Dunsfold Aerodrome – transport review

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 17.08.09EIGHT rural West Surrey parishes – including Hambledon – have united to commission a transport review to examine the impact any significant new development at Dunsfold Aerodrome would have on narrow local roads and lanes.

The review, carried out by Guildford-based road and transport consultants Motion, was published this week and concludes that the site is unsustainable for any substantial housing. (A report on this appears in this week’s Haslemere Herald March 5th edition)

The Motion study confirms that the reasons why Waverley Borough Council rejected an “eco-town” proposal for the site in 2009 – a decision supported on appeal by the Secretary of State – remain sound when assessed against the key principles of current Government policy.

The parish councils of Dunsfold, Alfold, Bramley, Busbridge, Chiddingfold, Hambledon, Hascombe and Wonersh, reacting to concerns of villagers, asked Motion to examine two recent traffic assessments, one by Surrey County Council and the other conducted on behalf of the aerodrome’s owners, DAL.

These two assessments have been submitted to Waverley, the local planning authority, as it prepares a new Local Plan which must find sites for 8,500 new homes across the borough by 2031.

As part of this exercise Waverley produced a consultation document which envisages building between 1,800 and 3,400 houses at Dunsfold Aerodrome, despite the council’s earlier rejection of the “eco-town” proposal.

The aerodrome is in a rural location surrounded by small villages with mainly narrow country lanes.  The only major road is the A281, which is already severely congested at peak times.  Villagers fear that traffic generated by any new development will spill out onto rural roads, many of them single track, as people try to find alternative routes to reach Guildford, Godalming, the A3, stations at Milford and Witley, schools, supermarkets and medical facilities.

Among the Motion review conclusions are:

  • Dunsfold Aerodrome is in an unsustainable area where there is limited choice of transportation and where reliance on the car is considerably higher than the borough average.
  • The conclusions reached in 2009 by the Secretary of State, from a highways and transportation perspective, remain valid, in particular “the development would generate a considerable amount of additional road traffic and… that this would have a severe and unacceptable impact on an overstretched local road network.”
  • The DLA assessment “significantly underestimates” traffic levels and assumptions made by Surrey County Council with respect to traffic generation appear to be inappropriate.

The Motion report has been submitted to Waverley and will be available on the Local Plan website here:

http://www.waverley.gov.uk/info/494/local_plan/190/evidence_studiesresearch_and_supporting_documents

Waverley has recently announced a delay in producing its draft Local Plan because more work is required. This includes arranging its own independent assessment of the traffic implications of the various house building scenarios – especially at Dunsfold – that it put forward in the public consultation.

It is expected that this will be completed by June and the Motion report will be considered alongside it and other assessments.

Hambledon Parish Council made the following submission to the Joint Parish Councils in advance of the Motion Review.

“In common with other local villages Hambledon Parish Council is deeply concerned about the impact that any significant housing development at Dunsfold Aerodrome will have on local roads.

Hambledon, like many of its neighbouring parishes, is a small rural community. The village is entirely within the Green Belt and almost entirely within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It is a village essentially of lanes rather than roads. Even in its centre parts of Hambledon Road and Malthouse Lane are so narrow as to require passing places.  There are no pavements and no street lighting.

On its outskirts the lanes are typical of the area – narrow, sunken, steep sided and overhung with beech and oak trees. They are very beautiful, admired and appreciated by villagers and visitors.

In recent years the village has experienced a significant increase in traffic. In particular, Salt lane, which becomes Markwick Lane, is now used as a cut through linking the A3 at Milford with the A281 close to Dunsfold. Clearly this route would be irresistible to any new residents at a redeveloped Dunsfold Aerodome and faced with the traffic snarl-up on the A281.

The A281 is already at near-capacity and gridlocked at peak times.  Markwick Lane/Salt Lane – narrow with passing places – would provide an alternative, as it already does. It provides access to Milford Station, the A3, Godalming Sixth Form College, supermarkets in Godalming, other schools and surgeries.

This lane is already experiencing major problems at peak times, with queues building up as vehicles attempt to pass each other in the limited passing places.

Vann Lane, which enters the village from the direction of Dunsfold and Chiddingfold is similarly narrow, yet would be used as a cut through to reach Witley station.

These lanes were never meant to carry a large volume of traffic. Yet it is inconceivable that they will not become congested as well as damaged if there was any further increase in traffic.

Hambledon is aware that, in seeking to protect its narrow lanes and the quality of life for residents who must use them, it does not push the problem somewhere else. It is NOT a solution to expect those parishes such as Bramley and Shalford to suffer a marked increase in traffic on the A281, already heavily congested.

We need a bold approach that considers a radical alternative.  The words “sustainable development” are often bandied about by developers and councils, yet the reality does not match the language.

We would hope that Motion can give some detailed consideration to the former Guildford to Horsham railway line, which was listed for closure in the Beeching Report of 1963, with the axe falling in June 1965.

Today’s circumstances are very different from the 1960s.  It is hard to imagine that the line would have been closed had it survived into the next century, with massive population growth in the south east and the rise of the commuter.

The course of the line is still largely intact although much of the infrastructure has been lost.  A light railway (tramway) linking Cranleigh with Guildford, perhaps with a station close to the Artington Park and Ride, and serving Dunsfold along its route, must be examined as a solution, particularly as rural subsidised bus routes are under threat again.

This route should not be lost to yet another road (as has been suggested) but instead provide for a modern light transit railway, taking passengers that would otherwise be using cars to reach Guildford and the main line along the A281.

Such a railway does not need the infrastructure of a main line and there is no reason why the Downs Link footpath and bridleway could not be maintained alongside it.

This suggestion has received active consideration in recent years. We note the following on Wikipedia:

“In June 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) called for the Cranleigh Line to be reopened from Guildford to Bramley and Cranleigh as part of a number of additions to the existing rail network proposed in the Connecting Communities report. ATOC estimated an indicative capital cost of £63 million and a benefit-cost ratio of 1.7 to 1.[8] Citing the increase in passenger numbers in recent years, and the desire for the public to adopt more sustainable transport, ATOC hypothesised that the line and stations could be opened between 2014 and 2019.

The Guildford to Cranleigh route is acknowledged as an important rail corridor and, as such, is protected under the statutory planning process.”

Given our limited budget, it may well be that this suggestion cannot be considered by Motion. And we acknowledge that other parishes may well take a different view.

In any event, Hambledon Parish Council is keen to support the joint initiative of its neighbouring parish councils and Motion’s detailed examination of Surrey County Council’s Strategic Transport Assessment and the Vectos Transport Assessment commissioned by Dunsfold Park.”

 

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