Tag Archives: Road Safety

Laver Application Moneystone Quarry – A52/Whiston Eaves Lane Safety

Laver ‘s recently submitted planning application for Moneystone Quarry raises serious concerns regarding inevitable increases in traffic on Whiston Eaves Lane at its junction with the main A52 road outside the Sneyds Arms.  The situation  presents potential safety issues for all road users.

The following photographs show the dangerous layout of the junction and in particular the very poor visibility for vehicles attempting to pull out of Whiston Eaves Lane onto the main A52

Sight line towards Froghall and Kingsley along A52
Sight line towards Froghall and Kingsley along A52

 

Sight line towards Ashbourne along A52
Sight line towards Ashbourne along A52
A52 from entrance to former Sneyd's Arms PH towards Frogall and Kingsley
A52 from entrance to former Sneyd’s Arms PH towards Frogall and Kingsley
View along A52 towards Ashbourne
View along A52 towards Ashbourne

 

A52 from near St. Mildred's church looking towards Ashbourne.  Whiston Eaves Lane on the right in the dip.
A52 from near St. Mildred’s church looking towards Ashbourne. Whiston Eaves Lane on the right in the dip.
An example of the HGV traffic on A52 on a quiet Thursday afternoon!
An example of the HGV traffic on A52 on a quiet Thursday afternoon!
HGV on A52 towards Ashbourne after just passing Whiston Eaves Lane on driver's RHS
HGV on A52 towards Ashbourne after just passing Whiston Eaves Lane on driver’s RHS

WAG Open Meeting attracts wide ranging public support.

 

WAG’s open public meeting at Whiston Village Hall on Friday evening (02 Nov 2012) attracted over forty members of the public, not only local residents but people from villages throughout the Churnet Valley and other parts of the Staffordshire Moorlands, demonstrating wide ranging interest in concerns raised by WAG. An opening statement emphasised that WAG’s rigorous evidence based approach is intent on passing on conclusions based on facts – not opinions or gossip. Presentations were given by several speakers on a variety of issues, the most contentious being the Core Strategy Submission; Village House Building Proposals; Laver’s failure to restore Moneystone Quarry in accordance with the legally binding restoration plan, and public health concerns regarding the contaminated site at the Old Bolton Copperworks.

The District Council’s Core Strategy document, consider by many to be neither legally compliant nor sound, is currently being considered by the independent Planning Inspectorate. The inspector, Mr Patrick Whitehead, is to hold a Pre-Hearing Meeting at 10am Tuesday 11 Dec 2012 at the Bethel Suite, Tape Street, Cheadle, where he will set out the procedure and arrangements for his formal examination to be held in February of next year at Leek Council Offices. Anyone who made representations about the Core Strategy is encouraged to attend.

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), submitted as a last minute addition to the Core Strategy, raised many eyebrows. The document, compiled by SMDC officers in liaison with only landowners and developers, identifies and prioritises specific plots of land with housing potential in and around many villages in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Both during and after the meeting numerous attendees expressed their dissatisfaction with the complete absence of consultation by the District Council on this important issue.   The document has been submitted with the Core Strategy without public input.

On 11 Sep 2012 Laver Leisure circulated a letter to households in Whiston, Oakamoor and surrounding villages stating their intention of submitting within two weeks proposals to Staffordshire County Council to change the longstanding and legally binding requirement to restore Moneystone Quarry to farmland. No such application has been submitted and consequently, in the absence of any further communication from Laver to residents, a state of uncertainty exists within the community as to Laver’s future intentions.

The audience was surprised to learn that the Old Bolton’s Copper Works site is not recorded on the District Council’s contaminated land register, despite the council’s own specially commissioned Taylor Young Report identifying high levels of contaminants and a serious public health risk. In addition, a portfolio of evidence gathered from ex-employees pointing out precisely where contaminants are buried has been submitted to the council, who can have no excuse for failing to act. However, it is perhaps re-assuring that following representations from the Foxt Action Group the concerns have now been registered with the Environment Agency, with an investigation pending.

On a more positive note, there was considerable support for WAG’s Quiet Lane initiative, aimed at overcoming some of the tourist related traffic problems of increasing numbers of vehicles inappropriately using the Churnet Valley’s narrow country lanes. WAG has already received supportive comments from Karen Bradley MP, and now County Councillor Mike Worthington has been nominated by the Highway Authority to deal with the matter. WAG’s public survey of 100 road users demonstrated unanimous support from both residents and visitors. WAG’s proposal for a pilot scheme along The Red Road between Oakamoor and Alton, with suggested funding from Alton Towers monies committed as a condition under their last planning consent, is currently under consideration by Councillor Worthington. The pilot scheme would be a first step in achieving a network of Quiet Lanes in the core of the Churnet Valley, so that cyclists, horse riders and walkers could safely share our narrow lanes with slow moving vehicles driven with care and consideration.

