Public Art – the council’s drawbridge is welded shut…

In 2007 the borough council set up a steering committee to review options for an item of public art in Park Street.  The committee – on which residents were represented – held its first meeting on 19th March that year.  After considering a range of concepts, such as this water feature (which was rejected because of the likelihood of ‘mischief-makers’),

the eventual design was the one we now see – ‘The Right Way’, by Rick Kirby.  For this, the draft budget was £50,000

Here is the artwork still in the workshop.  (An aside.  Something relevant to these gender-neutral days is that the artist was asked to make the figures a little less ‘feminine’ before the work was completed.  Hence the current somewhat androgynous metal trio!)

Anyway, getting to the point at last.  In February 2018, the borough council advertised: “Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC) wishes to commission a public artist to design, fabricate and install one or more contextually sensitive artworks to be integrated into the refurbishment of High Street, Princess Way and Knoll Walk in Camberley Town Centre. The total value of the commission is expected to be up to £80k depending on the design and how it integrates with the rest of the refurbishment.”  We’d argue that this project seems pretty similar in size to the 2007 initiative.  Yet, have residents been involved in any way?  As far as we can tell, they haven’t.  We MIGHT like the results, but the council will have no defence if we’re critical of the outcome.  Why risk having the public complain about something that’s foisted on them?  Why no consultation??

A new Leader for the borough council…

We’ve just shared on our Facebook page an announcement by the borough council.  Here’s part of what the announcement says:

“Councillor Moira Gibson, Ward Councillor for Windlesham for 28 years and the second longest-serving Borough and District Council Leader in Surrey, announced at an Extraordinary meeting of the Council on Wednesday 30 January that she is stepping down as Leader of the Council on 26 February 2019 and will not be standing in the local elections in May of this year. “It’s time for something new for Surrey Heath, and for me personally,” said Councillor Gibson.”

(You can find the full announcement here – )

On Facebook we commented:

“This announcement presents the Eye with a challenge. We’re grateful for all the work that the Leader has carried out over the years on behalf of the borough, and we hope she enjoys her ‘retirement’ to the full. But – and there has to be a ‘but’ – we have made it obvious over the years that we are frustrated by our council; what it says, what it doesn’t say, what it does and what it doesn’t do. We’ve been longing for change at the ‘top’. New ideas and new approaches are needed. We hope that Cllr Brooks, almost certainly the new Leader, can bring these to the ‘party’. We shall see…”

The Square shooting itself in the foot?

It beats us why The Square advertises on-line shopping.  We’re frequently told that internet sales are threatening high streets, so why encourage them?

(It’s not good news that Smiggle has, reportedly, approached landlords asking for a rent reduction.  We don’t know whether The Square is one of the landlords concerned, but we’ve read that Smiggle is seeking “widespread rent cuts” so the omens aren’t particularly good.)

Pity the poor delivery driver

We’re fascinated by these two road signs in Knoll Road.  The sign in our first photo, which is what drivers see when they’ve just turned off the A30, shows that service areas 1, 3 and 5 (and 6) are straight ahead.  And the sign in our second photo, taken perhaps a hundred yards further down Knoll Road, also shows service areas 1, 3 and 5 to be straight ahead.  But it’s pointing north, whilst the first sign is pointing south…..

We THINK we can rationalise the apparent contradiction, but it takes a lot of thinking about!  And our rationalisation doesn’t explain why service area 6 is mentioned only once…  Maybe we’ll come back to the mystery before too long!

Ignorance is bliss – though you might die early from it

Mike has pointed out that, according to the borough council’s Annual Monitoring Report, one objective is “To improve the environmental quality and enhance the character of the town centre and protect the amenity and character of the surrounding residential areas”  However, Mike also quotes from the Report: “Camberley Air Quality Monitoring Station was located outside of the town centre, at Castle Road, adjacent to the M3. It closed in August 2012 – information for CTC [Camberley Town Centre] air quality is therefore currently unavailable.”

Is that good enough?  A target with no data?  Moreover, eighteen months ago the Blackwater Valley Friends of the Earth monitored a number of local sites and claimed they had identified “three separate areas breaching the legal EU limit for nitrogen dioxide.” (Picture below from Surrey Live).

Another thought.  It’s ironic that there will probably be a speed limit on the Blackwater Valley Road in order to reduce pollution.  Yet, in 2014, a proposed speed limit on the M3 to reduce pollution was turned down, even though the “smart motorway scheme could have significant local air quality impacts for people living and working at locations along the M3 between junction 3 and 4.  The motorway passes alongside residential areas in Bagshot, Lightwater, Frimley and Camberley in particular.” Ho, hum.

Council plans an improvement to the public realm

The borough council recently repeated that it will be carrying out comprehensive public realm improvement in the High Street.  This is going to cost approaching five million pounds.

But we have a tip for the council.  Buy a cheap pair of wire snippers – about 90p in Wilko when we last looked – and remove this laminated notice in the High Street that describes the interim changes to bus stops in Pembroke Broadway.  (We think they’re ‘interim’ changes – the notice is largely illegible.)  That’ll improve the public realm quite cheaply!  Oh, and it’s in a single use plastic sheath – recycle it safely.