A Patchway Town Councillor has launched a petition to keep Highwood Road open to general traffic, in opposition to South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) plan to restrict the central section of the road to buses and cycles.
Cllr Chris Mills, Chair of the Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee, wants non-commercial traffic, i.e. cars and motorcycles, to be allowed to join buses and cycles on the main road that is currently being changed from dual to single carriageway by contractors working for the District Council.
Without the change, Cllr Mills claims the back streets of Patchway will be turned into rat runs.
Local residents need to be able to transit from one end of Patchway to the other without driving around Coniston Avenue, adds the Town Councillor.
Around twenty protesters gathered at the junction of Sycamore Drive and Highwood Road last Saturday morning to demonstrate their support for Cllr Mills’ petition, many carrying “Keep Highwood Road Open” posters that triggered hoots of approval from several passing motorists.
The group included eight Patchway Town Councillors, two of whom represent Patchway ward on SGC.
Signature forms for the petition are available at many of the shops in Rodway Road, Patchway Autoparts and the newsagents in Chelford Grove, Stoke Lodge. The petition can also be signed online via this page on the SGC website: http://bit.ly/keep-highwood-road-open
Speaking at the protest, Cllr Mills told The Journal:
“We’ve tried since May last year to get SGC to talk to us. They’ve refused to listen to us. They keep saying they can’t discuss it until after the results of the consultation are known.”
[Ed: According to SGC’s website, they’re still “analysing the received comments” from the October 2011 consultation, even though construction work on the scheme has been underway since November 2011.]
Cllr Mills went on to say:
“The Town Council had a meeting with Sarah Tucker (of SGC’s Major Sites Team) prior to our September 2011 Council meeting, where she was giving us a report on the Charlton Hayes development and the associated S106 agreement for community facilities. As she sat down, her opening words were: ‘I’m not here to talk about Highwood Road’.”
“The fact that a senior officer refused to talk about something that is upsetting the residents of Patchway is disgraceful. They don’t want to talk to the Town Council – they’ve made that very clear. The only way the people of Patchway are going to get anywhere is if they talk directly to SGC.”
Referring to Cllr Brian Allinson, SGC’s Exective Member for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment, Cllr Mills added:
“Personally, I would like everyone in Patchway to send Cllr Brian Allinson a letter complaining about Highwood Road. They have to listen to the residents of Patchway.”
“SGC appear to be a law unto themselves. Who in their right mind would put up all these new houses [in Charlton Hayes] and then close the main artery road through the area? It’s ridiculous. They’ve removed the dual carriageway – that’s fine – but this is a perfectly serviceable two-way road.”
Cllr Mills also voiced concerns about the distance people living in the “birds and trees” roads (Sycamore Drive etc.) will have to travel in order to access the shops on Rodway Road once access onto Highwood Road from that area is closed off.
Cllr Sam Scott, a Town Councillor and SGC member for Patchway ward, who also took part in Saturday’s demonstration, told The Journal:
“With the amount of traffic likely to generated in the area, it’s vital that we have two major link roads to The Mall. Traffic from new developments added to that already generated from Patchway, Stoke Lodge , Bradley Stoke and Filton simply cannot be handled by Hayes Way alone.”
“Hayes Way and Highwood Road have worked really well together. The Mall block-up hasn’t been as bad as previous years since both roads have been open.”
“It’s a good idea to keep both open. Highwood Road doesn’t have to be dual carriageway but can be open to passenger traffic in a 20mph zone alongside the linear park.”
Cllr Scott added that he had raised the Highwood Road issue at a number of SGC Planning, Transport Strategic Environment Select Committee meetings. He has also asked planning officers for their reasoning behind the closure and says that he disagrees with their response, adding that he will continue to push for changes.
He went on:
“The administration at SGC preaches localism, which is getting local people involved in decisions. The fact that’s it ignoring the overwhelming results of the consultation shows that it’s not actually practising localism and is instead supporting positions that favour developers. It should respond to the views of local people and actually engage with the local community and keep Highwood Road open.”
Members of the public taking part in the protest echoed the fear that Coniston Road will become a rat run once Highwood Road is closed. One resident claimed that half the length of Coniston Road is full of potholes, adding that the road would not be able to take the extra traffic.
Another resident complained about the state of Stroud Road, which SGC says is not due to be resurfaced for another two years. The road is full of potholes and has worn down to the concrete in places, she added.
The same resident voiced fears for the future of Patchway estate’s bus services, saying:
“This road is not joining two estates together, it’s splitting them totally. We’ll get to the state where Coniston Road will not be used for buses and the whole of the estate will not have a bus service.”
A letter written by Cllr Brian Allinson to Cllr Dave Tiley of Patchway Town Council in February 2012 claims SGC has carried out “extensive public consultation [on the Highwood Road closure], which is available on the Council’s website”.
With regard to concerns about potential rat-running along Coniston Road, Cllr Allinson says “it’s unclear why motorists would chose to take the longer route via Coniston Road rather than use the shorter Hayes Way route”, an assertion said to be backed up by “the extensive traffic modelling that has been carried out to date”.
In the “unlikely event” that problems do arise along Coniston Road, Cllr Allinson says the [Charlton Hayes] developer has provided funds to mitigate any impact.
Photo: Protesters gather at the Junction of Sycamore Drive and Highwood Road (click on image for larger version).
Read more: Highwood Road Linear Park (The Journal)