“Recommendation – do not approve.” That’s the view of the highways consultants retained by Shropshire Council to examine the traffic impacts of plans for 200 homes south of Rocks Green. They join conservationists, ecologists and Highways England have also objected to the current scheme for the site.
There is little doubt that homes will be built on this site at some point. At the moment though, it is looking like the submitted plans might not get approval. The developers might have to radically revise them or withdraw the application and submit a new set of plans.
WSP is an international company and locally provides highways consultancy for Shropshire Council. It was asked to comment on the planning application for 200 homes south of Rocks Green. This greenfield site is allocated for housing in the local plan, SAMDev. That means that it will be developed at some point in the next several years. The stumbling block is the current design. WSP’s recommendation to Shropshire Council reads:
“Do Not Approve – the application has failed to demonstrate that the new highway infrastructure (including simple priority junction and pedestrian/cycle routes) is acceptable for the scale of development proposed. Also, that the impact of this proposed development can be appropriately mitigated within the existing highway network.”
The detailed report says that planning application has failed to explain what impact the development on the local highway network. It says that the T-junction proposed from the new estate on the A4177 is not appropriate for the location and size of development, especially as there will be future expansion of the site. The current plans are unsuitable for HGVs turning left out of the site. The estate road at the junction is not wide enough and this will lead to clashes between vehicles entering and leaving the site.
WSP is calling for a “ghost island”. It says a roundabout should be considered because it will also reduce speed along the A4117. The developer should pay £10,000 to the council so that the 40mph speed limit so that the A4117 passing the site can be reduced to 30mph.
I have said before that the developers have underestimated the distance from the site to key facilities. WSP agree:
“It is considered that the [application] misrepresents the closeness of some key destinations. For example, if you walk 2km from the centre of the site you only get as far as The Bullring and the secondary school is actually a 2.5km walk away. Also, the pedestrian access to the nearest Junior School is not very direct unless you use the [rights of ways] network, which is potentially impassable or unattractive route during poor weather conditions.”
The company says the footpath that links the site to Parys Road has steep steps either side of the A49 with no crossing assistance for pedestrians. “It is considered inappropriate for use by children.” The pelican crossing on the A49 should be upgraded to at least a toucan crossing.
Turning to buses, WSP says it wants to see:
“A more comprehensive assessment of the bus services that are available to the residents of this development, how they can access them (and how attractive this access is) and what potential there is for any extension / diversion of existing services.”
WSP is not convinced the site is sustainable:
“The report overstates the sustainability of the location as it fails to recognise the reality of the actual journey distances to some amenities, the usability of many of the sustainable transport routes that it highlights as well as the physical and physiological significance of it being separated from the town by the A49 (T) bypass.”
In a separate comment on the application, Ludford Parish Council said Shropshire Council should request a footbridge over the A49. A roundabout should be installed on the A4117 before the construction begins. Councillors also want further information on the public open spaces and the balancing pond, and how these will be maintained.
Shropshire Council’s right of way team has expressed concern about increased use of the footpath between the site and Parys Road. This crosses the A49 south of the pelican crossing using two flights of steps. There are no markings or lights on the A49. The rights of way team says: “The steps are not appropriate for this increased usage, especially for schoolchildren using the route to get to school.”
The best way of summarising all these objections that the applicant, Pickstone Homes, is being told to go back to the drawing board on this site. It is the choice of the developer, advised by Shropshire Council’s planning team, as to whether to revise the current application or submit a new one. It looks like a complete rethink is needed to me.
. Ghost island: An area of central cross hatching that separates oncoming traffic, reducing traffic speed and providing safe right-turning areas.
. The developers seem to have suspected they might be told to have a better junction on the A4117 than the simple T-junction proposed. They have purchased a strip of land north of the A4117, which they say is to allow for any future junction improvements needed.