West Bergholt Traffic Safety Plan
In response to issues raised by village residents in the Parish Plan of 2009 the Parish Council spent nearly two years consulting various parties before producing a draft Traffic Safety Plan (TSP) for the village in 2012. The TSP working party activities were reported through the village Bulletin in December 2012 which is distributed to c.1300 homes and village newsletter as well as being made available on the village website. Subsequently the TSP was submitted and consequently endorsed by the Local Highways Panel in January 2013 and formed the basis for funding the plans under consideration.
Village Traffic Safety Strategy
The Parish Council has a vision for the future travel environment in the village where “walking and cycling become the preferred modes of travel, that traffic levels and parking do not dominate our village and that the safety of adult and child pedestrians remains paramount.”
An enhancement in levels of safety, both perceived and actual, is the fundamental aim of the TSP. The plan needs to ensure that residents can move about the village in safety and be able to access key locations, particularly parents with children on their way to and from school, but also village shops, open spaces and recreational facilities.
The entire village has recently been surveyed as part of its Neighbourhood Plan initiative with nearly five hundred completed questionnaires received by the NP group. About a third of respondents made specific written comments of which 85% expressed major concerns regarding traffic issues, and in particular speeding and parking. The particular dangers are perceived to be in the areas leading up to Heathlands primary school and the Co-op and chemist, which provide vital services to the village as well as residents from neighbouring communities. Clearly there are many village residents and other non-villagers that support actions aimed at addressing and improving the identified danger hot spots.
It is acknowledged that no one measure will solve all issues being experienced and the circumstances of differing concerns are different. However the one factor that is at the heart of these dangers is the thoughtless and irresponsible driving and parking demonstrated by drivers. Clearly the school has an increasing part to play in persuading and supporting parents who drive their children to school to achieve the changes needed in their behaviour. The plan envisages the school and its parents, local residents and the Parish Council working more closely together in the future and the TSP forms the basis of this joint working. Already alternatives for some dropping off and parking has been made but to make a real impact regarding traffic safety, enforceable restrictions at key areas such as road junctions are needed.
Introducing a Traffic Safety Plan – The Issues
Recognising that it is unlikely that no one safety measure will solve all issues it became obvious to the TSP working party that it needed to enlist the views of Essex County Council Highways as the experts to provide the various options that could be considered in meeting both the strategic objectives and provide comfort for residents that solutions proposed will help address the identified safety issues.
Discussions between the Parish Council and ECC Highways on how to improve road traffic safety began in the spring of 2011. The stages and extent of consultation with all relevant parties appears later in this document
Traffic Safety Plan Specifics
One particular danger area is the exit from a footpath from Mumford Close onto New Church Road. The initial proposal from the working party, with plans drawn up by ECC engineers, was for a build out in the road narrowing it at this point. At a meeting of residents of New Church Road (NCR) with the Traffic Safety Plan working party, this was rejected by the residents on the grounds of “over urbanisation” of a village road. Disappointingly for the working party a point that appeared not to be appreciated at the time by NCR attendees was the purpose of the build out was to encourage independent walking journeys to school by older pupils, whose parents would have felt happier to allow their child to walk to school because the build out effectively reduced the width of road to be crossed to just over a car’s width. Residents were reminded that three separate incidents had been witnessed at this crossing point where children had narrowly escaped injury from cars, as a direct result of parking at this point creating increased dangers through reduced visibility at this point. Reluctantly and only to appease residents in NCR, the build out was not included in later revisions of the plan in favour of parking restrictions in this area.
Reduced plans with built up tables at each end of New Church Road were then proposed but it became clear that on their own, these tables would not necessarily achieve road safety and reduced speeds. Also NCR residents were not prepared to accept the installation of the necessary street lighting that would be required by ECC Highways for such initiatives.
