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
the wholly unacceptable
level of environmental damage which would be caused by the
proposed design of the bridge with a twin slip road
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monument to outdated traffic engineering – an overlarge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
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:
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
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
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
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.