Public Inquiry finishes

This week saw the closure of the Inquiry and now we just have to wait for the Inspector’s decision, which will be published on or before 10th July 2019.

The developers somewhat to our surprise, took the same old dismissive approach as they have throughout the planning process, having seemingly little regard to either the truth or facts.  They absolutely showed what they thought of residents and the poor people who would buy their houses if indeed they did win.

For our part, representing local residents, all we needed to do was to point out the usual lies and misrepresentations of the developers.  It was much easier than usual this time, as they had resorted to huge whoppers to get their point across.  It was embarrassing to sit there whilst local law firm Knights, sided with the developers and endorsed their position.

When the enquiry opened earlier in the year I was robustly interviewed by BBC Radio Stoke.  In that interview I claimed that the developers had no regard for the safety and interests of the local community.  The BBC,  to balance the argument suggested that the developers might say otherwise.   Well, it is now a matter of public record that I was right.   In the developers evidence presented at the Inquiry on the last day was this;

I conclude that even if Mr Oates (the developer’s transport expert) is incorrect about this matter ( that the junction is safe ), and that there is some highway harm arising from the use of Meadow Lane, I still maintain that the proposal accords with S.38(6) because of the material benefits that I set out within my proof, and my opinion that these benefits would outweigh any such harm.

So, what they are saying in English, is that even if it is proven that the changes proposed to the Meadow Lane/Longton Road junction will result in increased safety risk and harm to traffic, cyclists, wheelchair users and pedestrians, then they really don’t care and still want the development to go ahead.    They actually said this… honestly and it’s in writing too.!!!!  I’m lost for words ( that I can write in this blog ) to describe their attitude of endorsing developers greed over the health, well being and safety of residents and drivers of vehicles through the junction.

This time around they have even taken the view the laws of mathematics don’t apply to the equations that predict traffic capacity at the junction…. and….   that the equations that predict traffic capacity at roundabouts are more applicable!  It is truly astonishing.

Our points and those of the council are in full agreement so to finish off this post, below I have included our closing statement.  (Mr Oates is the developers transport witness)

 


Keep Our Meadow Green

24 May 201

Closing Statement

In our closing statement we focus on the remaining key areas of dispute between the Appellant and KOMG.

Mathematics and Entry Width

There is disagreement about the influence of minor arm entry width vs relative major arm flow on the capacity of a T junction.    The TRL equation used in PICADY to calculate capacity at a T junction is agreed upon by all parties, however it is the view of Mr Oates in  AP/9 1.2.13 that the capacity equation requires the “correct interpretation” to enable the solution to the equation to support his hypothesis; that adjustments to the width of the minor arm result in a more significant influence on capacity at the junction than would a similar proportional adjustment to the major arm flow.

Mr Oates’ hypothesis that a simple mathematical equation (such as the capacity equation) can be interpreted is illogical and does not stand up to basic tests.

  • The capacity equation is subject to the laws of mathematics
  • The laws of mathematics are absolutely certain and indisputable
  • The calculations within the equation are clear, absolutely certain and indisputable

Given that the solution to the capacity equation is not open to interpretation, and would have enabled Mr Oates to have proven his point beyond any doubt whatsoever, whilst simultaneously dismissing Mr Parker’s evidence,  one needs to ask why did Mr Oates not include such an analysis of this simple mathematical equation worked with  parameters of the Meadow Lane T junction in his AP/9 document?   During cross-examination Mr Oates could not account for the omission of what would have been pivotal evidence in support of the Appellant’s case.

Mr Oates when cross examined, also confirmed that he had run incremental sensitivity tests for the junction, which he indicated had proved his case and thus proved the benefits relating to the design of the junction improvements

One also needs to ask why did Mr Oates not include in his AP/9 document, any evidence at all from the sensitivity tests?   If Mr Oates is to be believed, such sensitivity tests would have also demonstrated beyond any doubt whatsoever that minor arm entry width has a more significant impact on capacity than major arm flow, and would have unequivocally proven the case for the Appellant.

However, replicable results of the capacity equation and sensitivity tests always have, and always will support the facts presented by Mr Parker due to the absolutely certain and indisputable laws of mathematics.  These same laws also make it impossible for the capacity equation to ever support Mr Oates’ hypothesis.  Therefore, the only logical conclusion that can be reached is that the additional analysis undertaken by Mr Oates did no such thing and thus his statement should be afforded no weight at all.

Mr Oates’ AP/9 rebuttal also involved contacting TRL to obtain clarification regarding entry width and traffic flows at priority junctions.

However, the graph provided in the rebuttal statement is missing key information that renders it meaningless in proving the Appellant’s case – there is no title, there is no source quoted, there are no ‘Y’ axis labels, and there is no legend explaining what lines ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ represent.

Therefore, our view is that the graph should be afforded no weight at all.