Overall, a high level of enthusiastic support was received from attendees and after the meeting, Harry Blood, Chairman of Whiston Action Group, commented:-

 “I was very pleased with the turnout, particularly the interest and support shown by newcomers, as we continue to challenge inappropriate decisions that will affect our communities in the Churnet Valley for years to come. The importance of keeping locals in the picture on future plans for the Churnet Valley is exactly what the Government is expecting local councils to do. Sadly that message is largely ignored by SMDC. WAG is clearly filling a local need which is why the meeting went so well.”

 

Quiet Lanes in the Churnet Valley – interest from Karen Bradley MP

The WAG initiative encouraging Staffordshire County Council to give Quiet Lane designation to narrow lanes in the Churnet Valley has received welcome encouragement from Karen Bradley MP.  The initiative is aimed at encouraging drivers of vehicles to give greater consideration to walkers, cyclists and horse riders, thereby reducing road safety concerns emanating from sat-nav users and Alton Towers traffic taking short cuts on inappropriate roads.

Earlier in the year WAG conducted a survey of road users in the Churnet Valley the results of which demonstate wide support amongst both residents and visitors, across a wide spectrum of road users.

Extracts from Karen Bradley’s letter include:-

“You and the rest of the residents who have been involved in this project should be highly commended for the work that has gone into producing this piece of work.  The issue of “quiet lanes” in the Moorlands is something that I have raised previously in the House of Commons so it is pleasing to see you and other residents taking the initiative in this way.

I would be most interested to hear any further news about this project and will bear your comments in mind when I am talking to the relevant ministers.”

WAG is now progressing the initiative with County Councillor Mike Worthington, who has been nominated by Councillor Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council.

CONCERNS

W.A.G. Concerns

  • Current tourist numbers are already degrading tourist ‘hot spots’.
  • Geography, topography and infrastructure of the Churnet Valley do not allow for the type and proposed levels of increased tourism.

 

Churnet Valley Master Plan – Lack of Public Consultation

  • Staffordshire Moorlands District Council failed to consult adequately with the public from the outset.
  • The proposals more reflect the demands of commercial enterprise than the aspirations of the public.
  • WAG wants Better tourism not More tourism. WAG supports a tourism industry based on small local businesses, where the profits stay within the community, rather than exploitation of the valley by major outside developers.

 

Traffic

  • The district council proposals take no account of the inadequate road infrastructure in the Churnet Valley.  Alton Towers traffic is already a concern and further development can only make a bad situation worse.

 

Jobs

  • The district council proposals will provide only a small number of jobs, most being part-time, low paid and likely to attract outside labour.  WAG would like to see more permanent skilled and professional jobs created through local tourism businesses and small scale industrial units on appropriate brownfield sites.

Alton Towers

Alton Towers Excessive Traffic

Traffic is the main issue.  Inadequate planning control has allowed Alton Towers to expand exponentially over decades with no control on the traffic problems it generates.  A proposal to build a relief road from Denstone has been shelved for no apparent reason.  The suggestion that opening the railway line to Alton Towers will solve the traffic problem is not credible.

Injury collision “hot routes”  are prominant on the approach roads.

High risk factors

  • Narrow country lanes.
  • High vehicle flow rates.
  • Drivers unfamiliar with the area.
  • High proportion of young inexperienced drivers travelling at inappropriate speed.
  • Multiple vehicle occupancy.
  • Passengers often young, excited and eager to arrive, increasing driver distraction risk.

Analysis of data obtained from Staffordshire County Council shows that in the rural areas of the Churnet Valley there is a greater density of injury collisions in the south than in the north with injury collision “hot routes” identified on the approach routes to Alton Towers as follows:-

  1. Between The Star Crossroads at Cotton and Alton Towers main entrance.
  2. On the Cheadle to Alton road.
  3. On the road from Cheadle through Oakamoor to Star Crossroads at Cotton.
  4. Between Alton Village and Alton Towers main entrance.
  5. Over High Shutt on the Cheadle to Oakamoor road.

Road Safety Concerns

Staffordshire County Council, with co-operation from the proprietors of Alton Towers and the local community, has a responsibility to improve the safety situation and reduce the number of injury collisions on the approach routes to Alton Towers.   If such a large scale attraction were to be built today, planning controls would probably locate the venture close to a major motorway intersection providing easy access for vehicular traffic, where high volumes of traffic could be accommodated at low risk.  However, the reality is that Alton Towers is located many miles from motorways and relies upon inadequate narrow country lanes to cope with abnormal volumes of traffic.   The venue attracts people from all across the country.  Many drivers have travelled considerable distances at high speed on motorways to then find themselves channelled onto unfamiliar congested narrow country lanes.  The passengers are often young, excited and eager to arrive at their destination, generating situations where drivers are vulnerable to distractions.

The dynamics of the nature of the journey; multiple vehicle occupancy; narrow country lanes; unfamiliarity of drivers with the area and high traffic flow rates, develop a potentially dangerous cocktail of circumstances resulting in a higher than normal risk of injury collisions.   Taking into account these facts, it is not surprising that the approach routes to Alton Towers show up as injury collision “hot routes”.

