Back in 2003, SCC made modifications to Brookwood Crossroads. Those that were around then will remember a shocking year long period of utter disruption, a spend of £3 million and an end result that improved the lives of people that didn’t even know they were driving through Brookwood and made life slower and more frustrating for those that lived in Brookwood.
Before 2003, both Brookwood Lye Road, and Connaught Road lights were set to green at the same time. It wasn’t great because those turning right in either case had to cross the straight across traffic. I don’t remember if there were more accidents then as a result of that, and I certainly believe it to be safer than the situation we have now with the right turns off the A322 which invariably sees A322 straight across traffic jumping the red light. The perception is that post 2003, is certainly safer for local traffic, but at the expense of long queues.
Brookwood Crossroads was my primary election message in 2012. My campaign was based around SCC needing to do something to improve traffic flows. My efforts came to an abrupt halt in 2013 when SCC decided they were not going to do anything until at least 2021-2024 and at that time it would be a review with no guarantee that any changes would happen. When SCC are consulted on developments in the nearby area, they always make the same claim; it won’t have a material impact on the roads, neglecting the fact that cumulatively, the road network is at breaking point. I successfully managed to get WBC to perform a corridor study of the A322 which resulted in a big consultation earlier on in the year which many people participated in.
The development of Coblands has provided the opportunity to fund the improvements. I strongly lobbied WBC and made it clear that I would support the right kind of development on that land, if it provided several key benefits that residents had spoken to me about. Improvements to the local flow of traffic was one of those benefits.
It’s not without controversy however. I have had a few people lobby me that don’t want any changes there whatsoever. They range from people that simply don’t want anything spent on road infrastructure, believing the spend should go on improving public transport or cycling / pedestrian links to those that believe their lives will be materially impacted for the worse if the outline proposals mooted in the consultation earlier in the year go ahead. Change is a funny thing, the majority of us struggle with aspects of it, but I strongly believe that having listened to the concerns of people, Brookwood Crossroads can be improved and leave the whole village better off. That is my aim.
WBC has been quietly acquiring the four houses on Brookwood Lye Road, Coblands side and West Hill Cottages on the Connaught Road / railway side. This has been done through negotiations with willing sellers and not using compulsory purchase powers. The process isn’t complete yet with some deals still to be completed. The intention is to use some of the frontal areas of all those properties to widen Brookwood Lye Road and Connaught Road. West Hill Cottages are beautiful old Surrey style properties and will probably be sold once Brookwood Crossroads is completed and the primary difference will be that the hedge will be gone and the building will be on view again. The Brookwood Lye Road houses will be demolished and the land will form part of the wider development. It has been really important to me that this whole issue has been handled sensitively. At the end of the day, memories are stored in the immediate surroundings of a home and it can be very challenging to move on. I hope the opportunities provided to people and the help they will be given if required will make that change as easy as possible.
So what are the proposals? Well, nothing detailed has been worked up yet and when they are it will go through the SCC/WBC Joint Committee for approval. The development will effectively pay for the improvements.
The intention is to provide three lanes down Brookwood Lye Road and two lanes out of Connaught Road. Clearly there will be a small increase of traffic on the roads in the surrounding area when 126 dwellings are built, and it would be wrong (like SCC will) to claim that there won’t be. However these proposals will improve throughput significantly at the crossroads for local traffic even when factoring in the extra traffic. It is also my intention to see the speed limit lowered on Brookwood Lye Road to 30mph.
The three lanes down Brookwood Lye Road will provide left and right turns, and a straight ahead lane. It is predicted this will allow for at least an extra 11 cars per cycle to move through the crossroads. There won’t be 11 cars every 150 seconds exiting the development and all turning left towards the crossroads. I hope this will end the queues of traffic backing up round the bend.
The two lanes out of Connaught Road will provide a dedicated left turn and a combined straight ahead and right turn. It is predicted that this will allow at least an extra seven cars per cycle to exit Brookwood. This is the area where with careful planning, improvements can be made to the lives of those living within yards of the crossroads. I’ll be pushing for a significant improvement to the pavement here to try and reduce the speeding cyclists, and also ensuring that the residents who enter and exit their drives on Connaught Road will be able to do so. It should also be possible to increase parking here by one space which is something residents living on the crossroads desperately need. It is my job to keep on top of this and ensure that the improvements are made here.
I also take the view that building the right type of dwellings here will have a positive impact on traffic. Some may consider me to be a madman stating that, but when I apply some logic I can safely reach that conclusion. Brookwood is woefully short of small dwellings for young families. Many of the children that attend Brookwood Primary School are driven in from surrounding villages as the village can’t sustain sufficient children currently to fill the school. It’s my view that with 71 of the dwellings having two bedrooms, predominantly young families will live there and parents (this is a bit of a leap of faith) will walk their children to school. Children from further afield will have to go to alternative schools rather than driving into Brookwood. This will positively impact traffic, although it will obviously take a few years to filter through as catchment areas gradually change. It will also improve the viability of the school which I’ve always considered at risk due to its lack of expansion opportunities.
The unknown right now is exactly what SCC will do when they suddenly discover that they can improve the throughput of the A322 despite claiming no improvements are necessary. It will be for me to keep on top of that and strongly lobby the right people to ensure local people benefit.
Overall, Brookwood will benefit when Brookwood Crossroads are finally improved. There will be a period of disruption, but I can’t believe it will be as painful as it was in 2003. WBC know and understand my view that we can’t continue on as we are, and that something needs to be done. These changes will, I believe deliver improvements for a good few years to come.