Brookwood Railway Station Update

Since my last post, there have been a couple of meetings in the background to understand what is being proposed.

Firstly, I’d like to say that what I write here is what I know about the proposals. It was disheartening to hear people state that access would be permanently blocked to the cemetery and then saying that the information had come from my blog. I had to go back and check what I’d written to make sure it was accurate. It was. The rumour mill had kicked it, Chinese whispers had distorted the truth and upset people needlessly.

At the end of October, senior representatives from WBC, the Cemetery, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the American Battlements Monuments Commission (ABMC) and Southwestern Railway (SWR) met up to understand more.

SWR presented their data for determining the proposals and we argued that the data was flawed and that other possible options hadn’t been considered. It was agreed to meet at the station to look at it in more detail. That meeting happened on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, we had an opportunity to examine my preferred option which is to put a gate line (ticket barriers) at Platform Two and a gate line at Platform One. The principal idea was to open up the redundant rooms on Platform Two and use the space. SWR argued this wasn’t possible because of regulations concerning evacuating platforms in emergency situations and regulations concerning the number of people that could pass through the gate line and be funnelled down the stairs. They also argued that if this was to occur, the design on Platform One wouldn’t work currently and that also had issues with alternative proposals. Personally, I think the proposals can be accommodated if the will is there and that it’s 100% down to money as a second gate line will instantly add about £250k before any enabling works are done. The will isn’t there.

The discussions also covered the access proposals to the cemetery and the disabled access to Platform One to fully understand what is being proposed. The proposal is for magnetically locked doors that will be opened by an intercom / buzzer. Crucially, in an emergency or when there is no one operating the gate line, the doors will be open.

The existing foldaway gate at the cemetery entrance will stay in place and continue to operate as it does now.

I thought that even exposing the issue around the gate line not preventing people bunking the trains with people claiming to be going to the cemetery and then boarding a train would carry weight. It did not. We are dealing with a project team that has to implement a solution as per the agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) when being awarded the franchise. It’s a box ticking exercise and whether it actually improves revenue collection is a secondary matter as far as I can see.

So, where are we then? Well, the reality is that access to the cemetery isn’t being blocked. Access to the cemetery is being controlled when the station is manned and is uncontrolled when the station isn’t manned.

There are no further meetings planned to discuss this. The other thing to note is that the timescales have slipped and it is now summertime next year when SWR are looking to do the work. They have promised to keep me in the loop.

Cheers.

Kevin

Brookwood Railway Station

A few people have asked me about the potential ticket barriers that may be installed at Brookwood Railway station and I’ve been gathering some facts before doing anything else.

South Western Railways rightly want to protect their income from the people that bunk the trains. I wholeheartedly agree with SWR doing that. They’ve also made a commitment to the government as part of the franchise that they will improve their performance at collecting fares. This has led them to figuring out where they are most losing money and putting in infrastructure to resolve this. Brookwood station is one of the stations they have identified that they know has a high level of evasion.

Their proposals have pros and cons. I’ll outline the proposal first.

A bank of barriers will be installed diagonally inside the current ticket hall. The existing double entry doors into the hall will be permanently locked. A mechanism will be installed at the cemetery entrance and the ramp entrance on platform one to prevent access with an intercom system in place to allow access. A new entrance will be opened up next to the outside telephone box.

SWR are obliged to man the station from 06:00 to 22:00 where there are barriers. I do not know if this includes Sunday.

Enabling works are scheduled to begin in January with the actual ticket barriers being installed around March.

The only positive I can think of is that the station will be manned for 16 hours a day which may prevent some anti-social behaviour and is certain to stop the visiting drug dealers from using Brookwood as a distribution hub.

My obvious concerns are regarding access to the cemetery, access for people with mobility issues and people with push chairs. I’m also concerned that the Victorian nature of the station won’t be taken into account as some carbuncle is bolted on to the front of the station. I suspect the capacity of the barriers will fail to quickly accommodate half a train alighting at Brookwood from Waterloo and that a significant queue will build during peak hours.

WBC are very concerned about access to the cemetery as are the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The cemetery is Grade I listed and recently won the Large Cemetery of the Year award (who knew?) as WBC’s intention is to restore the cemetery to its Victorian roots as a Victorian park land. A jolly fine job is being done of that by the way.

I am in regular contact with the Regional Development Manager at SWR and have  emailed him my extensive concerns. I have also raised my concerns with WBC and to that end, a meeting has been planned between various stakeholders, including representatives of SWR for the 31 October to have a more detailed chat.

That’s everything I know at the moment and I have raised a number of questions regarding the long term viability including a few ‘what happens if’ type questions.

I’ll report back here after the meeting next week.

Cheers.

