Application Update 27th October – Excellent news!!!

Its disappointing that Barratt Homes have not yet forwarded a copy of their notes from our meeting with them…  Hmmm… this may be to do with the factual problems highlighted being a little too inconvenient  for them to handle.

However I’m excited to let you know that the the Council’s Highways consultee comment has just been posted on the Planning website.   In a nutshell the Highways consultant recommends:

“a refusal on highway safety grounds”

This is a major body blow for Barratt Homes ridiculous application.  They’ve been found out lying and misrepresenting data.  For ease ( and your enjoyment ), I’ve reproduced the report below. Although we’ve still a long way to go, this means that the tide has turned in residents favour!  Read and enjoy!!!!!

Consultee report

“….

The applicant has amended their previous designs and supporting information, originally submitted in January 2015, as they are proposing a reduction in residential units on the site from 276 to 245. The associated Transport Assessment (TA), including potential improvements to the Meadow Lane/Longton Road (A5035) junction, have also been revised and resubmitted for appraisal.

I must note that I am aware of the overwhelming and robust objections to this proposal from the local residents and their transport consultant (PTB), which will also be taken into consideration.

Before I proceed further, I would like to give some clarification regarding the former signalised junction proposals and why this is no longer applicable. The original design showed that the whole residential estate would be accessed via a new set of signals at the Meadow Lane/Longton Road (A5035) junction. There was a fundamental concern raised by the Highway Authority and by a consequent Road Safety Audit, regarding the uncontrolled access of the Petrol Filling Station (PFS) located on Longton Road into this junction. The applicant therefore proposed advertising a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to prevent egress from the PFS. After long discussions with the Traffic Manager it was concluded that the likelihood of the TRO being successful was too remote and therefore could not be supported. This is due to the justifiable potential for objections from the operators of the PFS, mainly being that this proposal could directly affect their business, plus this private access is used for operational purposes. In addition, I spoke with the Petrol Licensing Authority (PLA). They also had concerns regarding public safety should egress from the PFS forecourt be limited. Ultimately, this could result in the PLA refusing to renew the operator’s consents/license. Due to this, the applicant now proposes widening the existing priority junction to provide a dedicated right turn lane with a stacking capacity of 5-6 vehicles.

The application site is classed as a “Greenfield Use” accessed from Chessington Crescent in Trentham, with 370 neighbouring dwellings adjacent to it. It has many constraints being bounded by the West Coast Mainline and the Trent and Mersey Canal and dissected by the Newstead Brook. The Meadow Lane/Longton Road (A5035) junction is the single point of access which will serve both the existing and proposed properties, this equates to a total of 615 units, an increase of 66%. It is not good practise to allow this number of units off one access as it leaves the site isolated if there is a serious incident at the entrance. This also has a negative effect on permeability and sustainability of the site, a point I will elaborate upon later.

Transport Assessment

There are some concerns regarding the information provided by WYG in both the original TA and their draft response to the PTB comments dated 27th August 2015. Consequently the City Council has carried out independent traffic counts and queue length surveys and sought supporting advice/assessment from Aecom to inform this appraisal.

*It should be noted that Aecom has independently assessed the submitted TA at the request of the Local Highway Authority. At the time of their assessment, however, WYGs queuing data or PCU conversions were not available to them. WYG has now submitted their queuing data to the LHA, after it was omitted from the original appendices. The LHA has now carried out an analysis of this observed queuing information and confirms that the modelling of the queues at the Longton Road/Meadow Lane junction may be underestimated in the junction models developed by WYG and AECOM.

It must be stated that the LHA does not agree with all of the opinions given by Aecom, especially in terms of sustainability, however, they have assisted in providing appropriate results to assess the
modelling of the operation of the Longton Road/Meadow Lane junction, as the City Council does not have the software used by WYG (Junctions 8).

Traffic Survey & flows

WYG carried out a traffic survey on 5th March 2015. For completeness, the City Council has also undertaken a manual turning count and queue length survey at the Longton Road/Meadow Lane/Canal Mews junction on Tuesday 29/9/15. The results have been compared against the manual turning count and queue length data collected by WYG and the data does seem to correlate on the whole.

To summarise these comparisons:

WYG’s queue lengths on all four arms of the junction seem to correspond with those we recorded taking into consideration some daily variation.

WYG identified the am peak flow to occur at 7:45-8:45 our data agrees with this peak hour.
During the am peak hour, there were 170 vehicle movements from the Meadow Lane arm of the junction, we recorded 166.
During the am peak hour, there were 871 vehicle movements from the Longton Road (West) arm of the junction, we recorded 889.
During the pm peak hour, there were 709 vehicle movements from the Longton Road (East) arm of the junction, we recorded 731.

