Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Draft submission regarding traffic issues associated with the proposed development of around 350 houses at Strawberry How, Cockermouth

I am publishing the submission I intend to make regarding the traffic problems associated with SCO/2013/0008 which is the substantial development of approximately 350 houses on the land at Strawberry How.  All comments and suggestions are invited.  I intend to make my final submission on Wednesday 17th July 2013.

Although traffic flow is the only issue this submission attempts to address, it does not assume traffic flow is the only issue which needs to be addressed before this development can proceed.


Cockermouth suffers from traffic flow pinch points which are associated with its rivers.

This proposed development lies in the part of town which is to the east of the river Cocker.  There is no connection to the A66 on the east of the river Cocker (both Cockermouth junctions are to the west of the river Cocker).  This means that all west bound traffic from the East side of town has to travel through the centre of town.

The land to the east of the river Cocker is split into three land blocks by two small rivers:
A. The Riverdale Estate & Strawberry How to the south of Tom Rudd Beck.
B. The Slate Fell Estate which lies between Tom Rudd Beck and Bitterbeck.
C. The hospital/school/Rose lane Estate which lies to the north of Bitterbeck. 

There are currently no road links between the three blocks of land except in the centre of town (Kirkgate area).

This development straddles Tom Rudd Beck and so must include a bridge which will link the first and second blocks of land.

The Three Key Issues:

This development poses three issues which must be addressed before it can be authorised. These issues are:

1.      That the road links between land blocks A and B need to be completed.

2.      That there needs to be a link to the A66.

3.      That this development needs to be compatible with the building of a road to land block C.

Issue 1: That the road links between the first and second land blocks need to be completed

The land proposed for this development lies beyond a very substantial housing estate in land block B (Slate Fell).  This estate currently has only one road exit onto Kirkgate which is a very narrow road.  A substantial extension to the Slate Fell estate (the Gable Avenue part) was only allowed on the proviso that a second road exit would be created which linked it to the first block of land, providing the enlarged estate with the road infrastructure it needs.  Thus when this estate extension was build two roads were left open ended;  one from the Gable Avenue estate extension (at Ullswater Drive) and one from the main estate (now from Bellbrigg Lonning).

 It was originally intended that the connections would be rapidly made to support the estate extension when the intended factory which justified the building of the Gable Avenue estate was built on the land on which this planning development is proposed.  However the plans for the factory fell through leaving this estate with incomplete and inadequate road infrastructure until an alternative development plan could be found for this piece of land.  One of the key reasons why the land on which has this development has been consistently identified as being suitable for development it’s development can enable the completion of this road infrastructure.

Astonishingly the development proposed blocks off both these roads and chooses instead to develop this estate as a cul-de-sac from the first block of land.  By doing so it prevents the substantial Slatefell/Gable Avenue estate from ever having the essential road infrastructure planned for it.  Clear direction needs to be given to the developer by all relevant authorities on this issue.

Issue 2: That there needs to be a link to the A66

Following the completion of the Riverdale estate, the development of Strawberry How and then the opening of Sainsburys , the issue of traffic exiting from land blocks A and B got substantially worse.  All traffic from these routes has to pass either though the substandard junction at the end of Lorton road or down Kirkgate.  In 2004 all options were explored to improve the flow of traffic through both routes including the development of one way streets and systems were considered.  All changes which could be made to improve things were made.   

It was concluded that a junction with the A66 was needed on the East side of town at this time.  Our councillors agreed to campaign for this and to act to prevent further development until it was provided.  Anybody not party to these consultations is welcome to contact me to view the details of them which I have in hard copy form.

In the meantime we have evolved a system whereby the confident drivers who know local driving well and who are not afraid of having to back their cars substantial distances use Kirkgate (employing complex established systems of giving way which get traffic through the difficult junction at the bottom at the rate of about 600 cars/hour) which the less confident driver generally use the substandard light controlled junction at Lorton Street.  This system is obviously not ideal due to the volume of traffic pouring through the mainly pedestrian Market Place area as evidence by the very heave wear on the road surface, however the main barrier to it being effective is the fact that Kirkgate is a main artery for services located underneath the road.  As a single width road without pavements in places it is therefore closed when works are needed which, as records will demonstrate, is often and for long periods of time.  During these periods Cockermouth gridlocks and the roads fail to function, with people being stuck for typically 45 mins or more. 

This issue can and must be addressed before further housing development takes place which will inevitably substantially exacerbate this problem.

Issue 3: Problems of access to the Rose Lane/school/hospital estate

Traffic from land block C is also beyond its road capacity, relying as it does on the use of Castlegate with its long single width restriction.  Further housing development in town will exacerbate this problem.  The development which is being considered is proposed for land where the required road infrastructure could be located.  Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is a coherent plan in place for this road infrastructure which is not blocked by inappropriate planning of this development.


  1. I agree there are major road issue in terms of the Strawberry How development and all traffic from it having to come down the Lorton Road/Kirkgate into town to go anywhere.

    I would say though, I think not having opened up a second access route from the Gable Avenue development has been a positive thing for that area and Slatefell estate. It means traffic coming into the area is doing so for a purpose - ie to somewhere on the estate. It prevents the area becoming a cut through to other places, with the inevitable increase in noise, traffic and speed/risk issues. I have seen it before where it'a been thought a good idea to put link through roads between two areas, and it has resulted in big problems, which even traffic calming measures could not address - they just got seen as an extra challenge to overcome, creating even more risk!

    There is as you say an issue of access to services such as Cockermouth school and the hospital if Strawberry How went ahead not only of the roads near that area, but Castlegate itself is an issue,and major bottle neck, along with the blind junction where Market Place joins it at the bottom.

    I think planners should come and drive around here in peak periods and see reality, not the traffic stats on paper. Apparently our roads are not deemed at capacity!

  2. Thank you for your comment Miriam.

    If you want to oppose the completion of the second exit you need to provide the detail of the logic whereby the route through the estate will be a short cut vehicles will take in this case rather than just saying that in some other cases it has (or that it will create a route which they will take preferentially of the major route even if it is not shorter). Creating a second exit will reduce the traffic on the estate as traffic from the top will not have to drive right down Windmill lane to get off it so you need create a robust analysis which shows that the increase in traffic due to vehicles taking a short cut will outweigh these benefits and that the solution of blocking the roads is better than completing them.

    Rather than making general statements like these things can create traffic issues which no traffic calming could address you need to try to define what these may actually be in this case. All this is difficult to do at the minute as there are no proposals to complete the links and may never be any, but if plans are submitted and you are concerned that they may cause problems of these kind I'm happy to help you try and define them in a way you could present effectively.

    "Apparently our roads are not deemed at capacity." If you hear that from anyone at all please let me know who they are so I can tackle them directly. I'm pretty good at putting people right on that.

  3. Modified comments now submitted.

  4. I notice there is currently a traffic survey going on which seems to relate to this development - during the school holiday.....