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Are you fed up with the state of local roads? Our story on Cabell Road reports the anger of Park Barn residents about the state of their roads. Others have complained recently about The Mount, Buryfields and roads in Onslow Village.
A new contract let by Surrey County Council in May 2011 to contractor May Gurney brought new hope, but the condition of many roads remains poor and the level of maintenance appears to remain far worse than in previous decades.
Why is this? Well money mainly. Our road tax, the money we pay for our tax discs, fees would pay for the costs of the UK’s road building and maintenance many times over. But it ceased being ‘hypothecated’ i.e. used for the specific purpose of road construction and maintenance, way back in the 1930s. Since then it is just another tax which disappears into the general funds of the Treasury and county councils are left to try and manage from, in the main, what the central government decides to grant them.
Anyway, whatever the fiscal arrangements, there is one road in Guildford that should surely take precedence, the High Street. The granite setts, often referred to erroneously as cobbles, are one of our town’s emblems and trademarks. A few years ago when Cllr Pauline Searle became Mayor she said that if she could make one improvement in Guildford it would be to repair the High Street Setts. Three years on her wish is still to be realised.
Any effort to repair them is welcome, including the current patching work on the area near the Guildhall. It is almost certainly no coincidence that this is taking place before the ceremonies are held in connection with the 2012 Olympic Games. It would be embarrassing for participants to end up prostrate on the High Street, like a fallen hurdler, because of a loose sett.
But it should be embarrassing to Surrey County County Council anyway. Perhaps those at County Hall in Kingston upon Thames, and actually outside Surrey, should remember that Guildford is the county town and a town of historic importance. Many in the town hope to attract increasing numbers of tourists to help benefit the towns economy. What kind of a signal does it send when we can’t even bother to maintain our main street? It is unlikely that such poor standard of maintenance could be found anywhere in Europe, even in the poorer countries of Eastern Europe where many streets are still are paved with setts. But this is happening in one of the richest towns in England.
Even if there is no shame among our county councillors perhaps they should be concerned about the health and safety risks, rightly or wrongly this is often, nowadays, a trump card when deciding priorities. It is quite easy to find setts so loose on the High Street that they can be lifted out. There must be a chance of a loose sett or a resulting hole causing an injury to an unwary pedestrian.
“this make do and mend approach is simply not good enough”
Blame can hardly be laid at the door of Guildford Borough Council. Road maintenance is clearly a county council responsibility. Even so, GBC has coughed up cash to help finance the current patching. But this make do and mend approach is simply not good enough.
A top to bottom, thorough, high-quality repair is required and bureaucratic rules, divisions of responsibilities and contractual complications must not be allowed to stand in the way. Perhaps the time has come for the borough council to purchase the street on our behalf, make it a private road and then maintain it to a standard it deserves.