The Canal Mews arm movements were very low, they have not listed separately for the am or pm summary.

WYG identified the pm peak flow to occur at 16:45-17:45 our data agrees with this peak hour. During the pm peak hour, there were 80 vehicle movements from the Meadow Lane arm of the junction, we recorded 73.
During the pm peak hour, there were 875 vehicle movements from the Longton Road (West) arm of the junction, we recorded 835.

During the pm peak hour, there were 832 vehicle movements from the Longton Road (East) arm of the junction, we recorded 1020. This arm of the junction does seem to have a more significant difference, with WYG vehicle movements being lower than expected.

Overall the total movements through the junction were: AM peak: 1757 (WYG), 1787
PM peak: 1794 (WYG), 1928

It is worth noting that during our survey queues were caused in the am period by the traffic lights at Stanley Matthews Way, which were backing up and affecting/influencing the junction being surveyed. Given the nature of this busy classified road, I believe that these observed queue lengths are an important factor. Although it is agreed that queue lengths can vary, I don’t believe enough consideration has been given by WYG to the actual situation on Longton Road (A5035) which could have a significant effect on delays and the operation of the Meadow Lane/Longton Road junction. It should also be noted that the Junctions 8 Software used by WYG and Aecom to calculate the junction capacity outputs does not accurately represent observed queues for the existing situation; therefore the results predicted are likely to be an underestimation.
It should be noted that the comparisons made by WYG in the TA compare the modelled maximum queues against overall average queues observed for the peak-hour rather than the maximum average queues observed in each 15-minute interval. Therefore, the information shown within the TA is not reporting like with like comparisons and therefore the inference that the models validate is not true. The baseline models, therefore, and hence the proposed junction models will all potentially be underestimating the predicted delays at the junction. For example, the maximum modelled queue on Meadow Lane is 3 PCUs (Passenger Car Units) in the AM peak-hour, however, a maximum average queue of 6 vehicles was observed in WYG’s surveys.

It should also be noted that the PCU factors used by WYG (a factor of 1 for cars and LGVs and a factor of 2 for HGVs and buses) may also be considered to be slightly underestimated. TAG Unit A5.4 recommends a PCU factor of 1 for cars and LGVs, 1.9 for rigid goods vehicles, 2.9 for articulated goods vehicles and 2.5 for buses. These lower numbers of the derived PCU flows used in the junction assessment will further add to the underestimation of delays predicted at the Meadow Lane/Longton Road A5035 junction.

To calculate background traffic growth WYG combined TEMPRO growth and committed development flows in order to generate the 2016 and 2020 baseline.

Trip Generation

WYG have used TRICS 7.2.1 database in order to calculate forecast trip generation for the proposed housing development. I can confirm that the trip rates represented in the TA by WYG are acceptable to the Highway Authority.

Junction Impact Assessment

The scope/study area of the TA was previously agreed with the HA. I believe, however that WYG’s assessment year of 2016, predicted opening, is not realistic as it unlikely for the proposed residential development to be fully implemented within these timescales and therefore the results for horizon year of 2020 are those which will be concentrated on.

WYG have used industry standard Junctions 8 and LINSG software to assess junction capacity within the agreed study area, those being:

  Meadow Lane/A5035 Longton Road/Canal Mews (Junctions 8)
  Stanley Matthews Way/A5035 Trentham Road/Alderflat Drive Signalised junction (LINSIG)
  A5035 Longton Road/Barlaston Old Road Signalised junction (LINSIG)
  New Inn Lane/A5035 Longton Road Priority Junction (Junctions 8)
  A34 Stone Road/A5035 Longton Road/Trentham Estate Roundabout (Junctions 8)

As previously stated, the Local Authority does not have Junctions 8 software; therefore we commissioned Aecom to report on this assessment work, with attention to be given to the junction of greatest concern, that being Meadow Lane/A5035 Longton Road as it is the only point of access for the development site.
The junction geometry used by WYG within their model for the Meadow Lane/A5035 Longton Road/Canal Mews junction is questionable. When carrying out their review, Aecom amended the left and right visibility values given by WYG on the Meadow Lane approach from 23m and 21m to 17m and 15 respectively. This is due to visibility being restricted by a boundary fence to the left and wall and hedge to the right. Aecom’s visibility measurements have been taken 9m back from the existing give way line and are based on DMRB Volume 6 Section 2 part 6 – TD42/95.

