council would need to step forward and fill the vacuum by doing the staff work, which is only an extension of what it has done so far.  The first thing to do is to identify in outline, the costs and timescales involved in mounting such a project ie management, design, construction and future maintenance.  Then we will all know roughly what cost is involved.

That is no small task, so all the parties involved should be asked to contribute in cash or kind. Until that is done, there is no hope of unravelling this bureaucratic nightmare.  Such a proving exercise should be within the means of the agencies collectively and establish feasibility before commitment.  It should include an assessment of which agency should be responsible for the footpath in future, so it doesn’t happen again.

Our MP could make clear that downstream (forgive the pun), and once costs and feasibility have been established, there would be an expectation that relevant agencies would be expected to contribute equitably to making it happen, not just play pass the parcel.

If the initiative fails, Guildford’s residents would understand that their council has done all it can to resolve an intractable problem.  Keeping the public properly informed, would enable us to know whose door our MP might want to knock on, if anyone drags their feet.  A public relations exercise which says broadly that the council does not own the land “so it’s not our fault gov”, just does not cut it.

Most importantly, it would provide a platform from which to move forward at pace, once feasibility and cost have been established. That might even include a public subscription.

There is no quick fix so It would take some time, perhaps more years than the three that have already been wasted, but it would at least reassure the public that our council wants to get us off first base and understands its function as the only organisation interested in everything happening within its community.  It is called community leadership.

A temporary route meanwhile would restore something of the status quo.

*Editor’s note: Taking ownership of the weir was one of the options considered and rejected in last week’s Executive Committee’s debate on the Tumbling Bay Weir.

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Responses to Letter: Until All Parties Take Responsibility There Is No Hope for Tumbling Bay

  1. Barry CWilliams Reply

    February 27, 2023 at 4:23 pm

    Blame should not lie at the councils door. They have tried hard to find a solution.

    I live close to the river and have corresponded with ward and lead councillors on behalf of my residents association as we have seen an increased level of foot and cycle traffic ( and public nuisance ) in our road.

    This can be directly attributed to the Tumbling Bay bridge closure as people seek alternative routes to the towpath

    From the information that has been given to me I am fully satisfied with the answers and reasoning that have been given to me by councillors. The recent GBC webcast also supports their comments.

    Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the National Trust who have chosen not to reply to my correspondence over the past two years and which in my view is condemned by its silence.

    I am told NT relations with GBC remain cordial as ways to overcome the issue are discussed. However, I feel this issue has moved on from being a dispute between our council and the local offices of the NT Wey Navigation and results from decisions taken at NT national level.

    We are overdue a response from the national NT Executive and their Chairperson who should be doing more to care for this riverside / canal environment.

    Perhaps the NT may choose to use the Dragon to air their side of the argument – after all we must have a lot of frustrated NT members in Guildford borough who would like to hear from them

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