A working group consisting of two members of the Parish Council and two representatives of the residents of NCR first met on August 14th under a neutral chairman. The first task was to agree the areas of concern and these are recorded in notes of that meeting and reflected in the plan. Further meetings, now with four residents and some involvement of the school, took place in September and early October. These culminated with an outline plan and those residents that were present agreed to put to an open resident’s meeting, which they would arrange. As well as parking restrictions in agreed areas, mainly junctions; the need to raise driver awareness regarding the nature of the area they were entering and the need for extra care was seen as paramount. ECC Highways advised this could be achieved by changes in road surface with the appropriate signage. The joint group saw coloured patches across the road, approximately 10 metres from each junction together with the introduction of a 20mph speed limit as a way of making this statement.
Parking restrictions at the junctions of NCR, particularly at each end, will undoubtedly improve safety for both pedestrians and motorists. Creating a safety area for the entire length of this road will enhance awareness but the Parish Council and NCR residents are in agreement that the measure that will bring together the whole project is the creation of a 20mph speed limit for this road and in the adjoining School Lane as defined by the coloured patches. We ask the LHP and ECC Highways to accept the latest revision of the TSP, which includes a 20mph speed limit as an agreed initiative created through appropriate and exhaustive consultation by the working party, New Church Road and School Lane residents and the majority of other village residents that use these roads.
In summary the following main points make up the Traffic Safety Plan which following consultation programmes has been accepted by the Parish Council for implementation.
- Parking Restrictions will be implemented at all relevant junctions to reinforce the highway code
- To improve safety when crossing New Church Road, parking restrictions will be extended to maximise safety for children and adults when travelling to and from the school. This includes the areas where NCR meets Lexden Road, Chapel Road and the footpath from Mumford Close
- A 20 mph speed limit will be sought for both New Church Road and School Lane
- Parking will continue to be made available at the Orpen Hall and the Treble Tile with the measures proposed making it safer for pedestrians to park and walk to/from the school
- Enable safer journeys for cyclists and pedestrians
- Encourage the continued adoption of the school travel plan. Encouraging child influence of parents when driving and parking near the school. The emphasis being to further encourage walking, cycling, safer parking and use of alternative transport options.
At a specially convened Parish Council meeting, attended by fourteen residents of New Church Road and the ward Councillors the proposed plans were debated. There was general agreement about the need to improve safety. No adverse comments were made regarding the proposed changes in road surface with the appropriate signage at each end of NCR. Joint work with the school to influence driver behaviour in using the roads around the school was regarded as essential by all attendees. A few NCR residents expressed their concerns regarding the effect of yellow lines on the image of the road and the ability to enforce the restrictions.
Plan Development and Consultation
The TSP working party was formed in May 2010. The first discussions on the TSP took place shortly after this date when members of the Parish Council and ECC Highway engineers walked the areas of concern and examined first hand the dangers that were apparent for adults and children alike when moving to and from the school and when using the areas around the very busy Co-op shop and chemist. These visits were carried out before, during and after the school pick/drop of times to provide a typical daily view of problems being experienced.
The Parish Council asked ECC Highways to review and report on the options that could be implemented to provide a safer environment for all. In replying there were a number of options put forward for consideration and ECC Highways provided an assessment of each option both in isolation and as part of an overall package of safety measures.
The options identified by ECC Highways included the following
- Reinforce the highway code rules at road junctions by introducing parking restrictions at any time for all junctions
- Build outs at known danger points – New Church Road (NCR) and Lexden Road / NCR and Chapel Road / NCR and both ends of School Lane / crossing build out on NCR at the footway from Mumford Road,
- A one way system for NCR and School Road
Discussions with the Highways engineers continued for many months to refine and reject some of the options and in this process draw up a Traffic Safety Plan using the best or most acceptable options to meet the strategic objectives and which had a possibility of being funded.
