As the construction plans for the Victoria Arch widening scheme have progressed, technical surveys and modelling have evidenced that the existing location of the Downside Goods Yard access road (located on the south-side of the Guildford Road and next to the Victoria Arch railway bridge) is integral to the project's delivery.
As part of the widening scheme works, we are investigating proposals to:
- reuse the existing goods yard access road, and
- relocate the access road from its existing location to Bradfield Close, just off York Road.
The access road's relationship with the Victoria Arch widening scheme
The Victoria Arch widening scheme, funded by central government, will deliver key strategic outcomes for town centre communities and the council. The scheme is central to our wider plans to provide enhanced access to an attractive and user friendly town centre.
When complete, it will provide additional road capacity, reduced air pollution, safer access for pedestrian and cycle journeys, and more reliable bus journeys. Ultimately, it will significantly contribute to our long-term sustainable transport measures, deliver our requirement to unlock town centre sites for much needed housing and strengthen Woking’s vibrant business economy.
These future benefits will be achieved by a series of highway enhancements on both the north and south sides of the arch. The new carriageway will provide seamless travel through this part of the town centre and better access underneath the railway and to the railway station for cyclists and pedestrians.
In addition, the scheme offers Network Rail with the rare window of opportunity to replace the ageing Victoria Arch railway bridge, renewing the railway infrastructure in Woking which are essential for the vitality and sustainability of the rail network.
Given these factors, we have taken on the additional responsibility for reusing or relocating the access road as part of the widening scheme. These works include:
- conducting in-depth technical surveys to review relocation options for the access road
- consulting with and supporting affected residents
- drafting and submitting planning applications, and
- subject to planning approval, delivering the approved plan of works.
About the existing access road and the need to redevelop it
Currently, the Downside Goods Yard access road is situated on a busy stretch of the A320, within 25 metres of the highway running underneath the Victoria Arch railway bridge. This location requires all site vehicles to enter the access road from the south and to exit onto the A320 in the northbound direction. The site is safeguarded by the Surrey County Council Minerals Plan 2011 Core Strategy Development Plan Document and access to this site must be maintained.
The access road is frequently used by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and articulated lorries which, due to the access road’s and main highway’s space constraints, are required to cut across the public carriageway to enter and exit the site.
These actions cause regular traffic congestion, damage to the pedestrian footways and the central pedestrian crossing. More seriously, this unsatisfactory arrangement significantly increases the risk of side impact accidents to pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.
To allow for the new railway bridge’s construction and widen highway with increased height capacity, the existing road level must be lowered by 1.2 metres. This involves significant excavation works to keep the access road’s gradient at a safe angle for HGV use and hugely impacts on major underground utility services, such as telephone, internet, gas, water, etc.
The reuse of the current access on a permanent basis presents significant challenges. To redevelop the existing access road, extensive engineering work is required to meet the new lowered highway level underneath the bridge, provide a safe junction for all road users, relocate and accommodate the vital utilities exchanges located underneath the main highway, and reinforce the railway embankment.
To complete this work, we propose to close the current access road and create a temporary access via Bradfield Close, just off York Road. The proposal will include traffic restrictions to ensure HGVs using this access only do so via the Guildford Road junction.
The temporary access road proposal, via Bradfield Close, is the only viable option for an alternative access point to and from the goods yard during the proposed bridge construction work.
It is important to note: due to the changes made to the initial goods yard's proposals, following consultation, there is no longer a need to compulsory purchase the properties in Waverley Court or York Road.
Ahead of the planning applications submission, the project team assessed the wider planning impact of the plans on the surrounding residential streets. These considerations included:
- A heavy goods vehicle (HGV) restriction strategy to introduce highway weight limits to prevent HGV vehicles using the surrounding residential roads.
- A review of the on-street parking on York Road, between Guildford Road and Bradfield Close, to allow sufficient road width for all users.
- Road surfacing requirements on York Road, between Guildford Road and Bradfield Close, which support HGV movements and keep the road in good condition.
Pre-planning resident engagement
In July 2021, we wrote to over 500 residents in York Road, Bradfield Close, Waverley Court and Montgomery Road to advise them of proposals to relocate the existing Downside Goods Yard access road. The direct engagement was targeted at residents who may be directly affected by the future proposals and requested residents to submit their feedback about the plans.
During a four-week engagement period held from Monday 26 July to Monday 20 August 2021, we hosted one to one sessions with residents from 24 households.
The sessions provided local residents with the opportunity to find out more about the proposals and to put forward their feedback and ask questions.
To keep affected residents up to date, a meeting was organised on Tuesday 22 February where the council's portfolio holder and project officers provided a project update to 80 attendees.
Questions and answers raised by local residents were also published in advance of the meeting.
As part of this engagement activity, local residents raised significant concerns about the council’s proposals to seek a new access to the goods yard via York Road. The concerns raised include the loss of residential properties, highway safety, noise and dust issues.
Taking into consideration residents’ and stakeholders’ feedback, the Victoria Arch project team agreed to investigate options to revise the design of temporary and permanent access roads serving the goods yard in order to reduce the impact on affected parties. In addition, the team have also revisited the design of the road works and bridge to review how the current access to the goods yard can be reused once the project’s construction works have finished.
These works have also been influenced by our one to one engagement with local residents, the goods yard’s landowner (Network Rail) and its tenant (Day Aggregates).
In early October 2022, two planning applications were submitted to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to propose temporary and permanent access road arrangements for the Downside Goods Yard in Woking Town Centre.
A temporary access road via York Road and Bradfield Close and a permanent access road via the existing access in Guildford Road are proposed.
To keep locally affected residents and businesses informed of the planning applications and status, we have written to properties located in York Road, Bradfield Close Montgomery Road, and parts of Guildford Road.
To contact us about the project, please complete our online enquiry form.