Neither side happy as council fudge busy Guildford travel corridor

Amidst controversy and criticism from all sides, Surrey County Council made concessions but ultimately pushed ahead with a scaled-back version of its active travel corridor proposal for the busy A1300 road in Guildford this week.
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The compromised plan of the London Road Scheme aim to balance road safety concerns with complaints about congestion and accessibility, but pleased almost no one as both supporters and opponents of the original scheme said it lacks vision and coherence.

County Cllr of Guildford, Fiona Davidson, said: “This is probably one of the most controversial issues Guildford has seen for 30 years.”

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Adding: “[Residents] feel the disadvantages [of the scheme] outweigh the active travel advantages”.

Boxgrove Roundabout. Credit: Google MapsBoxgrove Roundabout. Credit: Google Maps
Boxgrove Roundabout. Credit: Google Maps

Surrey County Council committed to redesigning the Boxgrove Dutch roundabout to a more simplified version and scrapping Section 3’s shared pedestrian and cycle pathway.

Changes along the route included new cycle tracks, updated pedestrian crossing and traffic raised tables.

A concerned parent called it a “pathetic, spineless decision” which has “weaponised” cycling infrastructure.

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He cited the ‘watering down’ of many proposals, including the review of the road width from New Inn Lane to Boxgrove Roundabout, as a complete ‘disgrace’.

He added: “[This is] far from a programme which appealed to all users. It prioritised cars.”

Only 50% of the 995 respondents to SCC’s survey agreed the scheme’s design contributed to public safety.

County Council Leader Tim Oliver said: “I know some people will be happy that the London Road proposals will not be implemented in full, while others will have wanted us to go even further.

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“The easy option would have been not to go ahead with any of the schemes at all, or all of them. There has not been a single view, in all honesty.”

A shared pedestrian cyclist pathway was set to take up 45% of the total length from New Inn Lane to Boxgrove roundabout; although Active Travel England advises that joint pathways should be a ‘last resort’.

County Cllr of Guildford, Fiona Davidson said she had received many emails from residents complaining the reduction in lanes would exacerbate congestion and merely re-route traffic to residential neighbourhoods.

Cllr Davidson spoke anecdotally of how the elderly and people with disabilities were “put off” by the prospect of cyclists and pedestrians sharing the same path.

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London Road Action Group (LRAG), a resident collective, said the scheme had to be good for ‘all road users’, citing the busy Guildford route was a significant arterial junction.

It had labelled the original proposals as ‘not fit for purpose’.

LRAG argued that while many are not opposed in principle to ‘active travel’, they believe that the interests of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians should be taken into account.

However, the council leader pointed to the Highway Code which places pedestrians, and then cyclists, above motorists in the hierarchy of road users, introduced January 2022.

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Cllr Davidson and LRAG shared the view that SCC’s original survey asking for views was ‘bias’ and claimed that it was made up of leading questions where residents were not able to express their views.

LRAG produced an ‘Alternative Survey’ (AS) attracting 1,241 responses.

AS explicitly asked whether respondents were in favour of the scheme or not. Results suggested 87% want the scheme cancelled, 11% to proceed with the scheme and 2% with no view.

It was submitted to Surrey County Council with a disclaimer indicating the data had not been independently verified.

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A SCC spokesperson said: “We worked with The Consultation Institute to carry out a range of engagement with residents and local groups, which informed our recommendation on how to proceed with the active travel scheme.

“We did receive an alternative survey which was reviewed along with all feedback received. Whilst this demonstrated a strength of feeling against the scheme which was considered, it came with a disclaimer indicating that the data had not been independently verified and therefore was not influential in the officer recommendations.”

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