Four years gone in a flash

It’s often said that Camberley doesn’t have many independent shops.  But that’s not entirely true – lots of our shops don’t belong to big national chains.  A very visible example is Mr Emment’s Fine Fruit and Vegetable Emporium – a business that was celebrating its fourth birthday in the town yesterday.  There were even birthday cakes (a bit too small to support  candles) on display.  We ate one very happily!

Scaffolding – what ecstasy!

Those incredibly loyal readers who forgive us our foibles will know that the mere sight of scaffolding turns us weak at the knees.  So you can imagine our feelings when we saw the scaffolding being erected above Ashwood House.

We guess it’s a necessary step towards creating a couple more floors on the building.  (We find it ironic that part of the justification for removing the canopies above the shop entrances is that it will allow more light.  Heightening Ashwood House will do the opposite, we imagine.)

It’s hard to miss the sign boards on the scaffolding that announce that it’s Plettac Metrix.  We can’t resist showing this image – everything slots together and is held by a few wedges:

Should we eat our own words?

It was only yesterday when we showed a sign pointing to the former site of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.  We rather implied that it wouldn’t be corrected for ages….  But only hours after we published that article that we walked past the location of the offending sign.  And there it was, not there at all.  Oh dear, embarrassment.

So, in an attempt to restore our credibility, our third photo today is of the famous sign at the entrance to the High Street.  We took it only yesterday, and this time we bet the sign won’t have been removed by this morning!  It became obsolete nearly five years ago…

A sign of the times

Why do we need street signs?  Satnavs and smart phones these days are a boon and a blessing if you’re in a strange town.  So, we see two options:  remove all signs, or, on behalf of those that still use them, make sure they’re right!

In the case of this sign at the entrance to Knoll Walk, pretty obviously ‘make sure they’re right’ doesn’t apply.Contrary to what is shown, the Citizens Advice Bureau isn’t at the rear of the library (Google Maps already places it in its current location in the council offices).  Also, the museum hasn’t been in Knoll Road for – well, absolutely ages.

All it would take is a few minutes with a small pot of paint, and the misleading information could be covered up.  ‘Camberley Inspired’ doesn’t describe the situation if you want the museum or the CAB.  ‘Camberley Incorrect’ would be a better fit.

We needn’t have worried

You might just remember that a little after Easter we were concerned that work on the redevelopment of the former Working Men’s Club in Obelisk Way seemed to have stopped.  We needn’t have worried – the concrete raft for the building was poured a week or so later.  And, a few days ago, steelwork was being lifted in.

Our third photo below shows how much progress had been achieved by yesterday.  New flats are on their way.

We still feel it’s not ideal that a building in Obelisk Way is being redeveloped completely independently of the council’s plans for the road and the whole of the London Road Block.  Surely, a coordinated approach would have been better?  But it is nearly five years since we sat in the Club to listen to presentations about its redevelopment, so we can guess the ‘commercial imperative’ not to wait.

Don’t trust what the council says

The council has just published this progress report on its website: “The Council is currently out to tender for the High Street works.  We expect to announce the contractor by the end of July 2019.” 

Based on that report, it seems pretty unlikely that work will start until August at the very earliest.  Yet, in March, the council wrote that, “the works will start…[on 24th June]…and vehicle access to the High Street and Princess Way (east) will be restricted.”

Surprisingly, also in March, the council Executive approved the current Annual Plan which says that work on the High Street won’t start until July.

So, here we are in June, not knowing whether access to the High Street will be restricted in a fortnight’s time, or not until sometime in July, or not until a further month or more after that.

(As an aside, the Invitation To Tender for the High Street Works was apparently only published at the end of April, with a deadline for ‘Expressions of Interest’ as recent as the end of May.  The whole process seems to be very rushed?)

But this uncertainty is pretty trivial in comparison to that surrounding the timescale for the London Road Block.  The latest Annual Plan says that the council will “Finalise contractual discussions with the developer by September 2019 for the regeneration for the London Road Development site  Aim for a planning application to be submitted by March 2020.”  Yet in May 2017, the council wrote “London Road Block… Consultants have been appointed to undertake feasibility work for the new development and submit an outline planning application by the end of 2017.”  So, in two years, the target for a planning application has slipped by MORE than two years.  As time passes, the planning application is getting FURTHER away.  Hence the title of this article.

(It’s rather tempting to conclude that whatever the council paid those consultants, it was money wasted.  That’s OUR money, too.)

 

Why put a new Arena there?

As most of our readers will know quite well, the borough council has proposed replacing the existing Arena leisure centre with larger leisure facilities on roughly the same site. But this will have two major disadvantages:  Firstly, there’ll be no leisure centre at all for two years whilst the redevelopment is underway.  Secondly, a larger facility needs more parking space, so a significant portion of the grassed recreation ground would become a car park.

Now, we know that the council has been looking into the replacement of Arena for well over a decade (have a look at the Eye article at https://thecamberleyeye.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/arena-a-story-as-long-running-as-the-archers for more information).  So, the matter can’t be urgent – we’ve certainly heard nothing recently to suggest that the timescale is pressing.  In which case, let’s look beyond the present….

We’re pretty sure that the borough council is considering moving out of its current offices and into the London Road Block when this is redeveloped.  (Of course, the council has never said this publically – we can’t be trusted with the information.  So we’re having to read the tea leaves here.)  The obvious question is ‘what will happen to the site of the existing council offices?.  Perhaps one option is to put the new Arena there.  Knoll Road is already ‘home’ to the library and the theatre; it’s a suitable location for further civic amenities.

Of course, maybe the council office site isn’t big enough – will it also suffer from a lack of parking space?  Perhaps.  However, earlier proposals for the London Road Block have included a new car park.  Obviously, we’ve not gone around with a tape measure, but, as there’s no longer a demand for the all new shops that featured in those proposals, some of that car park could be going spare.  In which case, it could be used by a new Arena on the other side of Knoll Road.

So, just maybe there’s no need to destroy green space in the recreation ground.  And just maybe there’ll be no need to do without a leisure centre for two years.  Instead, simply wait for the council to move out, and put the new Arena on the vacated site.  The old Arena could then be demolished and the site used for something acceptable.

No doubt the council will be able to shoot down this idea pretty convincingly.  It’s bound to have considered it already, so it will have all the counter-arguments to hand.  Perhaps objectors to the council’s currrent scheme should ask to see them…  Plus, if our suggestion has been rejected, what other possibilities have been evaluated – and on what grounds were they ruled out?  Might they be revived?

Working WITH the council ought to be more productive than merely objecting.  Might it work in this case?

ADDENDUM.  Of course, the theme behind what we’ve just written is ‘look critically at all the alternatives – it can’t be a black and white situation’.  One comment about this item reminded us that we wrote about another alternative years ago.  You’ll find it here: https://thecamberleyeye.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/the-leisure-centre-yet-again/

 

Grubby Atrium

From time to time the council claims the Atrium is part of its regeneration programme.  We raise an eye at this as the Atrium was completed a decade ago.  However, we’ve noticed that part of the Atrium buildings is now looking its age.  Dirt has accumulated over the years, and the impression is one of neglect rather than improvement..

Maybe it would be better not to mention the Atrium, SHBC?