The Weybridge Society is taking action on a proposal by Surrey County Council that requests permission from the central government to create a surfaced path for pedestrians and cyclists along Heath Road. This proposal would require the loss of some Weybridge Heath common land (see Surrey County Council website for complete details) running alongside Heath Road from Weybridge Station down to Brooklands Lane, the street opposite the British Volunteer pub, close to the crossing used by residents and Heathside students.
Following up on responses by Weybridge Society members to our email of 1st Nov., the Society sent a formal letter on Nov. 24 to the Commons Team at the Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org) regarding this proposed footpath.
Having long supported turning the existing rough path fromthe Brooklands College entrance down to the open Heath land into a proper surfaced pavement (with the assumption this would have minimal impact on the Heath common land), the Society found the Council’s proposal would take this a lot further by making the whole stretch from the station right down onto the grass area into a path (width mostly of 3.8 metres (12.5 feet) except for the final section which would be 3 metres.) It is assumed this significant width was put in the proposal so that a separate cycle lane can be created, which in turn would necessitate taking down the trees adjacent to the existing path and also moving the street lights.
In its formal response to central government (the Inspector of Commons at DEFRA, where Secretary of State is Michael Gove), the Society clarified and stated the following view:
“Surrey Countryside’s proposal is a surprise since previously we were told that not even one tree could be removed to make a safer route near the dangerous bend in this road. That bend (created historically to align with the 19th century railway bridge) remains prone to the risk that cars might leave the road and hit the pathway north of the bend. Many of our
members do approve in principle that Common Land be used for footpath purposes but some have reservations about a 3.8 m tarmac path. While a few members regret loss of nature and trees, we think in this case that the remaining Heathland would be sufficiently wide to make some loss of natural habitat worthwhile for the advantages of a wider public pathway that is better segregated from this over-used B road.
We point out that this wide tarmac path would create a visual effect like a dual-carriageway in character, but might open up the aspect of the Heath with better access to the other paths in the woods if overgrown holly is removed. Some people fear that a shared tarmac cycle/pedestrian path on this steep hill would endanger pedestrians by becoming a ‘race-track’ for cyclists (two ways). Warning signs for cyclists to respect pedestrians and slippery surfaces would be necessary, suggesting a speed limit. As funding has yet to be obtained, a less ambitious scheme might end up being proposed within the permission, which might meet some of the public’s preferences in detail.”
The Society awaits a response from central government and Surrey County Council. However, as both Elmbridge Leisure Department and Surrey County Council support this proposal, which is part of a longer distance shared path, it is likely the Inspector will judge that some use of common land for a path alongside Heath Road is an acceptable way to mitigate an old traffic danger.