Kevin

Site Allocations Development Plan Document

WBC published the latest Site Allocations Development Plan Document (SADPD) proposals on Wednesday in preparation for a full Council meeting next Thursday with the principal recommendation that the site allocations as documented are submitted to an inspector for approval. This process is known as Regulation 19.

Previous incarnations have been following the Regulation 18 process which has involved two extensive consultations with the public to occur.

The SADPD provides two time periods which explain the preferred locations for future development to occur both in the urban area and those sites that will be taken out of the Green Belt to allow further development. Those time periods are 2022 – 2027 and 2027 – 2040.

The 2022 – 2027 period in the document are sites that assuming development proposals are forthcoming will be developed, and the 2027 – 2040 proposals are for sites that are to be safeguarded for future development, but may never be built out depending on needs at the time. This is a process the Council is required to do by law. For Brookwood, there are no proposals for the 2027 – 2040 period so we can expect no development other than minor changes to the already built area.

The original SADPD in 2016 was rather devious with its treatment to Five Acres (GB02) in my opinion as officers decided that as Five Acres was owned by two individuals it was actually two separate sites in practice. This allowed officers to consider doubling the number of authorised pitches to around 30. The reality was, and as evidenced by all previous documentation produced by officers, the site was run as one site. I campaigned ferociously against this disgraceful plan and achieved some significant victories.

Even now, Five Acres has 13 authorised permanent pitches, and two temporary pitches, although they are currently not in the location planning permission has been granted for.

The proposals for Traveller accommodation at Five Acres in the SADPD are for an increase from the current 15 pitches to 19 pitches, an increase of four overall. There will likely be an additional transit pitch at Five Acres allowing some flexibility for visitors to legally visit.

I believe that this is the best outcome we could have achieved for Brookwood and is approximately 11 fewer that had previously been suggested. The planning application for these 19 pitches, moving the 15 from the approved location and the additional four,  is currently making its way through the system. I currently ignore the fact that the bulk of the work has already been done, but I’m not ignoring the illegal pitches at the back of the site. Incidentally there were two when I went past on the train earlier in the week. The Planning Department are dragging their heels on this, and now with the publication of the Regulation 19 SADPD, they will struggle to justify doing nothing about it.

The other area to impact Brookwood is GB01, which is the old Coblands site and surrounding land area. Obviously everyone has seen what has been going on here for the past couple of years. GB01 suggests the site will take 93 dwellings at a dph of 35. A planning application is in for this site with the proposal to build 126 dwellings, to include changes to Brookwood Crossroads with an emphasis on improving the throughput for local traffic. I have blogged extensively about this in the past.

As ever, if you have any questions, please contact me.

Cheers.

Kevin

Trees

WBC is currently writing a tree strategy which should go through Council in the next couple of months for adoption. I have read the drafts as it was studied by the Climate Change Working Group of which I am a member.

Its purpose is basically to ensure the right trees are growing in the right places and develop policies to help determine the removal and planting of trees. For example, this is likely to see most of the silver birches removed from the heathlands and smaller trees planted in urban areas.

The borough Arboriculturalists have been tasked with compiling a list of planting areas in the borough and have asked help in this task. If you know of an area that would be suitable for trees please would you let me know and I’ll pass on the details.

Cheers.

Kevin

Parking Review

Unbeknown to me, a suggestion for a change to parking in Brookwood had slipped through the Joint Committee (of which I’m not a Member this year) and into consultation phase. A resident alerted me to it, for which I’m grateful.

Essentially, it is to put double yellow lines opposite the station exit to make it safer for vehicles exiting the station and Sheet’s Heath Lane. I support this.

Unfortunately, the image produced actually removed the two 20 minute bays that were only painted up recently after the 2017 review.

Having contacted the team responsible, they have confirmed that it is a mistake and the two bays will be staying which is a relief.

Cheers.

Kevin

Victoria Arch and A320 Consultation

On Tuesday night I had a preview of a consultation regarding Victoria Arch and the A320 to the south of the arch. There are proposals to make changes and the views of residents are sought.

There are substantial changes proposed here that I suspect many people will think very sensible. There’s full text and a video to watch.

There are a couple of drop-in sessions in Wolsey Place Shopping Centre where members of the project team will be able to answer any questions.

These sessions are:

  • Thursday 20 September, 12.30pm to 8pm
  • Saturday 29 September, 10am to 4pm

Please follow this link to read more and give your view.

Cheers.

Kevin

Surgery

I stopped doing surgeries ages ago because virtually no one turned up and I’m perfectly accessible by other methods if people need my help or advice for any reason.

However, the Heathlands’ Councillors (Cllr Ashall, Cllr Azad and me) have decided to do a few surgeries across the ward this year and our first will be in Brookwood at the large Memorial Hall Committee room on 6th October at 11:00. All three of us will be there and will be available until shortly after midday.

Cheers.

Kevin