It must be about five years ago that the idea of pedestrianisation of The Borough and Downing Street was brought up again as a possible solution to the narrow and crowded pavements in the town. A single lane traffic scheme for Downing Street had been considered some years before but had been rejected on traffic grounds.
One must take cognisance that both The Borough and Downing Street carry not only local traffic but also two A class roads each.
The A31 Guildford to Southampton road, the A 325 Petersfield to Frimley and the A287 Hindhead to Hook roads which criss cross through Farnham carry large amounts of through traffic. If The Borough and Downing Street were to be closed for pedestrianisation there would be a need for substantial alternative routes for this traffic by way of real bypasses, not just fiddling about in the town centre, so removing all but the local traffic which is so vital for the well-being of our town.
Such a proposal was put forward by the Farnham Urban District Council (FUDC) in 1968. It consisted of three pieces of new road.
Firstly, a link between the A325 from Petersfield to the A31 near the Hampshire/Surrey county boundary, bypassing the bottlenecks in Wrecclesham. Secondly a link from this junction on the A31 up to join the A287 near Beacon Hill. Thirdly to continue the A287 passing the top of Folly Hill and running along the county boundary on military land, which they were then prepared to provide, down to join the A325 by Wellington’s statue in Aldershot near Tesco.
If these roads were to be built now, it would greatly improve life in Wrecclesham, South Farnham, Castle Street and Upper Hale.
Since 1968 the Blackwater Valley Route (BVR) has been built. Due to a lack of proper planning, when you come to the Farnham end of the BVR you should turn left to go cross country to join the A3 instead of turning right to go through the middle of Farnham, then heading for Wrecclesham via Coxbridge, going under the sub-standard height rail bridge, up through the conservation area’s narrow “Street” and on via Bordon to join the A3 at Petersfield.
Without these new pieces of road, any idea of pedestrianising the centre of Farnham is a non-starter. However, I am hopeful that these facts may have got through to the authors of a recent set of dwindling proposals to the point where they have now dropped the idea of pedestrianisation and replaced it with the concept of shared space!
All one can say to that is that The Borough and Downing Street are not for sharing. The concept of shared space in confined road widths is very dangerous and quite unworkable. Think of mothers with pushchairs and toddlers and Farnham’s ageing old folk. Shared space means traffic but no pavements and the vision of people cowering in shop doorways afraid to step straight out into the maelstrom of lorries, cars, bicycles and pedestrians is a total nightmare. But Surrey County Council have agreed to spend £7,000 of our money, to tell us what we already know.
About five years ago the idea of widening the narrow pavements in The Borough and Downing Street re-emerged. Whilst we would all like more pavement room, it would mean narrowing the roads down to single carriageways which would make servicing some shops impossible and would constrict the traffic even more than it is already making gridlock a regular event.
Just think for yourself how you would get from Castle Street to Farnham Station if The Borough was closed or from Firgrove Hill to Castle Street if Downing Street and The Borough were closed to traffic.
The old chestnut of making Farnham Town centre more pedestrian-friendly appeared again. The pros and cons have long been exercised but the facts remain. In order to achieve what we want, Surrey County Council are going to have to provide alternative routing for the through traffic which does not wish to be in our town anyway. This was noted by SCC in their 1980s document ‘Highway Schemes for Farnham Town Centre’, which considered a number of schemes, including part closure of The Borough. The paper noted that schemes involving new road construction would not be implemented before the 1990s. Twenty years later we are no further forward.