Portmore Park & District Residents Association - ARCHIVE

A voluntary association of Weybridge residents

Portmore Pillars - Designed by William Talman circa 1700 for the first Earl of Portmore


PP&DRA Walton Bridge evidence

Public Inquiry date and arrangements

Inspired by a motorway bridge?

More from Philip Hammond MP

Public Inquiry announced

Our letter to the Secretary of State

SCC serves Statutory Orders

Letter from Philip Hammond MP

SCC grants itself planning permission

Three minutes on Walton Bridge

View information about the plans

View CABE response

View Councillor Lake's response 

View our letter to Cllr Lake & SCC

View campaign website 

The Surrey County Council Case

Contact the planners


Walton Bridge Inquiry: Our Closing Address

Public Inquiry into new Walton Bridge Scheme FINAL SESSION 28 Feb - 1 March 2006  

Below is the CLOSING ADDRESS presented by PP&DRA
You can also view THE EVIDENCE and THE PICTURES that were presented by PP&DRA at the earlier session
or download pdf files of our evidence and pictures



Public Inquiry





Closing Address

 Document 16/1/3 

on behalf of

Portmore Park and District Residents Association

 Miles Macleod (Chair, PP&DRA)


My name is Miles Macleod.  I am here presenting a closing statement on behalf of the Portmore Park & District Residents Association.  We want to see a new Walton bridge – one which fits in with its setting, and which does minimum damage to the local environment and riverside amenity.  As we set out in our evidence, we strongly oppose the current proposed scheme on the grounds of:

-        inadequate consultation

-        the wholly unacceptable level of environmental damage which would be caused by the proposed design of the bridge with a twin slip road junction; and

-        the likelihood of that junction causing increased traffic flow along Walton Lane.

We have studied the evidence presented in this very fairly conducted public inquiry. And we have heard nothing that addresses our objections or reassures local residents. In fact, quite the contrary. A remarkable picture has emerged from the supporters’ evidence, of a scheme fuelled by grandiose ambitions. It would be a monument to outdated traffic engineering – an overlarge scheme causing irreversible damage to the local environment and irreversible loss of riverside amenity.

I’ll here take our points one at a time.

Firstly, consultation. We have heard that the public consultation was flawed: 

-        it focused on traffic issues and engineering designs

-        it played down the environmental issues, and

-        it wasn’t at all sure who it had consulted. 

When SCC 'showcased' its designs at the March 2003 exhibition, there was limited advanced leafletting – it certainly didn't reach Weybridge – and the most visible publicity was by roadside signs.

We heard Mr Alexander, the project director, unable to say that he was confident that the consultation asked the right cross-section of people the right questions without bias.  We don't know if those who filled in the questionnaire were primarily people who want to drive past, or people who use the Cowey Sale riverside open space –  the questionnaire did not ask.  It didn’t ask what people valued about the local environment, or their level of use of riverside open space and amenities.

We have heard evidence that the balance of the exhibition was biased towards traffic engineering.  Mr Alexander agreed that it did not draw attention to the environmental impact of the different designs – either in its words or in its pictures – and the questionnaire asked no questions at all about people's views on their environmental impact. 

Now, I don’t know which is worse, ignoring environmental impact or misrepresenting it.

We have been shown wide angle ‘artistic impressions’ from SCC – from the exhibition and subsequently – that misrepresent how the proposed new embankments would appear.  They greatly underplay the height and local visual impact, by the use of wide angle perspectives.  If they were used in an advertisement, this could be a case for the Advertising Standards Authority.

Yet Mr Alexander told us that SCC had an open mind before the public consultation.   That the responses to this flawed questionnaire shaped their choice of design.  This is hard to credit.

Turning now to our major objection: environmental impact.

Surrey CC gave little consideration to the local environmental impact of their plans for the junction.  Yet TD 40/94 makes environmental impact the critical test for such a junction, and SCC say in their evidence that they exceed TD 40/94.  

We have seen that SCC completely omitted from their evidence any assessment of visual impact for users of the open space and footpaths – even though they themselves say these are groups with a higher sensitivity to visual change.  When asked a point of clarification, Mr Shuttleworth told us that this assessment was embedded in the text of his report.  That was incorrect.  It was simply missing from the SCC report.  His assessments of impact on landform, pattern and scale appeared to ignore these user groups.  Now, why was that?  Surely not that there something to hide.  Perhaps it was just that SCC consider environmental aspects to be secondary to traffic flow?

