Community ‘Planning Gain’ at New Way welcomed

Walking and Cycling into Godalming from Ockford Ridge and Aarons Hill has become so much more accessible and pleasurable with the upgrading of the paths that join up with the Meath Home side of Godalming station. This has been possible due to ‘Planning Gain’, using finance from the Cala Homes Ockford Park development.

In less than a year we have seen upgrade of the public bridleway (officially Godalming No.6)  to improve access for pedestrians and people on bikes all year round. This is good news indeed apart from one minor reservation – that what little remained of the original cobbled surface was removed rather than finding a way for it to remain underneath as part of our history. Because of vegetation growth the bridleway is beginning to slightly narrow in places (as seen in the last photograph) while at the same time the accumulation of leaf fall is already bringing problems in wet conditions when the surface can then become slippery;  hence the need for the County Council to do all it can with regular maintenance…

Likewise, the link path between this bridleway and Aarons Hill (officially public footpath No.577) is dramatically improved, much of it cut back to reveal a wider path and – importantly – a newly laid better surface. This is a great compliment to both Surrey County and Waverley Borough Councils, and yet both of them had a total blind spot! As many readers will know, this particular path was included on Godalming Cycle Campaign’s original plans for the Guildford Godalming Greenway – the end of the projected spur from Godalming to Aarons Hill. The route was presented at an earlier stage to both these authorities and officers were reminded on a number of occasions prior to consideration of the Ockford Park planning application…

Meanwhile, to confound matters even more, many of us were astonished to find that the authorities last year pioneered a footpath diversion order for this same Right of Way with only minimal legal consultation such that even Godalming Cycle Campaign was unaware of this happening – until it was too late. In the view of GCC this diversion represents a big “minus” for both cyclists and walkers and we once again call on the Borough and County Councils to review the situation urgently and afresh. A fundamental part of the problem is that this Right of Way, although used to a considerable extent by cyclists, is only legally of footpath status…

In summary, we warmly welcome the improvements “on the ground” made to these paths, which illustrate how there can be valuable community gain from a development. At the same time, we are deeply concerned at the lack of “joined up thinking” that means the gains for the community have as yet fallen short of what we had hoped and expected.

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