A petition to stop South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) closing Patchway’s Highwood Road to general traffic has reached a critical milestone this week by attracting more than 2,500 signatures of support.
Supporters of the campaign to keep the road open launched the petition at the beginning of March and by Wednesday this week it had been signed by 2,557 people. Of that total, 617 had been registered electronically through the Council’s website, with the remainder being collected on forms available in shops and community centres throughout the town.
Passing the 2,5000 threshold, means that the matter will now have to be debated at a full meeting of the Council, a right enshrined in its Petition Scheme implemented under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.
The concept that Highwood Road should be “scaled down from a dual carriageway into a single carriageway and become a dedicated bus corridor” was enshrined in the 2003 planning application for the Filton Aerodrome North Field mixed-use development (now known as Charlton Hayes). A detailed planning application for the so-called ‘Highwood Road Linear Park’ was approved in February 2011 and work on the project get underway in September 2011.
With work already in progress, a public consultation on the proposed traffic management changes took place in October 2011, the results of which have only just been published by the Council (on 2nd April 2012). A total of 65 comments were received: 43 from residents or business owners located in the Patchway area, 19 by residents who are regular commuters through Patchway and two from local Councillors. Forty-five of the responses were categorised as objections. A petition signed by approximately 700 residents in the Patchway area was also submitted.
Objectors to the scheme say it would be foolish to close the road to general traffic because the local road network has been working well since the opening of the Hayes Way relief road, fearing the return of congestion caused by vehicles travelling to/from The Mall. They also claim that parts of Patchway will be cut off from local services on Rodway Road, making it easier to travel to The Mall rather than supporting local shops and services. Many also predict that Coniston Road will be turned in to a ‘rat run’ once Highwood Road is closed.
In its response, SGC rejects all 45 objections, stating that the proposal has “been subject to careful traffic modelling”, adding that it is “very confident that there will be no material change to traffic levels on Coniston Road.”
The only concession given to the objectors is a promise that:
“… if all of the modelling proves to be wrong and members of the public are correct then Highwood Road can be reopened to all traffic.”
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said this week:
“The long-standing proposal to close Highwood Road to general traffic is essential to ensure the integration of the existing and new communities in the Patchway area and to significantly enhance the visual amenity of the immediate area whilst ensuring the maximum benefit to the local community from the new Linear Park.”
“If Highwood Road remains open to general traffic, it will continue to be a very busy road which will inhibit local people using the park and create a physical barrier to movement across the two communities.”
“The council is working with local members to address issues being raised by the local community as a direct result of the works being undertaken and will continue to monitor the impact of the changes.”
Patchway Town Councillors promoting the petition refute the claim that SGC is working with local Councillors, saying that it has refused to engage with them on the grounds that public consultation is still in progress.
Cllr Sam Scott, who is both a Town Councillor and a District Councillor for Patchway Ward, said:
”South Gloucestershire has long emphasised its commitment to democracy and consultation as part of its commitment to achieving a quality council and four star status. This petition has been signed by over half the electorate of my ward, the residents who are most impacted by the proposed road changes.”
“It is my firm belief, and that of both my Labour and Conservative colleagues that these proposals will create a barrier for further community integration with the new community of Charlton Hayes by reducing the capacity for Rodway Road to develop as the community centre for ALL of Patchway.”
Research by The Journal has revealed that SGC received two formal objections during the recent public consultation on the proposed traffic order needed to convert Highwood Road into a dedicated bus lane. The Council says it will now consider the objections and expects to make a decision in June.
An SGC Highways officer attending last week’s meeting of the Patchway Safer and Stronger Communities Group would not be drawn into discussion about the reasons for closing Highwood Road, which he said had been promoted by the Council’s Planning Department rather than the Highways Department who are tasked with implementing the scheme. He added that “there may be issues from the developer (Bovis Homes) if the road stays open – they have spent a lot of money on it,” referring to that fact that the roadworks are being funded through a ‘Section 106’ agreement attached as a condition on the planning permission for the Charlton Hayes new neighbourhood.
Photo: Protesters gather at the Junction of Sycamore Drive and Highwood Road last month.
A further demonstration is planned to take place at the same location this Saturday, 28th April 2012, at 10am.
Read more: Highwood Road Linear Park (The Journal)