COMMENT: Isn’t it time for a joined-up review of local transport needs?
Bucks County Council is to produce a new Traffic and Transport Study for Iver. But, six years after it produced its last one, is it just going to repeat the same mistakes?
In the face of HEx, Crossrail, SIFE, Heathrow, and the Smart Motorway, the Colnbrook Community Association has been, for some time, highlighting the cumulative impacts of different schemes impacting local villages. Its stance has been to call on communities and scheme proponents to work together.
That call seemed obvious but, so far, nothing has happened. The Department of Transport has appeared reticent to offer the necessary coordination while elected representatives have apparently been unwilling to engage in dialogue with peers outside their own borders.
Worse, while local authorities, the big infrastructure projects, and the Department of Transport fail to coordinate, local councils themselves are creating additional problems for each other.
Slough was powerless to intervene last year when Windsor & Maidenhead Council approved an application by CEMEX to extract gravel at Riding Court Farm, Datchet, sending 286 HGVs a day onto Slough roads. The same company wants to route more HGVs through Brands Hill if it gains permission to quarry the former Langley Airfield site.
HGV movements – whether associated with infrastructure projects or, more generally, with freight – is clearly not an issue that can be considered within narrow geographical confines. The massive SIFE development would have clogged up more than just the Colnbrook By-Pass with a million HGV trips annually, apparently in the national interest.
The need for consideration of cumulative impact was, most recently, upheld by the SIFE public inquiry. While the appeal Inspector herself ruled out considering the impact of a Third Runway the Secretary of State agreed with her finding that base traffic flows on the A4 at Brands Hill “may increase over and above the predicted growth due to the implementation of other schemes” already under way.
The limitations of this proposal include the cost … as well as the need for the agreement of Slough Borough Council as the route is cross boundary. However, their agreement may not be forthcoming as this new road would increase the numbers of HGVs using Slough’s roads.
Last year the relocation of the Heathrow Express depot from Old Oak Common to Langley station as part of HS2 prompted Iver residents to renew their long-running demand for an Iver Relief Road. A number of petitions were submitted to Parliament setting out a route that would divert HGVs through Brands Hill to the M4.
Slough objected to the HEx construction traffic routing on the grounds that air quality at Brands Hill would suffer, although it failed to set out an alternative route for HGVs in its own petition to counter those proposed by other councils. It later withdrew its own petition after reaching a financial settlement with HS2.
In March, the Slough-backed Western Rail Access to Heathrow published plans to close Hollow Hill Lane, blocking off a major rat-run between the M4 and M40. 867 signed an online petition calling for the proposal to be scrapped unless an alternative route from “the north-west of the Ivers through to the Colnbrook / Heathrow and M4 areas” could be built.
The WRAtH project itself said the Department of Transport should do more to coordinate between schemes, and said that it is was constrained by planning rules that restrict the degree to which development can be coordinated before they have approvals in place.
This is not the first attempt by Bucks to tackle the problems of HGVs in The Ivers, however. A Transport Paper published in March 2010 considered various options for a relief road, but stopped short of immediate backing:
“Transport for Buckinghamshire supports the proposals in the emerging Core Strategy, which aim to reduce the number of HGV movements generated by the four industrial sites in the Iver/Richings Park area. If successfully implemented, this approach appears to offer the most realistic and cost effective option to reduce the levels of HGV movements within the Iver/Richings Park area”.
“However, should such measures prove unsuccessful, or other opportunities arise, Transport for Buckinghamshire would support in principle the provision of a relief road (or alternative means of access to the industrial sites) – whilst making it clear that public funding is unlikely to be available in the foreseeable future”.
It also noted that it would be unlikely to secure the agreement of Slough Borough Council.
“The limitations of this proposal include the cost of infrastructure such as a new bridge as well as the need for the agreement of Slough Borough Council as the route is cross boundary. However, their agreement may not be forthcoming as this new road would increase the numbers of HGVs using Slough’s roads”.
Bucks County Council’s commissioning of another study to look at the problems of a narrow geographical area in isolation from other areas is surely destined to be a futile exercise.
Not only are the problems experienced by The Ivers shared by its immediate neighbours, but so will any solution be dependent on a strategic response and close cooperation.