What options are available for keeping the aggregates yard access road where it is currently located? And, in the long-term, relocating the aggregates yard away from Woking town centre?
Existing location of the aggregates site
The aggregates site in Woking, which services Day Aggregates, provides vital supplies of quarry products to the construction industry.
The site offers a relatively sustainable option in terms of reducing the impact for vehicle movements as the aggregate operation imports around 300 train loads of materials every year, which replaces more than 14,000 long-distance lorry journeys that would otherwise amount to roughly 2.5 million heavy good vehicles (HGVs) ‘road miles’.
The aggregates yard is safeguarded for use as a rail aggregate depot under Surrey County Council’s Policy MC6: Safeguarding Mineral Resources and Development and Policy MC16: Rail Aggregate Depots of the Surrey Minerals Plan 2011 Core Strategy Development Plan Document. It plays an important role in the importation of aggregate into the county, especially crushed rock and marine aggregate.
A decade ago, Network Rail (the site owner) conducted studies to consider alternative sites for the aggregates yard. It concluded that there were no viable options for the relocation of the site. This work is currently being reviewed and revisited following a motion agreed by Woking Borough’s Full Council, which acknowledges that the aggregates yard’s existing location in the centre of town is not a desirable location.
The need to assess the existing access road’s current location and consider relocation options
As the construction plans for the Victoria Arch widening scheme have progressed, technical surveys and modelling have evidenced that the existing location of the aggregates access road, located on the south-side of the Guildford Road next to the Victoria Arch railway bridge, severely impacts on the scheme’s overall success.
Surrey County Council (the highways authority) alongside WSP (the Victoria Arch widening highways design consultant), have assessed the potential for keeping the aggregates access road in its current location. The results show a number of challenges which make this difficult to deliver.
These challenges include:
- The need to lower the existing road level by approximately 1.2 metres.
- The need to build new retaining wall structures.
- Reduced visibility for site traffic in and out of the existing access road.
- The need for traffic control measures at this junction which will impact on traffic flow.
- Achieving the objective of improved and safer pedestrian and cyclist flow across the access road.
- The traffic and transport capacity constraints at the proposed new junction of Guildford Road/Victoria Road/existing aggregates access.
Works undertaken to keep the access road in its current location
The Victoria Arch project team is investigating options to revise the temporary and permanent aggregates access roads proposals in order to reduce the impact on affected parties.
These additional works have been influenced by the project team’s one to one engagement with local residents, the aggregates yard’s landowner (Network Rail) and its tenant (Day Aggregates).
Over the last three months, the project team has undertaken investigatory studies which aim to lessen the impact on the number of properties that would require demolition, the environment and safety of the directly affected properties, and the landowner’s and tenant’s site operations including during the Victoria Arch bridge construction works.
Further investigative studies have confirmed that there is no alternative option available for a temporary access to the aggregates site during the bridge construction work. This means the temporary access road proposal via York Road and Bradfield Close remains the only viable short-term option.
The need to find a permanent access road solution remains challenging. However, following the feedback received, the project team is revisiting the options to reuse and reopen the existing site access to the aggregates yard once the road widening and replacement bridge works are completed.
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.
At this current time, the project team cannot be certain if this option is achievable. To fully assess the case, the team is continuing the extensive engineering redesign work which will take some months to conclude. As a result, the submission of the access road planning applications will be delayed until late spring/early summer 2022.
Public updates will be provided closer to this time and before the planning applications are submitted for statutory public consultation.
Activities to support the relocation of the aggregates site
At the meeting of Woking Borough Council’s Full Council on 2 December 2021, borough councillors supported the recommendation to support Cllr Will Forster's motion: "The Victoria Arch widening scheme has brought into focus that Woking's rail aggregates yard is in a completely unsuitable location.
The council agrees to use its best endeavours to encourage Network Rail, Surrey County Council and other partners to move the aggregates yard to a more appropriate and non-residential location.”
A letter has been written by the former Woking Borough Council Executive Member for Infrastructure, Leisure and Cultural Services, Councillor Colin Kemp, to Network Rail in relation to this matter.
While informal discussions had already taken place between the two organisations, a formal meeting was set up to discuss the options. The former Leader of the Council, Councillor Ayesha Azad and Jonathan Lord MP have written to the Leader of Surrey County Council to advocate moving the aggregates yard.
Surrey County Council has also launched a consultation on its new Minerals and Waste Plan, and Woking Borough Council has submitted a response to the consultation on the unsuitability of the current site of the yard.
Questions submitted by members of the public
A significant number of questions were submitted by residents in advance of the public meeting, to be held on Tuesday 22 February 2022. The above question and answer aims to provide responses to the main points and topics raised by local residents. Any outstanding or additional questions received will be added in the future.
- Why can’t the access road be kept where it is?
- When the junction was designed why was no attempt made to retain the existing access road to Day Aggregates. The road could still stay albeit at a different level. And the movements into and out of that road would be straight only. And vehicles wishing to turn can do so using the Oriental Road/Heathside Crescent loop and turn at the new traffic lights. This is technically possible but why was it not considered? If it was considered, please can we see the technical report that dismisses it.
- Are there other suitable locations for the Day Aggregates site away from residential properties?
- What could the council do to remove the Safeguarding Status of Day Aggregates?
- What efforts are being made to move the Day Aggregates site?
- Are Days actively seeking an alternative location for their "Virtual Quarry"?
- As Woking has, progressively, become an unsuitable location for the existing Days operation, has the company been asked to find a more suitable site, such as the Chessington South, Industrial Estate?
- Is the access to Day Aggregates still changing?
- Can the widening of the bridge wait until days yard has a new premises?
- In previous briefing papers issued in connection with this major infrastructure investment the council and network rail have stated this is an investment for the next century for Woking. Since it has already been noted the aggregate yard must be relocated to another location, how can this be seen as an investment for the next century without relocating the aggregate yard to another location outside of the town centre at the same time?
- The Woking council wants Day Aggregate out of the town. So why are these plans still being out forward.