Councillors need more information on road safety

Date: Tuesday 16th May 2017

Sir, I am taking the unusual step of referring to an agenda item of the Eden District Council (EDC) planning committee before the meeting is held on 18th May.

The item in question, ref. 17/0204, is the application to discharge a condition placed on Story Homes regarding its development adjoining Salkeld Road, Penrith.

The condition required that the design of a gateway feature, aimed at reducing traffic speeds, would be submitted to the planning committee for approval. This has been done and it is now in the hands of the committee to determine.

The background to this issue is that residents are deeply concerned with the safety issues that will arise when the new development is constructed. The committee recognised this fact at its meeting when the development was approved and asked that the design be brought back for approval. So far, so good.

Unfortunately the report which recommends approval and will be going before councillors next week is sadly lacking of the information that is needed to make a sound decision. Studying that report I have extracted the following deficiencies:

1) There is no response from Cumbria Highways and the report states that its input will be verbally given at the meeting. This is totally unacceptable as one asks how can EDC officers recommend approval when they don’t know what the “experts” have to say? To give a verbal report at the meeting does not allow councillors sufficient time to consider the implications.

2) There is no response reported from Penrith Town Council, and again how can the committee recommend approval without this information? I have since learned that the town council has responded but the report has not been updated. Why?

3) The report does not give any indication of the design of the proposed gateway feature other than it will be similar to that on the A6 near Pennyhill Park. How can councillors consider it to be suitable without that design detail?

4) There is much emphasis on the traffic coming into Penrith to justify the feature. The data on traffic speeds supplied by Cumbria Highways shows that the problem is with traffic both entering and leaving the town. In fact, the worst problem is with traffic leaving the town.

5) There is no evidence supplied whatsoever that the feature will slow traffic. It should be easy to get some idea by examining the data arising from the installation of the feature on the A6. The data should show the traffic speeds, volumes, etc, both before and after the installation.

6) A major concern with residents is that traffic heading uphill will be impeded by traffic slowing to enter one of the four entrances to the new estate and they will go to the other side of the road to overtake the turning vehicle. The problem with that is that there are several entrances to existing properties where vehicles will be backing out, thus a collision is very much on the cards.

7) The proposal is to move the 30mph limit further up the hill. The problem with that is that it will give drivers more time to accelerate up the hill before coming to the gateway feature.

I have used this road for some 20 years and in that time I have witnessed the issues that residents raise.

It would be sensible for the committee to withdraw this item until the above matters have been properly evaluated. I trust that the chairman will agree. If, however, the item is progressed I would hope that the committee will understand the problems and refer it back to officers.

Past experience does not give me much in the way of confidence that this will happen and this may be due to the grossly inadequate training (a morning brief by council officers) given to councillors who sit on this very important body.

If by submitting this letter I have trod on a few toes I am sorry, but my first responsibility is to the community that I represent. Yours etc,

ROBIN HOWSE

(EDC councillor, Penrith North)

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