LESS than three weeks into a six-month closure, residents, business owners, pupils and commuters in Kingfield, Westfield and old Woking are already suffering due to Thames Water blocking off Vicarage Road.
Work began to upgrade the sewage infrastructure for the Kingsmoor Park development on November 11. Woking Borough Council, Kier Partnership Homes, and Thames Valley Housing aim to deliver 224 new homes in the Westfield area for social rent.
But the closure has already caused rush hour havoc, with reported delays on Westfield Avenue of up to 40 minutes. Alina Hargrave, 64, who lives in Bonsey Lane in Westfield, says the closure was effected with little consultation or consideration of residents, insufficient notification of the full extent of the closure, and poor, ‘misjudged’ efforts to mitigate the impact.
She has set up an e-petition which already has 51 signatures. She said: “We are lobbying Surrey County Council to reconsider how the closure may be shortened or measures taken to reduce impact.
“The works went ahead regardless of how many people are affected. It is causing traffic problems in Woking town as well as here. “My daughter, who works in Guildford, says it takes her 10 minutes to leave the A3 then 50 to get through Westfield.
“We are two weeks into the closure and there’s not much done. But County and Borough Councillor Will Forster has been extremely good helping residents.”
Andrew Jackson, 56, owns Beggars’ Banquet Café on the Westfield Parade of shops. He said: “A lot of our business is passing trade. I’d say it is a third or half of what it would be normally and we’re only two weeks in. It’s worrying.
“We’ve had some joy with Thames Water about claiming for loss of earnings but nothing is set in stone. Woking and Surrey County Councils have just disappeared, saying: ‘it’s not my job’.”
“Cllr Derek McCrum has been on to it and, like Will Foster, seems interested. We did badger to get some ‘Business as usual’ signs, but if people can’t get through then they aren’t going to come.
“On the flip side, it’s great that houses are being built but the road closure has really knocked us, and it doesn’t seem as if a lot of action is going on.”
Business is also affected on the Kingfield Road parade. Peter Shinn, 63, who has owned Jean’s Florist for 15 years, said: “Sainsbury’s vans and their customers are parking outside our shops as they can’t access the store’s car park.”
Owner of Fresh ’n’ Fruity greengrocer’s, Greg Ireland, 33, said: “I’ve only been open two weeks – the roadworks are not helping new business.”
Soma Rathasethupathy at the newsagent’s said: “It’s very quiet – no passing customers and big parking problems. We are concerned that after six months, customers may not come back. And I received no notification either.”
Meanwhile, despite his best efforts Cllr McCrum said he has been unable to make a difference after trying to arrange services along Kingfield Road for the 100 plus customers and Winston Churchill School pupils who use the 34 bus each day. He stated: “Thames Water said again that they are unable to fund Arriva’s offer to put extra buses on the 462/463 route.”
At peak times it is chaos, especially at the junction of Westfield Avenue with Kingfield Road and Old Woking Road.Cllr McCrum said he is not surprised a petition has been raised.
Residents asked if it would be better to use Loop Road as an access, but Cllr Forster said: “It is closed to protect its residents and prevent it being used as a rat run and causing safety issues.”
He has arranged for the county council to put double yellow lines at the northern end of Westfield Avenue between Kingfield Road and the David Lloyd Leisure Centre to ease congestion. He told the News & Mail: “Things are better than they were. We just have to deal with issues day by day. The county council are managing it as well as possible; it’s been even worse than I thought. But businesses that can prove financial loss as a result can claim compensation.”
When asked about the apparent lack of action at the site, Cllr Forster explained: “It was always going to be quite slow to begin with because the water needs to be diverted first.”