Notwithstanding the above, it is our contention that it is quite clearly the same graph as that provided at the Inquiry (by Mr Parker) on page 4 of the TRL document (R/6) “Roundabout Capacity: The UK Empirical Methodology”.

If the conclusion is reached that the two graphs are the same, illustrating the same data and equations, then one must question why TRL would have sent Mr Oates a graph relating to roundabout entry capacity, when all other correspondence between them related to priority junction capacity? (Mr Oates did not present the correspondence relating to the graph to the Inquiry)

In respect of the graph itself, given that the straight lines on the graph represent the relationship between the two terms (‘x’ and ‘y’) within a specific linear equation – a mathematical fact that has no room for interpretation – if the conclusion is reached that the two graphs are the same, and that they actually refer to roundabout capacity; then it is simply not possible for the same graph to relate to priority junction capacity, as the equations relating to each are fundamentally different.

DIA

It is clear that there is a fundamental disagreement between the Appellant, the Council and KOMG regarding the current operation of the Meadow Lane junction with Longton Road, and the reasoning behind the calibration of the base model using the ‘Direct Intercept Adjustment’ (DIA), which as agreed at the Inquiry is also known as ‘Intercept Correction’.

However, the one issue on which all parties are agreed is that, at the give-way line, left-turning vehicles from Meadow Lane are not constrained; they can leave the existing residential estate with minimal delay once at the give-way line.

Therefore, one needs to understand why the correct geometrical inputs into PICADY do not replicate the existing conditions, and hence why the DIA is required?

The logical answer to this can only be that, if left-turners from Meadow Lane are not constrained in themselves (as agreed), and the only turns that are made at the junction from Meadow Lane are a left-turn and a right-turn (as evidenced by the count data); then it must be the right-turners that are constrained at the give-way line, due to a combination of influences on their movement that PICADY simply cannot replicate through geometry and traffic flow inputs alone (as evidenced by the fact that without the DIA, it materially under-represents the queueing and delay at the junction).

Given that the DIA is an adjustment made to the capacity of the give-way line itself, it therefore follows that if the future proposed layout does nothing to change Longton Road itself, and nothing to improve the right-turn movement from the Meadow Lane give-way line onto Longton Road (both points agreed by Mr Oates, under cross-examination), the DIA simply cannot be removed in the future year model.

Even though the proposed junction improvement provides a separate flared lane for the right-turning vehicles, the external factors influencing their movement from the give-way line (which required the DIA in the first place, and to which the DIA relates) have not changed.

Using engineering judgement, the DIA must be retained; there is no other logical conclusion to this issue.

Irrational Behaviour

Part of the Appellant’s case (albeit it is acknowledged that they do not seek to rely on this element) is that the provision of two separate lanes for traffic on Meadow Lane will afford the opportunity for right-turning drivers to reduce their delay at the junction (when waiting behind other right-turning vehicles) by utilising the left-turning lane, to instead make a left-turn from Meadow Lane and take a different route to their eventual destination.

Mr Oates’ AP/9 rebuttal includes journey time surveys, both from Google and from real time survey data.

Notwithstanding the fact that both the KOMG and the Council believe the survey data should be afforded little weight, it raises an important question.

Why does the existing traffic count data for Meadow Lane show that left and right-turning vehicles are roughly evenly split during the peak hours?  (a matter of fact agreed between all parties)

Given that the journey times provided are from the give-way line at the junction of Meadow Lane with Longton Road, any delay on Meadow Lane itself is not included.  Therefore, surely logic would suggest that if the current journey time savings were the same as those provided by the Appellant, more drivers would choose to turn left now?

The fact that they do not speaks for itself; therefore, the statement made by the Appellant that future traffic could choose to turn left rather than right should be afforded little weight.

Our view, as stated in the cross-examination of Mr Oates, is that the proposed junction layout will actually afford right-turning drivers with an opportunity to avoid the delay in front of them, by utilising the left-turning lane on Meadow Lane, but then either making a U-turn on Longton Road outside the care home (some 150m from Meadow Lane), or by turning right from the left-turn lane, i.e. undertaking those already waiting to turn right.  There is comfortably enough space within the central reservation section of Longton Road to sit two vehicles side-by-side.

The suggestion by Mr Oates that a driver would not disobey the highway code, or would not undertake a blatantly reckless manoeuvre is missing the point somewhat.

The driver in such situations, as seen across the country on a daily basis, is not acting rationally; the reason they are not acting rationally is borne out of (either current or previous) frustration at sitting in a queue and being delayed.  Indeed in his reply in cross examination, Mr Oates used the example of a red traffic light as a common method used to control traffic at a junction, at which he would expect drivers to be compliant with the highway code and not to make reckless manoeuvres.

