As most residents in the area will know by now, Sandpits Avenue will be closed to buses from this Thursday, 24 November 2022 to 24 February 2023. The 701 service, instead of turning onto Sandpits Road and travelling along the Avenue onto Housman Crescent and Sidney Road to join Sheet Road, will instead continue along Sandpits Road and turn onto Gravel Hill and then joining the existing route on Station Drive.
This creates a problem for residents on Sandpits Avenue and Close, Housman Crescent and Sidney Road. Instead of 21 buses a day on their doorstep, they will have to walk to Sandpits Road or to Sheet Road instead.
This work, which is upgrade power supplies, is essential to allow the houses on Sandpits Road and Close to be refurbished. We need to improve scarce housing stock and ensure the strong community in this area can continue to live there.
But this is very difficult closure for the residents of Sandpits Avenue.
Tracey Huffer and I met with National Grid, Shropshire Council’s highways team and Minsterley Motors last week. We have reluctantly agreed that Sandpits Avenue cannot be used for the regular bus service during the three months. We looked at so many options but none worked except a full closure for buses, though not other vehicles.
The problem is the width of the bus and frequency of the service. Retaining the service during the roadworks would lead to frequent disruption of the works, potentially extending the works by weeks. National Grid has given a commitment to complete the works as quickly as possible.
Cars and vans will have access to Sandpits Avenue at all times. Residents will be able to park on their drives but not always be able to park near to their house on the road. Special arrangements will be made for the waste and recycling trucks (six a month) and emergency vehicles will have access at all times. But there are more than 500 buses a month along Sandpits Avenue (every thirty minutes six days a week). Accommodating them would significantly disrupt the work.
The 701 bus service is well used. It picks up a lot of people who have limited mobility and may not be able to walk to the bus stops on Sandpits Road or Sheet Road. Sidney Road and Housman Crescent have steep slopes. Not everyone will be able to manage those slopes. Walking to alternative bus stops may also be particularly difficult in the winter if we get snow and ice.
Tracey Huffer has been looking at options to help over the last few days. One option could be the Ludlow Traveller which could get along Sandpits Avenue through the roadworks. That will be tested later in the week and we will publish more information as soon as we have it.
Those that walk down to Sheet Road are advised to use the bus stop by Sidney Road Green and get the 722 out of town towards the Eco Park. This will return into town a few minutes later. The 722 will also pick up on the opposite side of the road on the verge by the railway. We have asked for a hardstand to be installed here for the duration, as this verge quickly becomes a muddy patch in weather like that we are having today. We do not advise crossing Sheet Road unless you are nibble on your feet.
The works are occurring because the housing association Connexus is due to modernise 77 homes on Sandpits Avenue and Close. This is a major construction operation and will inevitably be disruptive. No residents will be evicted or required to move out elsewhere permanently. But they will be shuffled between houses on Sandpits while the work takes place over the next couple of years.
That is causing concern for many residents but refurbishing the houses, which don’t even have a cavity in the wall let alone cavity insulation, is the only way to prevent damp, black mould and to reduce energy bills. There is also a real risk that the houses might at some point become unfit for habitation. Then they could be threatended with demolition and that would be bad for residents and the environment.
This will be a very disruptive time for residents on Sandpits. But the end result will better homes and homes that are cheaper to run. We wish though that Connexus and the power company had thought through the impacts of restrictions on buses and other traffic before they agreed the arrangements.
We will work with the bus company, Connexus and National Grid to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum and residents are kept informed.