We’re reproducing here part of the January 1994 Local Plan, showing the centre of the town. The line of light blue dots indicates “Proposed Pedestrianisation” roads.
It’s a rather small image, but with luck you can make out that three roads were identified for pedestrianisation – Park Street (parts of), the A30 frontage and the High Street. Sadly, after over twenty two years, just one of these roads is now traffic free. There may be good reasons for twenty two years of delay, but we can’t remember seeing any from the borough council. So we’re tempted to conclude that they don’t exist.
On a related subject, we’ve been listening – belatedly – to part of the recording of last month’s Surrey Heath Business Breakfast. There are lots of interesting points. Amongst the positive messages, though, it was said that regenerating the London Road Block was difficult because the buildings in it have multiple owners. We seem to have heard this theme more in recent months than previously, so perhaps it’s coming to the fore. But we can’t help but recall that it’s almost exactly ten years since the council debated compulsory purchase to regenerate the town, and principle was approved. So there’s been a solution – albeit not an easy one – to the problem of multiple ownership for a decade.
However, it occurs to us that the now-disputed recent report that the county council was acquiring the Mall (and related properties) might have a bearing. When we wrote about that report we speculated that the borough council could be involved in some way. Whatever the details, is this the long-needed opportunity to rationalise ownership? Let’s hope so.
Somewhat to our surprise we’re pretty sure that the Business Breakfast proposed slowing A30 traffic down as it passes Camberley. That seems so unrealistic (except that the A30 already grinds to a halt when there’s an incident on the motorway) that we feel that we’re a long way from seeing any practical A30 frontage scheme.
Finally, much of the Business Breakfast discussion was bullish about the whole of Camberley. It was really good to hear that. The town has a lot going for it – forget our lousy train service to London (the internet makes it possible to work for home) and turn Camberley into a ‘Destination Town’ instead. Though, even in this case, the council has some muddled thinking. The discussion highlighted the council’s wish – “thinking very creatively” – of turning the town into a place where people would want to dwell for longer. Yet, as we point out above – for the nth time over the years – the High Street isn’t a place to linger. Traffic and 30 minutes parking don’t encourage people to dwell. They’re fine for a local shopping parade, but they’re not appropriate for a destination town.
(The line of black dots on the plan indicates the “Central Shopping Area”. Well, as we’ve being saying for quite some while, the future of the London Road Block is NOT retail. Instead, it’ll almost inevitably be one of mixed uses. The Business Breakfast discussion talked about a possible new car park with direct access from the A30; but we foresaw such a development quite a while ago. We still think it’ll be one of the first things to be built on that site.)