It is recommended that the identified risk factors warrant particular consideration by SCC,  in conjunction with appropriate stakeholders,  with the aim of developing early casualty reduction initiatives under the headings of engineering, education and enforcement.  Any proposals to attract more tourists to the venue are cautioned against, unless major infrastructure improvements are introduced to accommodate increased vehicle numbers. Otherwise there is an obvious risk of further increasing the collision and more importantly the casualty rate.

Traffic congestion

Traffic is the main issue for the public.  Inadequate planning control has allowed Alton Towers to expand exponentially over decades with no control on the traffic problems it generates.  A proposal to build a relief road from Denstone has been shelved for no apparent reason.  The suggestion that opening the railway line to Alton Towers will solve the traffic problem is not credible.

Vehicle Flow

Vehicle flow on the approach routes to Alton Towers shows:-

  1. A marked seasonal increase during the summer period (April to October) that coincides with a summer increase in injury collisions.
  2. The summer hourly peak traffic flow was 50 times greater than the peak on the quietest winter day.
  3. On the busiest summer day on the Cotton side of the main entrance, in the half of the carriageway flowing towards the main entrance, during the busiest hour, a vehicle would have passed you once every 3.5 seconds compared with a vehicle every 3.2 minutes during the busiest hour on the quietest winter day.

An efficient car parking system?

The high flow rates on busy days near the entrance in the summer are indicative of an efficient vehicle car parking management system within Alton Towers that has developed over many years, admitting the maximum number of vehicles in the shortest possible time.  However, anecdotal evidence from local residents suggests that despite its efficiency, the parking system within Alton Towers is often overwhelmed, resulting in traffic backing up from the car parks, out through the main entrance and onto the public road in both directions. Some residents say that the queue can extend all the way through the village of Alton and out on the Denstone road, and in the other direction out to The Star crossroads at Cotton.  The residents suggest that queuing traffic causes serious inconvenience to through traffic, impeding not only local residents, but also emergency service vehicles responding to incidents.  Residents also differentiate between thrill seeking visitors attracted to Alton Towers and the more conventional tourists attracted to the Churnet Valley for its natural beauty and industrial heritage. They assert that traffic volumes generated by the two visitor groups are not complimentary and that conventional tourists, like residents, are inconvenienced by traffic delays emanating from the Alton Towers tail backs.  Some argue that conventional tourists are deterred from coming to the Churnet Valley because of the stories they have heard of Alton Towers traffic problems, and that the problem is inhibiting the growth of conventional tourism in the wider valley.

Interviews with some local residents suggested that at times Alton Towers staff are deployed directing traffic in Alton village, a mile or more away from the main entrance, on the public highway.  If such deployments do take place it is difficult to see where the lawful authority comes from for such private interventions on a public highway.

From an objective analysis viewpoint, other than photographs of queuing traffic, no direct evidence of times and dates when such traffic hold ups have been experienced was available at the time of conducting the analysis, and so it is difficult to comment on allegations of highway obstruction at present.  However, in the future, if SCC were to gather speed data at busy times it would be possible to identify any periods of exceptionally slow moving traffic, thereby establishing facts to either support or refute the allegations on the highway obstruction queuing issue.

Consequently, it is suggested that SCC may wish to consider gathering speed data in the peak summer periods not only at the current monitoring points but also at more widespread locations on the approach routes.  Such data would provide facts to prove or disprove the view of residents that queuing traffic into Alton Towers obstructs the public highway.  Should SCC not have the resources to gather speed data, an option open to residents would be to carry out field observations to time the progression of the tail end of any queue as it extends along the highway, by simply walking with the tail end and noting the time at regular measured reference points. Either evidence gathering procedure would help inform the debate about the impact of Alton Towers on the free flow of traffic.

Alternative Access Route

It is understood that in the past proposals have been considered for a new access road into Alton Towers from the Denstone direction, and, whilst satisfactory options have been developed, little progress has been made owing to funding issues. Such an infrastructure improvement clearly has the potential to alleviate pressure on the existing main access.  In the absence of such a relief road it is difficult to see how further increases in visitor numbers can be safely justified as the vehicle flow rates at peak times into the existing entrance appear to be approaching saturation point.  Indeed, if the numerous allegations by local residents of tailbacks are substantiated, then saturation point has already been reached.

In the absence of an alternative access route being constructed it is difficult to see how further increases in visitor numbers can be accommodated at Alton Towers as the vehicle flow rates at peak times into the existing entrance appear to be reaching if not at saturation point.

 RECOMMENDATIONS

  • In response to assertions by local residents of  obstruction of the public highway it is suggested that SCC may wish to consider gathering speed data in the peak summer periods at the current monitoring points and at more widespread locations on the approach routes to shed evidential light on the traffic congestion issue.
  • Plans for a Denstone to Alton relief road should be re-visited in the interests of public safety.
  • Casualty reduction initiatives need to be developed and implemented promptly to combat the current high risk situation on the approach routes to Alton Towers.
  • In the interests of public safety no attempts should be made to attract more visitors to the venue until such time as the high risk situation has been resolved.