The Cranleigh Society alerted Surrey County Council Highways department that the traffic light controlled Bridge on the Elmbridge Road was showing worrying signs of cracking under the increasingly heavy loads that now cross it on a daily basis.
This story was featured in the Surrey Advertiser and is on the getSurrey website.
Built circa 1865, on the B2130 leading out of Cranleigh in the Godalming direction, the bridge was closed to two way traffic some twenty years ago, following structural concerns and it was converted into a single lane with traffic lights. For some reason it was never made subject to a weight limit.
The bridge was originally built to cross over the railway line (now referred to as the Downs Link) that used to run between Guildford and Horsham and was never designed to take the volume and scale of traffic that now use it.
What is also worrying is that the Downs Link is extensively used by pedestrians, dog walkers, cyclists, running groups and horse riders, so it is not only road users above that could be at risk from further deterioration of this structure.
The Cranleigh Society was alerted to the problem by a local resident on 17 December 2015, who due to flooded fields had taken to walking his dog along this stretch of the Downs Link. “Over a couple of weeks I noticed that the crack in the bridge seemed to be getting bigger” he reported. So we sent along two of our members to take a look and they discovered large cracks in two of the four curved structural buttress walls that support each end of the bridge.
On the same day, we took pictures of the cracks and sent them to Surrey County Council’s Engineers’ department, with a report from one of our members, Chartered Builder Adrian Clarke, who said it was in his opinion a “cause for immediate concern”.
We re-inspected the bridge again on the 18 January, a month later, and think that the cracks have deteriorated further. With the prospect of additional heavy construction traffic crossing this bridge towards the Amlets Lane site 125 houses (Cala Homes) and the Horsham Road site 149 houses (Crest Nicholson) due in the not too distant future, we believe investigating the cause of the cracking should be a priority for Surrey Highways.
However Surrey County Council to date does not appear to be carrying out any monitoring work.
We will be following this up with the Highways department, but in the meantime if any of our readers would like to make their own enquiries please give Mike Green, Surrey Highways Senior Engineer, a call on 0208 541 9316 and let us know what you find out.
We would like to thank members of the committee that have contributed towards this study into the sewage issue in Cranleigh.
This information has been passed to the Inspector of the Berkeley Homes Appeal, Waverley Borough Council, the Environment Agency, Thames Water, Cranleigh Parish Council and the Neighbourhood Plan Group.
Cranleigh Sewage Works opened nearly 50 years ago to serve between 10,000 and 15,000 people in Cranleigh, Ewhurst, Hascombe and other local villages. Addition of the recently approved Amlets Lane and Crest Nicholson sites will take it over the 15,000 residents limit when they are built.
The river Cranleigh Sewage Works discharges its effluent into what is called “Cranleigh Waters”, and the quality and quantity of effluent is controlled by the Environment Agency (EA) via a document called a “Permit Limit”. The last Permit Limit was issued in 2009, and it is now long overdue for renewal. If Thames Water exceed the permitted level of effluent that is discharged into the river they can be fined.
Recently, Cranleigh Waters has been re-classified by the EA as “ephemeral”, which means it flows well in winter but not in summer.
This issue with the flow rate started around 4 years ago and it has got progressively worse. On 6th October 2015, it stopped flowing altogether for a period.
This is due they say to water abstraction and low aquifers ( a body of permeable rock which can contain or transmit groundwater) upstream, increasing population density and onset global warming.
The consequence of this has been to turn Cranleigh Waters into a “eutrophic” water body, which means that it is rich in nutrients and promotes plant growth, at the expense of providing a suitable habitat for fish, amphibians and invertebrates.
Since 2009, The EA has classified Cranleigh Waters as “Eutrophic and Bad”, the worst category on their ratings scale.
Under The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, the 2009 Permit Level should have been regularly reassessed by the EA and reissued, but that has not happened.
Recent data issued by the EA on the 7th December 2015 shows that the Permit Level is now being exceeded in all three key water body pollution indicator categories, Solids, Biochemical Oxygen Demand and Ammoniacal Nitrogen.
Before considering whether the Berkeley Homes site should be developed, a new Permit Level should be issued by the EA and a study made to assess whether the Cranleigh Sewage Works can be extended to cope with increased demand, and to assess if Cranleigh Waters can take any more pollution. Cranleigh has recently been designated a “Protected Zone” by the EA to help defend a major drinking water abstraction point for Guildford, a short distance away downstream.
Waverley Borough Council have told us that they have not assessed the sewage position in Cranleigh, despite the significant number of planning applications, but are now looking into it, having had the matter brought to their attention by the Cranleigh Society.
“On Sunday afternoon, 3rd January, I got a knock on the door from a neighbour, advising me that Waverley had said Nightingales was at severe risk of flooding and that they were in attendance at the troublesome culvert for the Holdhurst Brook under Nightingales and Fortune Drive. I got a further visit shortly after to advise that they were distributing sand bags. I went out a little later and met the council guy who I assume was from Veolia. He looks after 4 culverts in the area and said he would be visiting ours at least hourly all night as there was a significant risk of flooding – the water level wasn’t quite as high as 2013 but nevertheless significant. He’d found the Brook partly blocked earlier due to thoughtless residents dumping one or more Christmas trees in it. However, he said that had merely exacerbated the problem earlier – the issue was the volume of water coming into the Brook and the ability of the culverts to cope. He was certainly still there late in the evening but we were lucky and there was no repeat of Christmas 2013.
What I find baffling is that we’ve lived here for nearly 30 years and there has never been an issue with the Brook until 2013. This date roughly coincides with the building of the Swallowhurst estate. Holdhurst Brook appears to rise in the fields above Cranleigh Mead, going up towards this new estate. Co-incidence of timing and location?
This latest episode makes the planning approval for 149 houses on the fields sloping down towards and draining into, the already overloaded Holdhurst Brook, just after the troublesome culvert even more concerning. It would be nice to think that part of the infrastructure improvements they are paying for would include enlarging that culvert!
As a resident its very concerning to know that in the event of very heavy rain, we are reliant on one man from Veolia being in attendance to prevent our properties from flooding.
To remind you of Christmas Eve 2013: The flood hit 17 houses with an estimated cost approaching £½ million. If the water had been about an inch deeper it would have hit the other side of Nightingales, probably affecting 30+ more houses.”
The Help Elmbridge Road campaign confirms that the Local Waverley Committee (on 11 December 2015) approved an expenditure of £15,000 for new safety measures for the single track priority road system along Elmbridge Road, Cranleigh.
Surrey County Council Highways have indicated that the new measures should include new signage including a new Vehicle Activated Sign, as well as new bollards and an amended pavement. This should happen in the 2016/2017 financial year.
The funding has come from the infrastructure contribution (Section 106) made by Retirement Villages Ltd as part of their expanded development. This is a good first step and long overdue.
We welcome these new low cost measures and hope that this will bring more clarity to the right of way, succeed in slowing down traffic and reduce the number of incidents on this stretch of road.
This is not the end for the campaign. We need to ensure that the promised safety measures are implemented and that any incidents or accidents continue to be logged.