The carriageway widths used by WYG for A5035 Longton Road have also been called into question especially for the proposed junction improvement as it is measured at 8.5m in the TA and in the draft rebuttal at 10.10m resulting in the capacity issues at this junction disappearing. As I understand it, in either scenario the applicant does not intend on widening Longton Road. Aecom measurements are 7.0m wide, so can WYG explain why this alters? If it does, why is it not reflected on a plan? Please discuss.

It should be noted that the results of WYG’s junction model assessment reported in the TA are discussed in further detail below as the information reported in the draft rebuttal is not considered to be an accurate representation of the actual geometry of the proposed junction.

The Aecom model results, using the correct geometry and visibility splays, show significantly higher queues attempting to exit the Meadow Lane/Longton A5035 junction during the AM peak. In 2016 with the addition of the development traffic, but without a junction improvement, there is a predicted maximum queue length of 40 PCUs compared with WYG’s 20 with a maximum delay of 7.78 minutes per vehicle compared to WYG’s 3.34 minutes per vehicle. Please note, the maximum RFC (Ratio of Flow to Capacity) should be no more than 0.85. In both assessments this rises to an unacceptable value of greater than 1.3.

Again, in 2020 with development traffic – no junction improvement, Aecom’s results at the Meadow Lane/Longton Road junction double the figures provided by WYG in the AM peak, with maximum queue of 58 PCUs in comparison to 26 and maximum delays of 11.45 minutes per vehicle compared to 5.03 minutes per vehicle and an RFC in both cases being 1.51. It should be noted that the Aecom results also shows that the RFC rises to 0.91 in the PM peak at this junction as well. All over which is proving that this junction will be operating well over capacity.

WYG state that, in the 2020 scenario (with development) the existing Meadow Lane/Longton Road Junction will only operate over capacity during two single 15 minute periods in the am peak. The Aecom model suggests that it will be over capacity in all 15 minute periods with significant queues of 58 vehicles.

WYG have also stated that the junction conditions are likely to lead to peak spreading where drivers vary their departure times, however Aecom comment that due to the heavy queuing revealed through their modelling work, this “peak spread” is unlikely to have as positive an effect as suggested by WYG.

If we now look at the outputs for 2016 and 2020 with development traffic plus the inclusion of the Meadow Lane/Longton Road A5035 junction improvement, providing a right turn lane, and compare Aecom’s results to WYG’s we have the following:
2016
  WYG AM Peak – Meadow Lane – left lane – Max queue 1, max delay 0.53 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 0.60
  WYG AM Peak – Meadow Lane – right lane – Max queue 4, max delay 1.49 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 0.88
  Aecom AM Peak – Meadow Lane – left lane – Max queue 8, max delay 3.29 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 1.01
  Aecom AM Peak – Meadow Lane – right lane – Max queue 8, max delay 3.29 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 1.00

2020
  WYG AM Peak – Meadow Lane – left lane – Max queue 6, max delay 1.81 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 1.00
  WYG AM Peak – Meadow Lane – right lane – Max queue 5, max delay 2.02 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 1.00
  Aecom AM Peak – Meadow Lane – left lane – Max queue 15, max delay 5.86 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 1.20
  Aecom AM Peak – Meadow Lane – right lane – Max queue 17, max delay 5.94 minutes per vehicle, max RFC 1.18

WYG have tried to prove that any potential negative impact resulting from the development of a further 245 dwellings off this single point of access will be mitigated by the proposed junction improvements. As can be seen from the comparisons shown above and the modelling carried out by Aecom, this junction is predicted to operate significantly above the RFC threshold of 0.85 in the AM peak by 2020 with queues and delays that cannot be considered to be satisfactory. In any event we must be mindful that these results are on the optimistic side, considering that we believe the PCU factors applied to be on the low side and that the baseline model underestimates existing queues as it does not take account of other local traffic conditions (e.g. queuing back from the Stanley Matthews Way junction). Therefore the outputs are likely to be even worse than represented.

Ultimately, should the LPA be minded to grant permission to this development and the traffic situation becomes a problem as anticipated, the City Council cannot provide a solution. As previously explained, the signalisation of this junction is not workable and the situation becomes a matter of highway safety. On this basis, I believe that this does not accord with NPPF paragraph 32 – “safe and suitable access” and should therefore be resisted.

SUSTAINABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY

The TA also looks at the accessibility of the site in relation to more sustainable modes of transport. As previously stated, this development will be served by one primary access off the main highway network, Meadow Lane/Longton Road and equally one single vehicular access off Chessington
Crescent. The applicant has now included an emergency access in their design plans, however this too is sited off Chessington Crescent only a few metres from the primary entrance. The site should be more permeable with additional accesses into the site to alleviate the need for people to travel by car as advocated by MfS and Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Urban Design Guidance SPD. Another access would also prevent the properties on the first part of Meadow Lane having all vehicle traffic going past, including many years of construction traffic during the development phases.

Given that many of the walking distances are assessed using maximum distances rather than acceptable ones (as reflected in the IHT guidance) public transport should be a viable alternative. This is not the case for the vast majority of the site however, as the walking distances to bus stops are too great. The development site is remote from local facilities and constrained by the canal and railway infrastructure and without any other provision prospective residents will not be encouraged to reduce reliance upon the car.

Since the original TA was produced WYG has submitted a draft response to comments and objections from PTB. This document details how the applicant is now willing to fund a frequent 20 minute bus service for 3 years to enhance the sustainability of the new development and to benefit existing residents. Will this be a hail and ride service? How will this be secured? At which point in the development will this service be provided? Has an assessment taken place to ensure that the operators can practically negotiate the new and importantly the existing estate in a large vehicle?

The WSP TA detailed a footbridge from the development over the canal connecting the site to the adjacent residential areas in Trentham, to be closer to the local primary school, amenities and bus services. WYG argue that the benefits of the footbridge to be too small for the applicant to pursue providing this structure. It should be noted that the City Council has data regarding the usage of the canal towpath in this area which carries National Cycle Route NCN5, has this been investigated? Have talks been held with the Canals and Rivers Trust regarding delivery and benefits of a footbridge?

Comments from the Safe and Sustainable Travel Team:

Observations are concentrated on the accessibility by non-car means and specifically the following:

  What solution is being provided to address the long walking distance to bus stops?
  Can the footways on site – and specifically the Boulevard boundary path – be made shared pedestrian/cycle to further encourage younger people to cycle away from traffic? Schools

are beyond walking distance
  Can consideration be given to better connect the site with neighbouring communities? The

most practical option would seem to be a bridge over the canal to link to facilities in the New Inn Lane area and NCN5

The site appears to not meet accessibility guidance; specifically IHT Desirable and Acceptable walking distance criteria of 400/800m. It also does not appear to meet guidance contained in a number of local and national policies, including the NPPF sustainability test (e.g. paras 29, 35), as its isolation from facilities mean it is likely to be car dominated and thus not sustainable in terms of the local economy (congestion), environment (air quality) and health (little active travel option). This certainly does not accord with the LTP3, and it does not reduce the need to travel or give a travel choice as required by NPPF.
Notwithstanding the above, to reduce the need to travel the applicant could consider on site facilities – such as a shop, GP, play area – which would also benefit existing Meadow Lane estate residents who themselves have no such on-site facilities. If this is not offered then better access to existing facilities is required.

Improved pedestrian and cycle links across the canal and/or rail line would improve this considerably, particularly the former as many of the local facilities are across the canal on Pacific Road (bus service) or on/near to New Inn Lane (GP, shops). The site of the old railway line bridge could be considered as it would link to existing infrastructure although the adjacent land owner on Meadow Lane has recently secured planning permission for a single dwelling so the applicant would need to liaise with the land owner if that land were to be acquired.

Further, the only way to improve access to public transport would be to fund a bus service onto the Meadow Lane estate and the proposed development site. I don’t know if the applicant has had any dialogue with local bus operators to examine the potential for this, but they state in 3(b) of the Building for Life 12 check that the potential to provide a new bus service is ‘N/A’. I would like to know if this is because they feel there is no need for one or if there are other factors which have brought them to this conclusion, as I feel such a service is required to enable the site to meet the aforementioned guidance – *It is noted that the WYG has explained that the applicant is now in talks with a local provider.

In terms of the site itself, I would request the following:

  Footways on the main ‘boulevard’ are for mixed pedestrian and cycle use and be a minimum of 3 metres. Whilst the design speed may be low, cycling on the carriageway on main distributor roads is a barrier for many people. I understand that the transition onto the Meadow Lane estate would then require cycling on the carriageway, but it would create a better and safer facility within the site
  I don’t quite understand the purpose of the perimeter path other than for recreational/dog walking, but if it is to be provided again it should be a 3 metres wide shared facility. Where such paths cross the carriageway, priority should be given to pedestrians and cyclists with the use of give way markings or raised tables on the carriageway
  All paths in the open space – e.g. under the electricity pylons – should be made 3 metres and be suitable for cyclists
  More detail be provided on the cycle storage facilities within garages and sheds. Is the proposal that the garages and sheds are de-facto cycle storage facilities or is it proposed that specific cycle storage racks/stands be installed in each?

