Whatever views Farnham residents have on the town centre, there is an overwhelming consensus that things need to change – and not just to make it more pedestrian and family-friendly but also to deal with the appalling pollution.
Farnham is a wonderful town steeped in history with some striking, varied architecture and beautiful countryside. So it is a terrible tragedy we compromise those huge assets by not tackling the town centre traffic which stands in the way of it being one of the most stunning towns in the South East.
So, what to do? Make improvements, of course…but trying to do this within the constraints of historically important buildings whilst meeting the demands of a modern, forward thinking, and growing population is never going to be easy – not to mention the costs associated with major development.
I have been working for some time with Surrey County Council, Waverley Borough Council, Farnham Town Council, The Farnham Society, the Chamber of Commerce and two respected local architects on transforming Farnham. Transforming it into a cleaner, safer place that we all want to live, visit and work – a destination town with a varied, eclectic, economic and cultural mix of people and organisations.
All takes time and money, and as a group, we are exploring a range of ideas and solutions. Some of these were presented to the Farnham Society at their Annual General Meeting last month where the concepts we have were well received. Of course there will be varying opinions and views, and nothing has been agreed or finalised. But I think it is fair to say there was a genuine feeling of positivity from the vast majority of Farnham Society members present although of course lots of details remain to be worked out.
I have arranged further meetings with the Leaders of Surrey County Council, Waverley Borough Council, the Enterprise M3 LEP (which drives the economic growth of the area by working with businesses, key delivery partners and central government) and also leading property developers Berkeley Homes and Crest Nicholson. These important fact finding discussions will further enable us, as a group, to shape and agree the best approach and work out where funding could come from.
Once, and only once, a consensus of opinion is gathered, will further modelling and planning be done to enable a professional, proper, public consultation for residents. This consultation will be led by Farnham Town Council and will present to residents the vision and final ideas for the town. Anyone directly affected by the proposal will, of course, be contacted in the proper and appropriate way at the proper time.
But we will only make progress in securing funding for any transformation if we are united as a town. So now is the period to build that consensus, using our excellent Neighbourhood Plan as the foundation.
The artist impression shows how Farnham might look