Surrey County Council
I’ve been informed by Surrey County Council that the area around Oriental Road, Heathside Crescent and Station Approach will be subject to temporary traffic closure on the evening of Monday 2nd May, from 9pm to 6am, to allow BT access to carry out repairs and install new customer connections. As is usually the case, access will be maintained for pedestrians, residents, and emergency services, while advanced warning signs will be displayed ahead of the work being carried out.
I hope that this work will not be too disruptive for people living near the station but if residents have any complaints then please do let me now and I will be happy to raise any issues with the utility company.
One of the most frequent issues that people raise with me is the number of potholes in Woking and the state of our roads, despite the fact that highway maintenance is not a responsibility of Woking Borough Council. Unfortunately there are many demands for pothole repairs and resurfacing in and around Woking, and it is always a fight to secure budget for any necessary work and to push certain roads up the list of priorities.
My colleagues on Surrey County Council have sought to put a stronger focus on the need to invest in our roads and highways. In 2013, the Conservative administration agreed ‘Project Horizon’, an ambitious five year programme with £200m of funding to address the root causes of road disrepair across Surrey. Alongside this, central government recently announced a further £50m in grant funding to local authorities to tackle potholes, with £1m of this allocated to Surrey.
Locally in Woking, our Conservative County Councillor Liz Bowes and I have been successful in securing the resurfacing of particularly troublesome roads in recent years, including East Hill, Pembroke Road and Onslow Crescent. My fellow ward councillor, Cllr David Bittleston and I are diligent and proactive in reporting potholes to the highways authority, but we need residents’ assistance to flag these up, since the council is unlikely to take any action if it doesn’t have the data or evidence to show that a particular road is causing problems.
I would therefore encourage anyone who is concerned with the state of their road to report any potholes online here, and to contact me directly, since the more representations I receive the easier it will be for me to make the case to Surrey County Council for remedial or repair work.
There has been a great deal of disruption in the last few days following traffic signals being placed at the junction between White Rose Lane and Old Woking Road. This is due to the emergence of a sinkhole which was caused by a broken sewer connection. The repair work is expected to take about a week, and motorists driving along this route towards Byfleet or Old Woking should expect delays.
The problem with the sewers in this area are well known and I have spent some time trying to get the utility companies to address ongoing concerns, including recurring unpleasant odours and backed up drains. I will be meeting residents from the lower end of White Rose Lane next month to discuss proposed flood alleviation work and how this might assist in securing more accessible footpath access towards Hoe Bridge School, and it is likely that these issues will also be on the agenda.
At a meeting of the Joint Committee between Woking Borough Council and Surrey County Council last night, officers were asked by local resident Marianne Meinke whether it would be possible to carry out speed monitoring along Oriental Road.
There are some specific challenges regarding parking and speeding at Oriental Road, with the street being very congested both at the bottom end near Woking station, and at the top end by the entrance to the Shah Jahan mosque and the Lion Retail Park. Due to the large number of cars which park on the pavement near the mosque, pedestrians often have to walk on the road at this point, while the lack of a crossing or design features means that vehicles can travel quite fast along the middle stretch of road. This is particularly dangerous given how narrow the pavement is, and the fact that this route is used by schoolchildren and those walking into town.
Through the Joint Committee my Conservative colleagues and I have been able to deliver traffic calming measures in places like Park Road and Old Woking Road, and I successfully pressed for the County Council to commit to feasibility studies for speed restrictions on Mount Hermon Road, East Hill and Maybury Hill in the next financial year. Oriental Road is already being monitored through the council’s Speed Management Plan, while the Joint Committee’s work programme contains a proposal to try and alleviate problems with speeding traffic.
Should I be re-elected in May then I will continue to press both the county and borough authorities to commit resources and do more to tackle problem areas on roads leading into and out of the town centre.
I’ve received notification from Surrey County Council that they are to carry out roadworks to install drop kerbs at the junction with Guildford road and Constitution Hill for three days on the week of the 1st February. The work will be carried out from 7:30am until 5pm, but may be extended in the event of bad weather.
The work is part of the County Council’s Better Roads scheme and will be carried out by their contractors, Keir. I will monitor the situation carefully but if residents have any complaints then please do get in touch, or alternatively you can contact the highways authority directly on 0300 200 1003. More information can also be found on their website here.
While out delivering my last newsletter, I spoke with a number of residents on York Road and Mount Hermon Road who complained to me about Surrey County Council employees parking inappropriately while visiting Quadrant Court. The problem has been exacerbated by the small number of parking spaces available on York Road and the fact that many commuters use the street to park when travelling to the train station. I understand that residents have complained directly to the County Council and that a survey has been set up to see whether a consensus can be reached on a potential solution.
I have written to Surrey County Council asking them to be more considerate and reminding them of their responsibility to be good neighbours and not inconvenience those living nearby. I’m also aware that there is a proposal being discussed which could see residents only parking bays installed on York Road, which would mean that local homeowners get first priority during the times of peak demand when people are travelling to Quadrant Court, and would certainly support this initiative.
