Crest Nicholson has submitted a planning application to create an access from the A49 to the proposed development of 137 homes at Foldgate Lane. To meet national road safety guidelines, the A49 must be widened by 1.7 metres to accommodate a ghost island for traffic turning right into the development. An extensive visibility splay is needed for traffic leaving the site.
The main casualty of this is more than 100 young-mature and semi-mature trees. There is a plan in place for replacement trees but these will take some time to mature, during which time at least a dozen homes will suffer undesirable traffic noise and air pollution.
Any tree removal is likely to be controversial in the current febrile debate about the growing practice of hedge netting. If this development is to go ahead, and many people wish it would not, it seems there is no other option other than removal of the trees. But that must not happen until the nesting season ends.
The application comes after extensive discussions between the developer, Shropshire Council and Highways England. The housing scheme was approved by a planning inspector after a long battle against the proposal by residents, councillors and Ludford Parish Council. Initially, it was thought that access from the A49 was covered by the initial planning permission. Highways England, however, insisted on significant changes to the access to improve visibility and accommodate a ghost island in the middle of the A49 for right turning traffic. After some legal discussions, it was agreed the change was substantial enough to require a new planning application for the T-Junction (19/01190/FUL).
The A49 at this point is 9.3 metres wide. It will be widened to 11.0 metres. This will lead to extensive loss of tree cover, especially on the west side where “additional width of 4.75 metres of clearance would be required beyond the existing highway boundary, and all vegetation within the embankment would be removed.”
The aim is to meet national standards for access to and from 60mph trunk roads. The developer is, however, seeking a “Departure from Standards” after its highway consultants said that “the visibility requirement cannot be provided to the north due to limitations of available land.”
This means that construction traffic and future residents wishing to turn right out of the development towards Hereford will not see vehicles accelerating south from the Sheet roundabout as early as Department for Transport standards demand. I don’t feel this scheme is safe. I have never thought a T-Junction onto the A49 could be safe.
The current plans reduce the loss of trees and hedging compared to the proposals in September 2018, though nearly 400 metres of trees and hedging will be still removed. Previously it was proposed that around two-thirds of a 100-metre length of hawthorn hedge on the east side of the A49 would be removed, along with early mature sycamore and ash trees. That has been dropped from the current application.
A band of replacement trees will be planted between the new housing and the A49. This will vary in width from eight metres to 13.8 metres. This replaces trees and hedging about 18 metres wide. Planting on the east side of the A49 will be between 2.2 metres and 9.3 metres wide, replacing hedging three to 12 metres wide. Compared to the earlier plans, the developer proposes to increase the number of the Oak and Hornbeam trees and to allow enough space between each tree for successful maturity over the longer term. Other trees will include birch, crab apple, wild cherry and rowan.
The understorey planting has been reduced to limit competition with the specimen trees and to reduce future maintenance. It will contain dogwood, hazel, hawthorn and dog rose. The embankment will be sown with ryegrass and a wildflower mix.
Gardens of the houses nearest the road will be separated from the new plating by a hazel hurdle panel fence.
It will take more than a decade for the planting to become established. During this time residents in at least a dozen houses will suffer undesirable traffic noise and air pollution.
It is difficult to be happy with this application. It is equally difficult to see what alternative there is.