Importantly, if there is a lack of viable alternatives to car travel, it is likely to result in additional trips on the network increasing the pressure on the Meadow Lane/A5035 Longton Road junction.

DESIGN

As previously discussed the proposed single point of vehicular access into a site of this size is far from ideal. The new emergency access appears to serve little purposes given its proximity to the primary access.
Considering the number of dwellings proposed here, the applicant should be providing a new road network within the site which meets adoptable standards. I would request, given the size of the properties shown, that each unit should have a minimum of 2 off-street parking spaces.

I note that the existing hedgerow along the boundary between the site and Chessington Crescent will be retained. I have concerns regarding visibility for vehicles and pedestrians, especially when considering the two proposed approaches on either side of the main development service road connecting close to the junction with Chessington Crescent and which run parallel to the hedge affording no visibility of vehicles about to turn in. How will drivers and pedestrians be able to anticipate potential conflict with other vehicles as they approach and enter the site?

The main development road and two of the footpath links through the site traverse the Newstead Brook and will require bridges, details of which will need to be approved by the Local Authority’s Structural Engineer. Is it advisable to have two junctions in close proximity to the road bridge, has further ground investigation been carried out to ascertain the stability of the land? What is the likelihood of erosion and the resultant effect on these bridges and the road in the future?

In terms of surface water management, I note that several swales have been proposed, who will be responsible for their future maintenance?

Given that some of the internal roads are adjacent to the canal I would suggest that the applicant has a stage one safety audit carried out as there could be a requirement for the provision of vehicle restraint barriers.

CONSTRUCTION

Once again we must be mindful that all traffic, including heavy construction vehicles, only have one means of access into the development site, and that is from Longton Road (A5035) via Meadow Lane and Chessington Crescent. The existing estate is a typical residential development where many in the neighbourhood choose to park their vehicles in the street. How does the applicant intend on ensuring safe negotiation of these roads on a daily basis throughout the lifetime of their construction phases? This includes making the turn into Meadow Lane from Longton Road which currently is very restricted. Bearing this in mind therefore, I would have to recommend, should the Planning Authority be minded to grant permission to this proposal, that improvements to the highway infrastructure (scheme to be agreed) are made prior to commencement of the development and that an extremely robust CEMP, including the provision of a dilapidation survey for all the adopted highways involved, be agreed and approved by the LPA – condition required.

Please note: whilst the applicant insists that the tracking plans provided show the largest vehicle they will need on site, I need to now how can this be controlled, especially given that sub- contractors will be involved. In this case, tracking plans should be provided showing the worst case scenario i.e. using the largest/longest possible construction vehicle that could deliver to the site. These tracking manoeuvres must be overlaid onto any highway junction improvement proposals the applicant is to submit in the future. I also require further tracking details around Chessington Crescent from Meadow Lane and into and out of the proposed site access plus details of the site compounds and car parking for construction staff to ensure none of this takes place on the highway.

CONCLUSION:

Essentially, we have concerns regarding the following:
  The traffic capacity assessments of the Meadow Lane/Longton Road (A5053) junction provided by WYG appear very optimistic.
  The geometric data used in relation to the operation of the proposed improvements to the Meadow Lane/Longton Road (A5035) is inconsistent and incorrect resulting in favourable outputs. Notably, in WYGs rebuttal dated 27/08/15, the results of their Junctions 8 assessments of the improved Meadow Lane junction are completely different to those in their original TA, this is due to difference in measurements used for the running lanes on Longton Road A5035 – however in both instances the overall carriageway widths are inaccurate, being overly generous. TA = 8.5m and the draft rebuttal 10.10m, when in reality the running lanes are approx. 7- 7.2m by our calculations.
  The base model used in the calculations has not been validated against the observed traffic information -where the numbers are significantly higher, again this will result in any other calculations etc. derived from this base model not being truly representative.
  We believe that the PCU data (Passenger Car Units) has been underestimated which will affect the outcome of all other calculations in the TA and therefore cannot be accepted.

Overall the reality of the situation is likely to be more onerous than exhibited by WYG and the probable outcome will be that the egress from Meadow Lane/Longton Road junction in the AM peak will be well over capacity should this application be approved, even with the inclusion of the proposed improvements. This is likely to be exacerbated by the issues of sustainability and accessibility. Crucially, as the City Council has already demonstrated that this situation cannot be mitigated in the future by signalising this junction, it gives us nowhere to go other than to recommend a refusal on highway safety grounds

CLS

….”

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