In 2012, during public consideration of the Churnet Valley Master Plan proposals, Whiston Action Group (WAG) received anecdotal verbal evidence from residents in the lower half of the Churnet Valley expressing concerns regarding tourist visitor related traffic on the area’s narrow country lanes. The comments included concerns relating to inappropriate speed; inconsiderate driving, and traffic volumes that were considered in conflict with walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
The neighbouring counties of Cheshire and Derbyshire have already helped resolve similar problems in tourist areas by implementation of a “Quiet Lanes” national policy that is available for adoption by all county highway authorities. The provision aims to encourage vehicle drivers to harmonise more effectively with other road users. There is the potential for Staffordshire County Council to implement similar schemes on the lanes in the Churnet Valley aimed at encouraging low volumes of vehicles travelling at slow speeds, thereby benefitting walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
The concerns expressed by the public were only anecdotal. Consequently, in the spring/summer of 2012 WAG set out to gather more reliable evidence by conducting a public road user survey in the southern part of the Churnet Valley.
The survey report has now been completed and forwarded to Councillor Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, and County Councillor Mike Worthington, who represents the Churnet Valley, to inform their considerations. The survey coincides with a July 2012 announcement by Mike Penning the Government Road Safety Minister encouraging local highway authorities to cut speed limits on many rural roads. He was quoted as saying, “It is vital that speed limits are suitable for local conditions and councils are best placed to determine what these limits are, based on local knowledge and the views of the community”.
WAG’s survey results contribute towards establishing the local knowledge base and express the views of local road users.
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s planning proposals for increased tourism in the Churnet Valley will exacerbate the existing traffic pressures on an area of outstanding natural beauty. WAG’s hope is that Staffordshire County Council will recognise public concern regarding existing traffic problems in the Churnet Valley and follow the lead of neighbouring counties by introducing simple Quiet Lane cost effective measures as one step in protecting the peace and tranquillity of the Churnet Valley.
A copy of the road user survey report can be viewed via the following link.