At yesterday’s meeting of Full Council I requested an update on the scheduled improvements at the White Rose Lane Nature Reserve. Readers of this blog will remember that I first asked Woking Borough Council to carry out remedial work at the Nature Reserve in November last year. However, given the lack of progress in recent months, I questioned Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability, on when the work might be delivered, particularly the new signs, footpath and boardwalk, which were expected to be completed earlier this year.
In her response, Cllr Hunwicks said that shrub clearance and maintenance had taken place as planned, but further improvement works have been delayed while the council works with Surrey County Council, Surrey Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency to design and cost flood protection work which will cover the Hoe Stream and River Wey. Cllr Hunwicks said that if a larger flood protection scheme is taken forward in this area, then the current timetable for improvements may be aborted or incorporated into a wider project.
While these delays are disappointing, in the longer term it will be of greater benefit to residents if the work can be taken forward as part of a bigger package of flood prevention measures. The Nature Reserve is an under-used asset and I will continue to press the council to make better use of the site and do more to support the volunteers who maintain it.
The Executive is expected to consider an update on the potential for flood alleviation works next June and, if re-elected next year, I will certainly attend the meeting and do what I can to ensure that the Nature Reserve receives its fair share of attention and resources.
As readers of this blog will know, I have been pressing Surrey County Council to take better care of the grass verges along Oriental Road. Residents have been complaining for some time about the state of the grass, which was dug up during roadworks back in 2013. While the grass was re-planted once the work was complete, it has not been able to grow back due to a small minority of motorists parking illegally and inconsiderately across the verges.
In response to these complaints, Surrey County Council planted trees at the top end of Oriental Road at the beginning of the year and also recently agreed to place two bollards on one particularly troublesome patch of grass to prevent it from being used to park vehicles.
I have now been told that both bollards were dug up and stolen over the weekend, less than a day after being installed. While I appreciate that some drivers will have become used to leaving their vehicles on the grass and paid little attention to reminders that this is public land which should not be used to park cars, I find it astonishing that someone would go to the trouble of digging up and removing council owned bollards. This shows a serious disregard for other people and public property. It is also a financial loss to the taxpayer as the bollards will need to be replaced and further work carried out to secure them and ensure they can’t be removed.
I am liaising with Surrey Highways to see what can be done and in the meantime I would encourage anyone who has information about the removal of the bollards to contact Surrey County Council directly.
At Full Council last week I highlighted concerns about the pressure on capacity during the South West Trains peak service from Woking to London Waterloo. Demand is expected to substantially increase on what is already an overcrowded route over the next few decades. With the council facing a requirement to build an additional 5,000 new homes, and most of this development expected to take place in the town centre, I sought to gain clarification on what discussions have taken place between Woking Borough Council, South West Trains, the Department for Transport and Network Rail on improving the quality, accessibility, frequency and affordability of the rali link between Woking and London.
I was told by the Leader of the Council, Cllr John Kingsbury, that the local authority was consulted as part of Network Rail’s recent Wessex Route Study, which sets out the strategic vision for the future of this part of the rail network. The council provided information from our Core Strategy to help Network Rail ascertain the likely scale of future demand. The council has also drawn up a separate rail strategy along with Surrey County Council and South West Trains in relation to local rail infrastructure.
I went on to ask whether the council had a position on proposals published by Surrey County Council which could see the Crossrail 2 service extended to serve Woking and Guildford. In response, Cllr Kingsbury said that he supported the principle of Crossrail 2 coming to Woking if that were possible and that he was keen to see a direct rali link between Woking and Heathrow airport. Cllr Kingsbury said that he was working with the County Council to do everything they could to help bring Crossrail 2 to Woking.
Following the statement from the Prime Minister last week that Britain will take in a greater number of Syrian refugees through the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme, my Conservative colleagues have put together proposals to be debated at tomorrow’s Executive meeting which set out how Woking Borough Council intends to meet its responsibility to grant a safe haven for those fleeing the war-torn Middle East.
The war in Syria has by recent international standards been extraordinarily brutal, with ethnic cleansing, chemical and biological weapon attacks and the indiscriminate bombing and targeting of civilians, with entire cities being destroyed. While all sides in the conflict have engaged in human rights abuses, it has become clear over the past few years that the Assad regime is guilty of horrendous crimes. Although there is an understandable reluctance for the UK to enter into another Middle East conflict, there is nonetheless a clear moral imperative for the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to do everything it can to end the suffering.
The suggestion is that Woking could provide accommodation and support for 12 Syrian families a year over the next five years, with the scheme to be reviewed annually to check it is still appropriate. Those eligible for settlement will be identified and security checked by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and be brought to the country directly from camps in Syria, rather than those who have crossed into Europe illegally. Special priority will be given to the most vulnerable and deserving cases, such as victims of torture or unaccompanied women and children.
All local authorities have a duty to set out how they will contribute to the effort to support an increased number of refugees. In my view, the plans set out by the Executive strike the right balance between showing generosity and compassion while also ensuring that we do not put a strain on infrastructure or exacerbate waiting lists for housing and other local government services.
Many people have contacted the council to ask what they can do to be of assistance, such as offering a spare room or volunteering to foster orphans. I would urge anyone who wishes to host a refugee family to contact Surrey County Council as they will be able to provide more information about what can be done to help.