Letter to Mr Phil Hawkins of Steer Davies Gleave Ltd responding to invitation to discuss the Urban Transport Plan
Mr Phil Hawkins
Steer Davies Gleave Ltd
28-32 Upper Ground
|12 April 2011|
BISHOP’S STORTFORD URBAN TRANSPORT PLAN
Thank you for your invitation to attend a meeting on 16 April to discuss this subject. I am afraid that the timing of the meeting – a Saturday afternoon in the middle of the Easter school holiday – means that neither I nor my colleagues on the Federation Committee will be able to attend, but I am sure we would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues with you on another occasion. Because there has not been an opportunity to discuss the issues together beforehand, other members of the Committee may wish to add to the comments set out below.
The Bishop's Stortford transportation strategy was the result of earlier work carried out by SDG to assess the impact of developing the ASR’s on the North West side of town for housing on traffic circulation and congestion. In our view that work contained a number of shortcomings which meant that it provided no assurance that the ASR’s could be developed without unacceptable consequences for traffic congestion in the town.
We felt particular problems with the earlier study were
- No account was taken of developments across the border in Essex which would add to pressures on the Bishop's Stortford highway network. In particular, there are housing developments in Stansted Mountfitchet and Takeley which together are leading to the provision of 1450 new homes. Major housing development at Elsenham is also still a possibility.
- Traffic delays from the ASR’s to Hadham Road or Rye Street appeared to be excessive (although the figures were omitted from the final report) unless a new junction was built on to the A120 by pass. However, we understand that the highway authority would oppose such a solution.
- The assessment of only two weekday peak hours – 08.00-0900 and 17.00-18.00 – overlooked other times of severe congestion, in particular, the afternoon school run between 15.00 and 16.00 and Saturday mornings when congestion is often worse than during the weekday.
- It was assumed that developers would fund and subsidise park and ride, but the number of different developer contributions which would be needed to support ASR development (education places and medical facilities for example) may call the overall economics of such development into question, particularly with the severe squeeze on any public funding for such facilities.
- Other solutions, such as integrated traffic controls, appeared to be mere palliatives which would simply defer by a few years the seemingly inexorable rise in car traffic.
Since then, the town has had experience of some actual development and has the prospect of further developments which also call into question the results of the existing modelling. Firstly, we now have the experience of Jackson Square, though it should be noted that Phase 2 is not fully occupied. The car park layout, even after the addition of a second exit, still leads to gridlock on occasions and the entry and exit points appear to be in the wrong places. Reversing the flow in the one way gyratory system from clockwise to anti clockwise might improve the position and should at least be tested. Secondly, there are major development proposals for the Causeway site for which a planning application has been lodged. The traffic assessment contained in it gives no indication that any allowance for ASR development has been included (or indeed any other significant development). Thirdly, consideration is being given to a revision of the station goods yard brief, reflecting suggestions from the Civic Federation among others. This has led us to suggest that the impact of a link road through the site on traffic circulation in the town needs to be reconsidered. Finally, the relocation of two secondary schools to Whittington Way with some seven hundred homes to be built on the vacated sites has been refused planning permission but is now the subject of an appeal.
All of the above lead us to conclude that the modelling work needs to be carried out afresh, but this time with a different approach which looks at each major prospective development both to assess its impact individually and then their combined cumulative impact together on the highway network. We think this would have been the correct approach on the previous occasion but it was not followed. If, realistically, traffic congestion cannot be alleviated, than this should be an absolute barrier to further development in the town, since we have seen no evidence that traffic management solutions will alter the mode choices in an area with one of the highest levels of car ownership in the country, and the main access roads leading to the town centre are not capable of capacity enhancements other than those which integrated traffic control might deliver.
We trust that your study will also look at the availability, accessibility, location and pricing of car parking in the town – on street and off street, and privately or publicly owned. EHDC’s claim that there is no unmet demand for parking in the town does not seem to be born out by the evidence. For example, the station car park has recently been extended into the goods yard area. When the former Lancaster Garage was refused permission for use as a long stay car park, the Inspector who found plenty of vacant spaces on his site visit appears to have made his visit during the school half term holiday. There is continuing pressure for residents’ only parking schemes which puts a further squeeze on publicly available spaces, particularly for town centre employees. Lack of accessible parking is one of the most frequently cited reasons for avoiding Bishop's Stortford in retail surveys. We have seen no modelling which quantifies the extent to which people do their shopping elsewhere because of congestion and parking problems. EHDC’s approach to parking has always been piecemeal with the result that action in one area simply moves the problem somewhere else in the town. We trust that your work will lead to a clear comprehensive approach towards parking including the order in which measures should be implemented.John Rhodes
Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation