UDC’s road proposals for Saffron Walden are flawed

Uttlesford District Council contracted Essex Highways Authority to produce a highway and road report to determine how the traffic from their proposed new Local Plan housing may be absorbed into the district. This report was published in October 2013 after having been held from the public for most of the year.

About the proposals

UDC proposes to create an inner ring-road inside the town made up of London Rd, High St, Castle/Church St, Ashdon Rd, Elisabeth Way, Radwinter Rd, Thaxted Rd, Peaslands Rd, Mount Pleasant Rd and Borough Lane. Streets on this ring-road will have more aggressive traffic flow controls that today, including signalised junctions, Urban Clearways, parking restrictions and some one-way flows.

No-Entry signs would force all inbound traffic entering the town from Thaxted and Debden Roads across to the west, down Borough Lane, the High Street and through the centre. This includes any traffic trying to get to Shire Hill or Tesco along the Carver Barracks / Thaxted Rd HGV route.

As the map shows, UDC is also suggesting a new link road between Radwinter and Thaxted Roads that will go through the middle of their new estate. This road would not be built until 2026 and only if the landowners donate the land and agree to it; they have not done this.

Our initial assessment

The proposals have been reviewed for WeAreResidents.org by a number of experts, including a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (MICE) and the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation (MCIHT) with specialties in feasibility, design and implementation of large-scale transport infrastructure projects. The initial analysis doesn’t paint a good picture, but we already knew that because UDC’s own evidence said building on the east of Saffron Walden was the least sustainable option.

 “Anyone who lives in Walden knows that Thaxted and London Roads regularly back-up half-a-mile. New No-Entry signs blocking Thaxted and Debden Roads will combine all that traffic with the High Street. That’s a mile of traffic at peak commute time,” said Dan Starr, Chair of WeAreResidents.org. “We’ve had a certified highways engineer look at the proposals and they just don’t work. This plan is the inevitable consequence of trying to put too many new houses on the wrong side of town.”

Dan Starr continued “The Shire Hill and Tesco accesses are even worse. Any delivery trucks coming down the HGV route past Carver Barracks will be stopped 200 metres short of the industrial park on Thaxted Rd and instead sent for a 2-mile detour down Borough Lane and the High St, then through our historic town centre. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to make the town even less desirable for employers.”

Technical review

On initial review, the main issues seem to be:

  1. One-Way Entry points don’t work, increase traffic and prevent town centre access: The proposed new one-way entry-points on key streets are geared to moving traffic from east-to-west but prevent access to the town centre from the south, including access to car parks. This will likely have an impact on local retailers as shoppers find other settlements that are easier to access. It will also increase traffic distances as the one way system forces traffic round a much longer route, causing more air quality issues;

  2. Proposals will direct traffic through the historic core of Saffron Walden: Our analysis shows that some of the biggest increases in traffic would be in the historic core of Saffron Walden, including the High St and George St. The impact is even more significant as lorries coming down the Thaxted Rd HGV route to trying to access Shire Hill, Ridgeons and Tesco will be forced down this route, which is a 2 mile detour;

  3. Poor Emergency Service Access: The emergency services are already concerned about response times and the proposed highways changes, no-entry streets and traffic signals will further exacerbate an already difficult situation;
  4. Traffic volumes underestimated: Minimum housing numbers and higher than prudent flow-to-capacity ratio thresholds have been used which seem to underplay the actual traffic impacts through Saffron Walden that the proposed developments will bring;
  5. No coherent model: The analysis and mitigation proposals are based on a number of discrete and individual analyses of isolated junctions and so aren’t able to predict the knock-on impact across the whole town;
  6. No analysis of impact to side-street: No analysis has been undertaken with regard to traffic dispersal onto secondary or tertiary routes in highly residential areas, particularly due to the no-entry signs and urban clearway on-street parking removal. Significantly impacted areas are likely to be Victoria Ave, South Rd, Winstanley Rd, Cromwell Rd, Rowntree Way, Summer Hill Rd, and Shepherds Way;
  7. Scenario without eastern Link Road required: There is no alternative model for the case where the Eastern Link Road is not secured and provisioned. A sound highways plan can’t be just based on the ‘wish’ that this piece of infrastructure is delivered. This is particularly the case because much of the housing is likely to be approved before the Link Road is built, the land is not owned by UDC, and the landowners have not committed to the road. The highways report must provide mitigation for the scenario where the housing is permitted but the link road not built.
  8. Urban clearways breach requirements to encourage sustainable transport modes: UDC has announced a number of new Urban Clearways to remove residents’ on-street parking and so speed motor traffic through the town. Residential street parking is already in critically short supply in a number of areas and speeding vehicles discourage cycling and walking, particularly on Debden Rd and Ashdon Rd. Councils are obliged to encourage walking, cycling and other sustainable transport and these proposals do the opposite;

What you can do

If you have concerns about these proposals, we suggest you:

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Posted in Essex County Council, News, Planning, Pollution and Air Quality, Spotlight Articles, Traffic, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan
6 comments on “UDC’s road proposals for Saffron Walden are flawed
  1. mattlnorth says:

    So the Traffic Plan to accompany UDC’s supposedly ’employment-led’ local plan if implemented would manage to destroy both Saffron Walden’s town centre and its industrial park in one go. Nice one Essex.

    However Uttlesford is equally to blame. How did planning officers let this get as far as publication without pointing out such obvious flaws?

    This is yet another example of the complete absence of strategic vision at the heart of UDC. Every single study like this should start with the overall long term objectives for the district and evaluate how well the recommendations deliver against them. Not just look at a tactical issue such as ‘how to keep traffic moving’ whilst ignoring the bigger picture. Another FAIL from Uttlesford I’m afraid.

  2. Dan says:

    Fantastic, it is great to see UDC taking the idea of urban clearways seriously. These is a cheap and most effective solution with minimal impact.

    • Dan Starr says:

      Improving traffic flow is good provided that on-street parking places are still left for residents and there are specific calming measures to stop cars driving at 40-50 mph past people’s front doors (as happens on the Debden Road clearway today).

      • Dan says:

        To me having Peaslands Road/Mount Pleasant/Borough Lane as an Urban Clearway is still a good idea. I think the arguments against are pretty weak and come off as alarmist. I think it would be good to think them through a bit more. There might be a genuine concern but I don’t think so.

        Speed control – good idea. Yep cars going at 40-50 mph is a bad idea but I think it is unlikely to happen. A couple speed bumps/ raised crossings would prevent that anyway.

        Pedestrian safety – I believe a clearway would actually make the road safer for pedestrians due to the lack of parked cars obscuring the drivers’ view of the road. People trying to cross the road between cars are particularly in danger. At the moment the main danger would be something like a car hitting someone after mounting the pavement to squeeze past due to parked cars or someone getting hit after not looking when opening their own car door,

        Traffic racing past people’s front doors – not with speed controls and anyway the houses in these streets do not have front doors opening straight onto the road, most have gardens /drive which brings me onto another point:

        Lack of residents parking. – Drive down Peaslands Road/Mount Pleasant at 10pm at night or even 6am in the morning. There will be very few cars parked. Why? because the residents do not park on the road. It is only during the day that the roads have cars parked along them. It is not the residents that park there so this is a red herring. I would have thought an urban clearway would only be for peak times anyway.

        You could argue as well of course that having freely moving traffic would reduce pollution as car having to wait for other cars to pass parked cars at the moment is where the pollution will build up.

  3. Neil Hargreaves says:

    For Newport the Highways report shows 60 houses up to 2026 on Bury Water Lane /Whiteditch Lane (table 2.5). The adjusted draft plan says 100 plus a care complex. We already have outline permission for 89 houses plus an equivalent of 48 for the care complex ie 137. Where do the highways people get 60 from? Its never been in any document. The Carnation Nurseries development is ignored completely

    So unsurprisingly all Newport’s junctions will be fine for the next 13 years. This is from the same people gushingly welcomed at the 2nd October Planning Committee who said that the lanes accessing the 2 developments were too narrow to fit any computer model but could still take 2500 vehicles per hour (!) No committee member questionned this nonsense.

    Maybe just as well that Essex Highways don’t want to touch Newport. Evidence from our new crossing (now being moved) is they can’t be trusted to put alterations in the right place. Based on the Walden proposals we would have the High Street an urban clearway thus damaging local businesses, removing residents parking and making the place into race track between traffic jams

    No wonder UDC were desperate to keep this report secret

  4. We can only assume that these proposals have been made so radical that almost any alternative will seem acceptable. We need to be REDUCING traffic speeds throughout the town. People should be put first, not vehicles. Saffron Walden should be renowned as a safe place to live or visit. It is crazy that there isn’t a 20mph zone in all residential areas. The idea of Peaslands Road/Mount Pleasant/Borough Lane being an Urban Clearway fills me with horror. Anyone who has seen the large numbers of schoolchildren jostling along the narrow pavements will know that this is a serious accident just waiting to happen.

Comments are closed.

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