Connaught Road – Parking

Very pleasing to see the roadside parking improvements implemented these past few days that residents and businesses had requested. Down by St. John’s Court, a new bay has been created and double yellow lines put either side of the entrance/exit of St. John’s Court. This will make it slightly safer for those St. John’s Court residents to exit and provide an additional CPZ parking bay.

The businesses in the village had often informed me that they thought trade was impacted during the 13:00 to 14:00 parking moratorium. The five 20 minute bays that have been created outside the launderette and the bakers/Post Office will hopefully improve trade. The 20 minute wait is enforced between 08:00 through to 18:00.

As an aside, glad to see the good job that has been done with the crossing outside the school. That really was a disgrace and I’m grateful it’s finally been resolved.



Brookwood Lye Roadshow, EYDS and Resurfacing Connaught Road

The Brookwood Lye Roadshow on Wednesday afternoon / evening was a big success in my opinion. I was there, along with representatives from Thameswey and the architects.

63 people, plus a dog came along and saw an impressive visual walk though, and had the opportunity to look at the plans and ask whatever questions they wished. Unsurprisingly, the crossroads was the main area where people had concerns, and I’m grateful that there was no opposition to the actual development, and some good suggestions as to how some areas could be improved. We know the crossroads are going to have some improvements done, which I hope will be completed either before or during the development build out. The crossroads has been approved at the SCC/WBC Joint Committee, but the final plans are still being worked up.

Last night at full Council, we passed a paper called ‘ Earn Your Deposit Scheme’. EYDS is an attempt by WBC to provide genuine help to aspiring house buyers by allowing them to build up a steady deposit while renting a property from Thameswey. At the roadshow, it was very well received, especially amongst the younger generation whom made up just over 20% of people that came along. This is a fantastic scheme and I spoke passionately about it last night, and thankfully, it went through. You can read the press release here.

Hopefully you are sitting down while reading this, and I can’t claim any credit for this, other than to keep making noises to the right people at the right time. A chunk of Connaught Road will be resurfaced next week. The area is the worst pot-holed section, running from Lockswood down to Heath Drive. Works should commence next Thursday and last two days (15-16). My understanding is that the road will be closed between 08:00 to 17:00. The crossing outside the school has been an absolute disgrace for a long time and I welcome this improvement, with luck, SCC will raise the drain at this point so the drop off a cliff sensation when you drive over it will be resolved. I’m impressed that it is being co-ordinated to coincide with the half term holiday, however I suspect there will be a degree of chaos first thing in the morning. Be prepared.



Brookwood Lye Road Roadshow – Reminder

You may have seen the item in the Brookwood Newsletter about the above, and of course I have mentioned it here.

The roadshow is tomorrow afternoon / evening at Brookwood Memorial Halls from 16:00 through to 20:00 and is our chance to look at what is being proposed and feed into the process.

I expect the Leader of the Council, Cllr David Bittleston will be there for the first hour and a half as well as representatives from Thameswey, WBCs housing company. I’m not sure if anyone from highways will be there as they decided to be unnecessarily awkward in my opinion.

I would especially like to encourage young adults to attend as many of the properties here are perfect for that demographic. There will be some information about the ‘Earn Your Deposit Scheme’ which was passed at the Executive last Thursday and goes to full Council this Thursday for adoption. EYDS is WBCs scheme for giving people struggling to enter the housing market a chance. I expect to do a full blog piece on this once it has passed through Council.



Brookwood Lye Road Roadshow

I mentioned previously that there would be a roadshow in Brookwood to enable residents to see the proposals for the development at Brookwood Lye.

This has now been arranged for the Committee Room in Brookwood Memorial Hall on 7th February between 16:00 and 20:00.

This will be an opportunity to discuss the development with representatives from Thameswey and WBC, see exactly what is being planned and provide feedback on the proposals. I shall be in attendance.

I expect it to cover the actual design, look and feel, the demographic reasons behind the types of housing provided, highways, benefits and what mitigation will be taken to minimise the impact on the village.



Brookwood Lye Road Traffic

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.



Brookwood Lye Road Consultation

Sometimes bureaucracy drives me round the bend. I’ve got used to aspects of silliness since becoming Councillor for Heathlands, but this week takes the biscuit.

Planning is an overly bureaucratic nightmare, I swear designed to make life as awkward for everyone as possible with absolutely no common sense filter applied.

Law dictates that there has to be a statutory consultation period, designed to ensure that a minimum amount of time passes to allow interested parties an opportunity to respond to a planning application. This period is 21 days. All well and good and I support that. WBC officers have always allowed for representations to be made right up to the decision point for delegated applications, or the day the report is published for applications due to come to the Planning Committee. In theory this can provide several months to respond even though the notifications will state an end date of the statutory period. This always leads to confusion as residents believe they have to respond by that date.

This scenario has manifest itself here, with the statutory end date for one application being Boxing Day and the other New Years’ Day. I’ve no idea who will be responding to these applications in this time frame as I certainly won’t. I wish the statutory dates could be modified to something that actually makes sense. Having had a meeting with planning officers yesterday, it genuinely is a ‘computer says no’ situation.

What I have done, is seek agreement from the project team that there will be a road show in Brookwood where the project team will be on hand to answer questions and explain the proposals. This is an excellent opportunity as the proposals are not fixed until the application is granted. The date is not fixed yet, but is likely to be in the first week of February in a 16:00 to 20:00 time slot.

This application isn’t going to be determined before the end of March I suspect as it is a major application. That being the case, we can expect representations to be received until at least the end of February, plenty of time after the road show. Ignore the statutory dates and the planning portal which follow the bureaucratic processes.

I will keep you posted.



Brookwood Lye Road Planning Applications

The planning applications for the Brookwood Lye Road have been validated and the statutory consultation period has begun. The statutory consultation period is a legally binding period set out in law to ensure people have an opportunity to have their say.

It’s unfortunate to say the least (and believe me, this has wound me up enormously), that the statutory consultation period ends over the Christmas / New Year period with the planning officer requesting comments by Boxing Day. Seems ridiculous as I suspect the officer will be eating left over goose, not reading representations from Brookwood residents on that day. It’s a ‘computer says no’ type situation as far as I’m concerned.

The Planning Department has always been good at receiving and considering representations right up until the report is written which is typically a week before an application will be presented at the Planning Committee. These applications will go before the Planning Committee, probably sometime in the Spring.

Right now, I’m trying to arrange for a road show to visit a venue in Brookwood once or twice in January to enable residents to meet the team behind the proposals and allow an opportunity to ask questions. I expect to have news on this towards the end of the week.

In the mean time, the planning references are PLAN/2017/1306 and PLAN/2017/1307. The huge amount of documentation can be viewed here. You will need to search on the above references. I’ve already submitted brief comments in support caveating it that I will be writing a more detailed response soon (probably on Boxing Day)!

I will also be further setting out my thoughts in the coming days on this blog as promised. I intend on focusing on traffic next.