Monday’s meeting – Part II

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7.  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.
  8. 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’.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Monday’s meeting – Part II

  1. Many thanks – your efforts to untangle the rest of the meeting are appreciated. As an aside, on my weekly journey along the 331 from Blackwater to Sainsburys only rarely do I see a cyclist or pedestrian on the new path. Wonder what the cost per user is so far, especially as the lane stops there so is of no use to anyone trying to walk/cycle from Frimley.

    • Thanks for your comments. As a v. modest cyclist myself, I generally ignore cycle lanes locally. The county council doesn’t seem to realise that the last thing a cyclist wants to do is to have to keep stopping and starting.

  2. David, my recollection of the answer to the future of the museum was that there has been no decision and that the Executive will make that decision after a proper consultation, which will begin in September.
    It was the fact that a timetable for closure was being worked to, before a promised consultation had started, which prompted my question in the first place. I am yet to find out if the proposed dismantling of the permanent displays in the museum, which is supposed to happen by October, will be halted while we await the results of the consultation.
    It is this total waste of time, effort, and our money, which was being set in motion by the Council without reference to the people who own the collection i.e all Surrey Heath residents, which I find unacceptable.
    It seems to me that certain people within the Council are dead set on closing the museum without considering any other options. The chief executive emphasised many times that they “control” the town centre now and also had aspirations to develop the town to the benefit of all. These aspirations obviously do not include any provision for our heritage, history and culture.

    [£8,000,000 to encourage people to shop! £??? to celebrate our towns history, setting, and inhabitants.]

    • Bernard, many thanks indeed for your comments. I do have a verbatim record of the meeting, which I’ve tried to summarise very briefly, and inevitably not told the whole story. But, certainly there was a strong ‘flavour’ of the council wanting to change the status quo and to do something ‘more modern’. Which, I GUESS, equates to doing away with the bricks and mortar museum. But there was clear message that a museum SERVICE of some sort would continue, and that there would be a consultation before doing anything. (But we all know that consultations can be shaped to bias the responses, and they can also be of the ‘would you rather be shot or hung?’ variety which rather fails to get to the real issue.) Also, you may have noticed in my ‘report’, I’ve tried to provide a neutral summary of what was said. In a few places I couldn’t resist indicating what I thought, but by and large I stuck to the proceedings of the meeting regardless of what my true opinion was. I say no more….

  3. The rail service improvement is at the END of next year 2018 – December when a new timetable comes in. This is achieved firstly by changing the current Ascot-Guildford service into 2 elements, First an Ascot – Farnham service and second a Farnham – Guildford service. That means anyone wanting to go Camberley (or Frimley) to Guilford will need to change at Aldershot. The net result apparently is that the resulting timetable allows the trains from Camberley to connect at Ash Vale with the London train with only a 5 minute wait (instead of 29 minutes as now). Whilst any improvement is welcome why oh why must we wait another 18 months!

    • Many thanks for the clear explanation, Steve. There wasn’t one at the meeting…. But I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when negotiations were underway to achieve the promised improvements; how persuasive were our representatives? Maybe the eighteen month ‘delay’ could have been eliminated? But obviously I don’t know.

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