Between June 2010 when the TSP was formed and June 2013 the progress of the TSP was openly reported by various village means including Parish Notice boards, Parish Council meeting minutes, our web site, several articles in the village bulletin publication distributed to all homes and the bi monthly news letters that are made available in the village shops and meeting places. Between 2010 and 2012 options for traffic safety improvements were discussed between the TSP working party and ECC Highways resulted in an outline plan being submitted to the Local Highways Panel for funding approval. The LHP agreed the funding of the TSP subject to normal ECC Highways assessment of acceptability and detailed cost analysis. The outline TSP was presented to the LHP on 29th January 2013 by the working party chair Harry Stone supported by the ward councillor – Marcus Harrington. The LHP approved the TSP for funding and implementation following a detailed assessment by ECC Highways.
There then followed several months of discussions between ECC and the TSP working party the outcome of which was a series of road plan diagrams showing the proposed changes marked to allow residents to see what was the TSP recommendation for change. Revision one of the detailed TSP was received by the working party in July and was immediately made available for residents to see and provide feedback.
A public meeting was held within one week of the plans being produced by ECC, with the objective being to allow effective and speedy consultation and views shared.
The main points coming out of the meeting were;
- Attendees understood that something needed to be done to improve safety for adults and children alike for the areas concerned.
- To do nothing and therefore jeopardise safety and see the current situation deteriorate further was not an option to be considered.
- ECC had agreed to an extension to the school to accommodate more children from a growing catchment area. This planning consent was granted without considering the need to improve safety in accessing the school area or recognition of the obvious resulting increased traffic and associated dangers. The Parish Council objected to the school expansion specifically on traffic grounds and both the Parish Council Chairman and Essex Councillor Anne Brown made personal representation at the planning committee meeting but the ECC planning committee refused to incorporate traffic safety measures as a condition of the planning approval.
- The proposed build out at the junction of NCR and Mumford Close footway was not acceptable to those residents in the immediately vicinity as the believed that contrary to ECC Highways expert opinion these residents claimed they would not be able to access their driveways with large vehicles. Contrary to expert opinion residents did not accept the build out would provide improved safety of children crossing the road.
- The proposed changes would require street lighting to be installed and NCR residents felt this would be detrimental to the street scene.
Following the public meeting a small working party was formed consisting of two members from the Parish Council, representatives for NCR and the school. A number of meetings were held and the TSP revised accordingly in line with discussions to produce the fourth revision.
Residents of NCR held their own meeting to discuss the TSP revision 4. The results recorded of a vote by attendees on the main points covered by the TSP are shown below and indicate a broad acceptance of the plan and elements of it although, it was reported that some of those attending the meeting felt that nothing in New Church Road should be changed.
NCR Residents Meeting Vote
|Double lines Co-op end.||25 (13)|
|Folly/kerb 46-34||0 (15)||25|
|Church Close double lines.||12 (1)||10 (5)|
|School Lane double yellow||14||8 (5)|
|Zigzag extension (timed)||16||6 (5)|
|Lexden Rd, double yellow (+ 5 metre extension)||25 (13)|
|20 mph NCR zone.||
( ) = proxy
Parish Council Meeting Conclusions
An extraordinary Parish Council meeting was convened on 6th November to make a decision on adoption of the TSP for the community. The Parish Council felt it appropriate to delay making its decision until after the residents in NCR, School Lane and Church Road had the opportunity to hold their own review meeting.
The PC meeting began with a presentation of what was proposed within revision 4 of the TSP in order that all present were up to date with the latest proposal. Following this presentation the public were given ample opportunity to raise points and queries as part of a “Have your Say” session, which were answered in turn. When it was clear that no new queries or questions were being raised the session was brought to a close for the PC to make a decision. The Parish Council voted on the TSP with all but one councillor accepting the plan.
The approved TSP takes the form of a series of road plans produced by ECC Highways and revised as the consultation process evolved. The plan consists therefore of a series of implementation initiatives that includes measures to remind drivers they are approaching a school. Safety has been at the forefront of the planning of these measures. As part of the TSP a 20mph speed limit along NCR and School Lane is sought. Both ward councillors have given their written support for the implementation of a lower speed limit. It is appreciated that a speed survey will be required to be carried out for these roads.