And now, moving to the critical issue of how much will be lost.  We have heard that whatever the design, some riverside land will be lost. But the addition of a northern slip road means far more will be lost than is necessary.   A safe stretch of riverside would become the second link road and be lost to its current amenity use:

-        open space would become new roadway and link road embankments.

-        riverside parking would be lost. (We heard Mr Shuttleworth talk of removing the 'clutter' of parked cars around the bridge. This parking is a valued amenity!)

-        the proposed junction is no longer kidney shaped and runs closer to the river than the design proposed in the public consultation

-        a broad area of grassy riverside just before the cafe would become new road

We have had no justification for the unnecessary loss of all this prime riverside land.

As we saw on our site visit, the proposed exchange land does not have the same riverside character – it provides river glimpses. 

Overall, the case for building this huge junction with a second link road is very weak.

Traffic flow?  A beam and slab bridge with a sheltered turn and a single link road would adequately improve traffic flow along the A244 across the bridge.  Surrey say they have rejected this after public consultation and for potential safety reasons avoiding right turns.

Safety? There is no safety issue at the junction. The twin link road design would not be safer. From the accident figures, it looks like being more dangerous, with new riverside roadway bringing people and traffic into closer proximity, and adding dangerous new bends.  Mr Bryans has said SCC will introduce traffic calming to slow traffic down on the new northern link road. In an attempt presumably to reduce pedestrian casualties on what is currently a safe stretch of riverside, and to prevent drivers who don't expect the new very tight bend ending up in the Marina.  With no crash barriers on the embankments, it is only a matter of time before someone does end up crashing into the marina –  tight bends at the end of a straight are dangerous! 

Cost? From SCC figures, a beam and slab bridge with a sheltered turn and a single slip road would appear to be cheaper. 

Visual impact?  A critical issue is the height of the embankments and bridge deck. The proposed embankments at 6.2m would dramatically change the landscape around the bridge.  Why are they so high? 

Now, the Surrey case is very muddled here.

We heard Mr Rance say that the height is demanded by the architectural vision of the bridge, for a view beneath the bridge decking.  And that allows a new road underneath.  The headroom of 5.5 m is demanded by the architectural vision for a view beneath the bridge.  

Yet Mr Alexander told us that Surrey went into the public consultation with an open mind.  He said nothing about an architectural vision which demanded that 5.5m headroom, an architectural vision which precluded the beam and slab option.  He told us all options were open.

We have heard from other SCC witnesses that the height of 5.5m headroom is needed solely because of the new Northern link road, which is needed if there is to be no sheltered right turn.  No mention there of architectural vision demanding 5.5m headroom.

Now you, most kindly sir, translated Mr Rance's view as being that the additional slip road came free.  But it would come at great environmental cost:  a higher bridge and much higher embankments than would otherwise be needed, and the loss of a highly valued and much used length of riverside land –  something that residents treasure and do not want to see lost to traffic planning overkill.

 Without a northern slip road the environmental impact would be significantly less – the bridge could be lower, whatever design is chosen. There would be a single embankment for the slip road, again, lower and with less visual impact. 

Our third objection is on potential increase in rat-run traffic along Walton Lane.  The traffic modelling is simply not credible on this.  SCC acknowledge in their evidence that the new design may cause additional traffic, and say they will introduce further measures to prevent it.  We welcome measures to prevent additional traffic – but it would be incredibly perverse for SCC to build an inappropriate junction knowing it will immediately have to constrain its use. 

In summary, SCC is proposing a massively over-designed junction. It would require a higher bridge and embankments that would permanently change the character of Cowey Sale.  They recognise that a second link road is likely to cause problems, both in terms of safety and additional traffic, and hence they propose to ensure traffic calming to counter those new problems. 

The SCC case for this bridge and junction scheme is unconvincing.  It seems that Surrey have let grandiose ideas run riot here and produced a monster.

The additional link road is damaging and unnecessary. A better solution is needed.  

A design more like the original option of a lower bridge with a sheltered right turn at Walton Lane, and no northern slip road would be far less damaging.

A much simpler and less destructive junction can be designed – one which is safe, preserves valued riverside amenity and allows smooth traffic flow along the A244 – combined with a less obtrusive bridge of a quality that does justice to this quite exceptional site.   


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