If only the county council would visit Camberley

We all know that councils of every complexion are putting more emphasis on cycling. Locally, there’s now a proposal to provide cycle routes from Frimley to Camberley. Which is good. But we do wish that the county council would get its facts right .

For years, SCC documents have shown that a cycle ‘signed advisory route’ – shown by the thin red line on this map – exists between the High Street and Park Street. For years, we’ve been pointing out that that, in reality, it doesn’t!

Here’s our argument.

The photo below establishes that there’s no cycle route eastbound at all.

The position for westbound cyclists isn’t quite so explicit. But, as our next photos show, although there’s a very worn outline of a cycle on the roadway at the start of the service road, any cyclist who relied on it would be dead within minutes. (Actually, the outline is so worn that we now realise that you can barely make it out in our photo.)

In practice, the road is little different from the zillions of other roads where cyclists have to compete with other traffic. Indeed, the service road is particularly perilous for unwary cyclists; there’s a risk that a driver from one of the row of parked cars will open their door without looking behind them. Cyclists have to stay well-away.

Calling the service road an advisory route may enable the county council to put a tick in a box. However, it’s meaningless in practice. Worse, until SCC recognises the error, it’s not going to provide any better facilities. Hard luck, cyclists!

Oh to be a consultant!

One of our readers very recently asked what the total council expenditure on the London Road Block had been so far. Of course, that’s an impossible question. But it made us think…

On Wednesday, the council’s Performance and Finance Scrutiny Committee will ‘note’ the latest “Surrey Heath Local Plan Authority Monitoring Report”. This is a legally-required document. One small part of its text caught our eye: “The Camberley Town Centre Action Plan allows for up to 41,000sqm of … floorspace to be delivered in Camberley Town Centre over the Plan period. … However, further retail floorspace provision is set in the national context of the challenging high street retail trading environment and changing retail dynamics as a result of these changing circumstances it is very unlikely that significant amounts of new retail floorspace will be delivered.”

That’s fair enough. Only, where did that figure of 41,000 sqm come from? It comes primarily from a ‘retail study’ carried out by a rather expensive consultant – now based in Covent Garden – in 2007. In 2010, the same consultant was commissioned to provide an updated study. And in 2012, the same consultant was commissioned to produce yet another update. That’s three studies – the results of which the council has just written off as irrelevant.

There are so many messages that can be drawn from this history. Not least, don’t commission – ie pay for – studies unless you have the means and the intent to implement their findings. Don’t confuse studies with progress. And – though, of course, we’re not commenting on the particular consultant involved in this story – we know from our own background that you can usually find a consultant to tell you what you want to hear, at a price.

(We’re tempted to ask what is the value of a scrutiny committee ‘noting’ a published report. It seems a bit too late in the process to achieve anything useful?)

Another lost opportunity.

A couple of weeks ago we revealed that, in November, the council had quietly abandoned its redevelopment plans for the A30 frontage – the so-called ‘London Road Block’.  The council’s explanation was: “seismic changes in the national development and retail market over the last 18 months meant that the original ideas could no longer be achieved.

We could weep.  ‘Changes in the retail market over the last 18 months’ indeed.  These changes were predictable years ago.  The Eye predicted them.  What follows is extracted from an item which we wrote in March 2016, when we were pondering the glacial progress of the leisure centre redevelopment.  If only the council had taken notice of what we’d written, we’d now have a town centre more appropriate to current  life-styles, and the council wouldn’t have to provide pathetic and unconvincing excuses for why, after some twenty years of no progress, it still has no idea what to do with the London Road Block.

*****

Arena

“Now that the grand plans for redeveloping the London Road Block (LRB) – the northern part of Camberley town centre – seem to be dead, our long-standing urging that the council should have a ‘Plan B’ is even more relevant.  One of the suggestions we’ve made is to put a brand new leisure centre on the LRB.  Redevelop the existing Arena site as flats ……much of the A30 is bordered by flats already, so more flats there should be no big deal.   Importantly, town centres in future will be more about living, leisure and pleasure, and  less about retail.  So putting a new Arena, a few shops, a new car park and some decent flats on the LRB would make sense.

“(We have walked around the current Arena site, and the London Road Block, counting our paces as we go.  We reckon A would fit into B with space to spare!)”

2006 or 2022?

Yesterday, we showed a picture of a dubious liquid ‘stream’ running over the pavement on the A30 service road. We said that we knew who to blame for the dejected state of the area.

Which reminded us of the newspaper cutting below. You could change its date from 2006 to 2022, and it would still largely apply. The only difference is that the council has even less of a clue about what to do with the site than it did then. The incompetence and impotence are undeniable.

A quick relocation

We were surprised to see OSHEEN operating out of the former Prickly Pear shop in The Square yesterday. The move had presumably happened rather quickly, as the old name was still above the window.

But, looking through the window of the ‘previous’ OSHEEN premises, the answer became clear. Buckets on the floor inside the shop told the story.

Of course, in recent years the roof over Cambridge Square has suffered from significant rainwater leaks, so it’s a fair guess that these are responsible. The council has said that it’s going to overhaul Cambridge Square, and some other parts of the mall, so this can’t come soon enough. The official timescale last summer was: “The Council is now in the planning stages for these works and we are aiming for work to start in early 2022 after Christmas trading to minimise disruption.”