Highwood Road closure look inevitable after council report
By The Bristol Post | Thursday, August 29, 2013, 07:00
SOUTH Gloucestershire councillors look set to agree the permanent closure of Highwood Road, a stretch of dual carriageway in Patchway.
Residents and councillors during a protest against plans to close Highwood Road (left) to traffic
They will be told at a meeting next Wednesday that extending the experimental closure beyond April 14 next year is not an option.
A report before councillors says that reopening Highwood Road to traffic would cost the council at least £1.25 million.
And the report claims that the amount of traffic which now uses Coniston Road is "no worse" than before the closure.
Residents in Patchway are furious about the road closure and are expected to turn up in large numbers at the council meeting in Thornbury which starts at 3pm.
They say the volume of traffic now using Coniston Road is "horrendous" and travels too fast along a residential street.
They have already submitted a petition, with more than 4,000 names, against the closure. And last week, the number of residents who turned up for a public meeting about the issue was so large that the venue – Coniston Road community centre – was abandoned and the gathering took place outdoors in a nearby shopping precinct.
In response to the report, pensioner Brian Rivett, 80, who lives in Martin's Close, just off Coniston Road, said: "What planet do they think they are on?
"It is absolute rubbish to say there is no more traffic than before. A neighbour said the other day he counted 28 cars before he could get out of his side road on to Coniston Road."
Dave Tiley, 46, an aircraft fitter and town councillor who lives in Rodway Road, said: "We are calling for common sense to prevail – that is why we feel so aggrieved.
"The council is obviously working to an agenda and the data in the report makes me think of that famous saying 'Lies, damned lies and statistics'.
"The councillors should realise the impact that the closure of Highwood Road has had on people."
Joanne Bull, 44, a part-time cleaner from Windermere Road, said: "It is an absolute joke what they are saying.
"They will have to put traffic calming on Coniston Road but that will not stop all the lorries coming down our road.
"It is not just the size of the lorries, but the speed.
"Closing Highwood Road has been an absolute nightmare for everyone in the area."
The report says: "Residents have reported an increase in traffic flows on Coniston Road.
"While this is the perceived situation, traffic flows monitored since 2008, two years before the opening of Hayes Way (a new dual carriageway between the A38 and Cribbs Causeway), indicate that the traffic flows are no worse than the pre-closure situation and that there has been a minor reduction to the weekday flows."
Council officers claim that according to national guidelines, roads such as Coniston can take up to 2,280 vehicles an hour.
However, officials say they had recorded only 485 an hour.
They add: "The records do not suggest any change in accident rate or causal factors due to increased traffic since the closure in October, 2012."
On speed of vehicles, they say the data shows that 85 per cent of vehicles travel at between 18 and 25mph.
One of the issues for the council is that the closure of Highwood Road is part of their plans for a rapid bus route from the northern fringe of the city to Hengrove.
If the road does not remain bus only, then they would have to go back to the Department for Transport and request a change to their bid for money to help pay for the £190 million scheme.
The report warns: "There is no guarantee that the Department for Transport would agree the change request and, in the current funding environment, could remove their support and place the whole project and future funding for new projects at risk."
Another issue for the council is a Section 106 agreement – a legally-binding contract between the council and the developers of Charlton Hayes which includes the closure of Highwood Road to general traffic.
Bovis Homes built the new Hayes Way link road at a cost of £6 million as part of the planning permission to build hundreds of new homes.
The report concludes: "Officers recognise that there is minor disruption to the residents of Patchway due to their having to take alternative routes.
"However, the introduction of the bus-only corridor delivers significant advantages.
"To revert to allowing Highwood Road open to general traffic would incur significant risks and costs – financial and resources – on the council for which there is no budget or allocation."