by prestwichfocus on 29 March, 2016
Last week Bury Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee met to consider a ‘call-in’ or review of the Council’s recent decision to proceed with ‘Option 1’ on Bury New Road in Prestwich.
The decision was to reject the ‘call in’, and the decision of the Council will be unchanged.
Myself and Councillor Mary D’Albert/a> were at the meeting to observe, here’s their report.
Background to the Scheme
There was quite a lot of discussion about the the purpose of the whole scheme and the hope that spending money on Bury New Road would ‘kickstart’ regeneration in Prestwich. Obviously investment in Prestwich is really welcome, as long as it is appropriate for our community. On a couple of occasions the Leader of the Council said that there would be an ‘announcement in the future’ about Prestwich, so we will have to wait and see what that is!
Improving Prestwich as a great place to live is everyone’s priority. But the meeting confirmed even more to us that this scheme is not right for Bury New Road in its current form.
Interestingly Officers told the Committee that they had been to look at other schemes, including Cheetham Hill Road and Chapel Road in Salford, before designing the scheme. We are not sure either are good role models for Bury New Road.
We asked a number of questions about the public consultation. Firstly, we asked why nobody was asked in the consultation about issues of congestion. As all of us know, Bury New Road is a nightmare to drive up for long parts of day, most days of the week. Traffic jams can start as far back as Hilton Lane, and traffic trying to get onto Bury New Road can be backed up significantly (e.g. right up Poppythorn Lane).
The consultation ONLY asked questions about things that were actually in the scheme – wider pavements, parking bays, closing Warwick Street etc. If residents wanted to say something different we were only left with the ‘other comments’ section, and these other comments have not been published.
We also asked about why this consultation had then been ignored. The response to the consultation was significant, much more than the consultation on the Council’s budget proposals for the whole of Bury. Even though the questions were only about the actual scheme proposed, people still said no:
– the consultation said no to wider payments (that wider pavements were not important)
– the consultation said no to parking bays
– the consultation said no to closing Warwick Street
But the scheme agreed has done all of these things.
The response from the Leader of the Council was that this was a ‘consultation, not a referendum’, and that the council had taken a view on the scheme as a whole.
Traffic, Parking and Air Pollution
A lot was asked about issues of traffic flow, parking and air pollution.
The council has, with Transport for Greater Manchester, done ‘traffic modelling’ of the scheme to see what the impact would be.
Apparently, there is little impact for much of the day on the current situation (the one where traffic backs up to Hilton Lane….).
The report goes on to say that with careful traffic light sequencing, particularly at Fairfax Road, the journey time can be brought down. This rings massive alarm bells for us, at the moment Fairfax Road is a nightmare and traffic can very quickly be backed up right down it and back onto Highfield Road, Poppythorn Lane, Heys Road and Rectory Lane. If the traffic light sequencing is to reduce the exit time for Fairfax Road (and Chester Street), this sounds crazy.
Councillors also asked about parking. Apparently the scheme originally allowed for parking bays for around 36 cars on Bury New Road. This is going to be reduced by ‘a few’ to allow for more trees. Our view is that we should make more use of off-street parking, for example more ‘short stay only’ parking, and leave the road as a safe space for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
One councillor asked about air pollution. The answer really worried us, apparently we don’t know what the impact on air pollution will be, but measurements will be taken before and then taken afterwards to see what has happened! The logic is that traffic which is moving emits less air pollution that standing traffic, but this doesn’t seem to make sense with the extra 4 minutes in the rush hour outlined above.
We asked a number of questions about cycle lanes.
Our view is that it is important to make all roads safe for cycling, and this doesn’t just mean ‘super experienced’ cyclists, but also encourage more people to use cycles to go about their daily business.
The scheme has cycle lanes immediately on the inside of parking bays and bus lay-bys. (IE squeezed between the parking bay and the main carriageway.) We believe this is dangerous – if a car door opens in the parking bay immediately in front of the cyclist then there is a real danger of the cyclist being flung from their bike. What probably happens in this circumstance is that cyclists DON’T USE the cycle lane, but cycle in the main carriageway meaning that we have a very expensive white elephant down our high street.
Transport for Greater Manchester, who are paying £500,000 towards this scheme, have very clear design guidelines for cycle lanes. They say that if you are going to have cycle lanes on the inside of a parking bay, then you need to have a gap (presumably the width of a car door) to make the cycle lane safe. The current scheme doesn’t meet these guidelines in our view.
The response from the Leader of the Council was that the scheme could be ‘tweaked’ to look at this issue further, with further discussions with cyclists and T4GM. Our option which was put forward was that there should only be a cycle lane in one direction (southbound).
We were also told that the A56 is not the ‘designated cycling commuter route’, and that this is Bury Old Road. We are not experienced cyclists, but Cheetham Hill Road doesn’t feel like a very safe place to cycle.
We came out of the meeting even more convinced that this is the wrong scheme for Bury New Road. We DO need investment, but the scheme needs some significant changes if it is to give us the high street we need and deserve.
Two Labour Councillors from Prestwich proposed that no comment or changes to the proposal were to be made. The final vote was 8 (Labour) councillors in favour, 3 (Conservative) councillors against. (There is, presently, no Lib Dem member of this committee – we shared out committee spaces among smaller parties, and this is place is taken by Bury’s sole Green Party councillor, who was not there.)
We are going to connote to campaign to get the best scheme for Prestwich. Please do let me know what your views are: email@example.com Comments