Following on from yesterday’s item, here’s another lengthy text….
There were three topics presented at Monday’s meeting in the council chamber, the second of which was ‘Transport’. We were somewhat reminded of the expression ‘Death by Powerpoint’, but this is what we remember:
Four sub-topics were covered, namely the Blackwater Valley Road, the Meadows Gyratory, A30 Highway improvements in Camberley town centre, and a rail update. Little was said about the BVR, other than that work carried out so far had undoubtedly improved connectivity.
Apparently the Meadows Gyratory is the second-busiest junction in the county, carrying 50,000 vehicles in a typical day. The proposed modifications are shown below. (Apologies that the drawing is difficult to read.)
The main feature is a new right turn for traffic coming from the west, enabling it to go south down the BVR without using the roundabout. The county council is asking for residents’ views – with a deadline of 1st August.
Inevitably there will be disruption to traffic while the modification is being carried out, but the meeting was assured that the work would be better-managed than was the case during the creation of the BVR cycle lane to minimise the impact.
Public consultation on the proposals for the A30 was carried out earlier this year, finishing on 15th April. (If you don’t remember it, the Eye publicised it here: https://thecamberleyeye.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/transport-consultation/) A business case based on the findings – which would not be available until mid-July – would be produced by the end of 2017. Implementing the improvements – one aim of which was to reduce A30 delays – should start in the summer of 2019. It was said that Camberley has a relatively good bus service (not just along the A30) – but the aim was to improve this further. Improving cycle accessibility to the town was also proposed.
It was said that a lot of work has been done in the last year, pursuing possible improvements to our poor rail service. Meetings had been held with Stagecoach and the new franchisee, as well as the Minister of Transport, to stress what was needed. As a result, journey times will be reduced to fifty six minutes from the beginning of next year (at least, we THINK this is what was being said), but we will not have a “straight through” service because priority will be given to Reading-Waterloo trains.
The third talk was about the ‘Frimley Health Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’. This is outside the scope – and understanding! – of the Eye, so it will not be covered here.
Qs and As followed the three presentations. Some questions had been submitted in advance, others emerged ‘on the night’. Of note were the following:
- Could the council do anything about Kings Court? – the eyesore building covered in scaffolding near the level-crossing. Answer – Not a lot in practice without buying the building.
- What is the future of the museum? Answer – a museum service will be maintained for the foreseeable future, though the nature of this service has not been decided. The council’s wish, though, is for a “more modern facing” museum. The council executive will be considering whether to carry out a consultation on the subject next month.
- Is anything being done about (dangerous) parking on the A30 to the east of Knoll Road? Answer – double-yellow lines are proposed, but the formal process for agreeing this takes time.
- What is the progress towards the council’s aim of achieving ‘Top 100 town’ status by 2018? (The Eye asked this question.) Answer – the question wasn’t specifically answered (!), though the council’s aim of improving the town was reiterated.
Questions from the floor
- A lengthy ‘question’ was asked about whether the council’s investment in retail property was wise. The prospects for retail are not good, and neighbouring towns are competitors. Answer – the council considered the risks and issues very carefully before making the decision. A relevant factor is that internet sales might not be such a threat to the high street as thought previously. Also, the acquisition wasn’t primarily a financial investment decision – it was about improving the town.
- What is the shop vacancy rate locally and what is the trend? Answer – the information wasn’t available immediately but would be provided later. (The questionner suggested that more and more shops were becoming vacant. The Eye doesn’t agree with this.)
- Hasn’t the council already decided what it wants to do eg flattening the A30 frontage and its history and replacing it with faceless boxes and driving out smaller retailers? ‘Camberley has a lot of rubbish shops’. Answer – the council intends to redvelop the A30 frontage, as planned for many years, but it does want to support independent retailers. Indeed, it is doing this already.
- The two sets of traffic lights to the west of the Meadows Gyratory are responsible for traffic delays. Can they be improved? Answer – this is recognised and Hampshire County Council will be looking into the situation in due course. SHBC will pursue it with them.
- What is the council’s intention for the London Road Block? Answer – a mixed use development including residential, retail and a car park. There is no intention of selling off the eventual development.
- How often do the Council Leader and the Chief Executive use the Main Square car park? A recent widely-disseminated Facebook discussion agreed that the main stairs were in a deplorable condition. Answer – neither person uses the car park. But the point is recognised. Refurbishment of the Mall may result in improvements. However, it is also intended to provide a ‘state of the art’ car park in the London Road Block redevelopment.
- Is the council complying with its statutory duty to conserve biodiversity regardless of the fact that it is halving its funding of the Blackwater Countryside Partnership? Answer – the council has management plans for its own sites and it provides substantial funds to Hampshire County Council for the use of Hawley Meadows. It also supports a number of organisations – and SANGS – so it has to prioritise.
- Is the funding that will be available to retailers in Camberley’s High Street to improve their shop fronts also be available to retailers elsewhere in the borough? Answer – yes, to any shop in a ‘high street setting’. The scheme will probably be up and running ‘late summer’.
- Will contractors involved in carrying out the regeneration be required to provide adult training/retraining of skilled tradespeople? Answer – the borough council would love to solve everyone’s problems, but it isn’t responsible for adult education. However, all public sector contracts have clauses regarding local employment and training. In addition, the county council is is a leader in employing apprenticeships.
- The council runs Camberley theatre at a significant loss. Will this position improve? Answer – the council supports a number of services ‘at a loss’. It does this as a benefit to the community. The theatre – and community centres within the borough – is no different. It will always need a subsidy, and the objective is to minimise the cost, not to eliminate it.