In what appears to be a significant about-turn in policy, South Gloucestershire councillors who will meet next Wednesday (16th October) to decide whether to make permanent the “experimental” closure of Highwood Road to general traffic, have been told to base their decision only on “relevant transport considerations” and to take no account of the potential cost to the council.
A report prepared ahead of the meeting, which takes place at Patchway Community College (7pm start), warns that the consideration of irrelevant factors could expose the council’s decision to a challenge by judicial review.
Previous reports on the matter, presented in June 2012 and September 2013, have given considerable weight to estimated costs of around £1.25 million that the council’s officers say would be incurred in the event that the road is re-opened to general traffic.
The latest report also puts less emphasis on the risk that the government might fail to confirm approval for the £102 million North Fringe to Hengrove bus rapid transit scheme, should the road be re-opened. Instead, it quantifies the potential fall in projected passenger numbers on the bus rapid transit scheme that would result from Highwood Road being re-opened at between 7% and 10% (for the Cribbs Causeway to Bradley Stoke section of the route). This would make the scheme less attractive to bus operators and the reduction in passenger numbers would lead to traffic congestion, claims the report’s author Steve Evans, South Gloucestershire Council’s Director of Environment & Communities.
An appendix to the report reveals that an independent traffic survey commissioned by the council has confirmed previous findings that levels of traffic on Coniston Road have not increased significantly compared to those recorded in 2008/9 (i.e. before the opening of Hayes Way), although the same data also shows that levels have increased by 41% since January 2012 (prior to the closing of Highwood Road).
A petition started by Patchway Mayor Chris Mills, calling for Highwood Road to be re-opened to non-commercial general traffic, had attracted 1,069 online signatures at the time this article was published.