However, running through red lights is a common occurrence that illustrates the fact that frustrated drivers will make reckless manoeuvres to save the delay of just a single traffic light cycle.  The fact that authorities increasingly see it necessary to implement road safety cameras at busy signalised junctions to deter irrational driver behaviour clearly demonstrates beyond any doubt that some drivers do behave irrationally.

This is the case being made by Mr Parker (and the Council), that with the proposed layout doing nothing to improve the right-turn from Meadow Lane onto Longton Road (at the give-way line); queues and delays will increase significantly, at which point drivers will become increasingly frustrated when leaving the residential estate.

This will inevitably lead to inappropriate or hazardous manoeuvres being undertaken and causing an unacceptable impact on highway safety.

Entering Meadow Lane

Mr Oates in AP/2 section C, provided swept paths of large vehicles entering Meadow Lane which clearly show no room for error before kerbs are overrun.  From the swept paths it is clear that there is no margin for deviation from a perfect path and even a small deviation of one tyre width from an unmarked entry trajectory will result in kerb overrun and an unacceptable risk to the safety of pedestrians and wheelchair users at the junction.

Mr Oates claims that professional drivers of large HGVs will be able to follow the unmarked perfect trajectory (as indicated in the swept paths) to negotiate the “tight” entry to Meadow Lane safely.  However it is unlikely that drivers will know the specific trajectory needed or be able to follow it exactly if they do.  This will force drivers to decide either to continue on a trajectory that will overrun the kerbs, or to manoeuvre back and forth whilst blocking Longton Road to improve the position of their vehicle relative to the trajectory needed to safely enter Meadow Lane.

This issue should be afforded significant weight, particularly given that this is the route used by parents with small children & pushchairs to walk to and from school, and also frequently used by carers and vulnerable people in wheelchairs from the three adjacent care homes.

For the period in which there is no canal bridge after the junction works are complete, this is the only route into and out of the site for all users and construction traffic, thereby further elevating the risk of collisions with pedestrians.

Traffic Data

Moving onto the issue of ‘outlier’ datasets.  Mr Oates asserts that the 2015 dataset is unrepresentative of normal conditions at the junction.

In Mr Parker’s Proof of Evidence Appendix 3 “RDS October 2015 Queue Surveys”, highlighted on the 07:50 and 07:55 lines you see queues of 16 and 20 vehicles.

This too under Mr Oates’ assessment would class as an unrepresentative outlier.

However, given that out of six randomly executed traffic surveys on the Meadow Lane/Longton Road junction, two would contain anomalies and be classed as outliers is absurd.

The reason one in every three of the surveys contains an anomaly, is that it is not an anomaly at all. It is in fact the natural and regular result of the junction becoming more and more sensitive to small deviations from what Mr Oates considers to be representative conditions; a point made clear in Mr Parker’s evidence to the Inquiry as demonstrated by the poor ‘Level of Service’ of the junction.

Finally, the issue of accessibility is a disputed matter and KOMG has set out in detail distances in the Proof of Evidence including acceptable distances weighted with Journey Purpose and Length of Stay with reference to MfS and the IHT Providing for Journeys on Foot (IHT-PJF) and SHLAA (Appendix 1).   When calculating acceptable walking distances for journeys on foot, various factors must be taken into account.  Using a simple point-to-point baseline distance measure is unsafe and does not reflect observed behaviour.

Although the Appellant provided a drawing (AP/14) titled “Walking Routes from Proposed Pedestrian Bridge” at the resumed Inquiry, they yet again did not provide any verifiable location data as to where within the development the distances were measured from, nor state that the bridge would bring Trentham Mews Medical Centre (adjacent the Man in Space on Eastwick Crescent) within a comfortable walking distance and a significant benefit to residents of the new and existing dwellings.

Should the development be approved, it is essential that the pedestrian footbridge over the canal is built as soon after the junction improvements as possible to mitigate the unacceptable highway safety risks to pedestrians from the existing estate and the new development, that the new junction layout introduces.

In conclusion, it is our contention that even with the improved layout the Appellant significantly overestimates the capacity of the junction, and thus the impact of the proposed development traffic on the Meadow Lane junction with Longton Road, which would then become the sole point of access for 597 dwellings, would be severe.

The junction would fail to provide safe and suitable access to 597 dwellings.

There would be an unacceptable impact on highway safety.

Therefore, the proposed development would fail to meet necessary tests set out in paragraphs 108 and 109 of the Framework.

Accordingly, it is our view that the Appeal should be dismissed on highways grounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public Meeting set for May 7th

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Residents and Councillors are holding a public meeting on Tuesday 7th May  to update everyone on the progress of the appeal and the latest developments, including the recent application for a bridge over the canal.

Once again we need as much support as possible, so please tell you neighbours, friends and family to come along and join us at the meeting.

Please also take a look at our Just Giving page.

7th May,  7:30pm,  Trentham High School

See you there!