Thursday, 19 September 2013

Cockermouth Traffic and the Story Homes Development

Sadly Story Homes have decided to continue to try to promote the view that it is possible to build hundreds of houses on the east side of Cockermouth without building any road infrastructure to carry traffic away from the development.  They also still want to block off the roads which were build to connect Slatefell and Gable Avenue to Strawberry How road.  

This will create very serious safety issues as well as substantial delays for residents on the east side of Cockermouth.  In this letter I've attempted to explain exactly why this is the case.  This letter is published here for open criticism and comment.  If I am wrong and there are ways to easily sort out the traffic infrastructure problems that we have then I want to know what they are.

Steven Eggleston: Traffic specialist for the Story Homes development at Strawberry How
Cc: Pieter Barnard, Cumbria Highways.
Cc: open circulation for open critical comment.

19th September 2013

Dear Steven,

Thank you for your time yesterday and your patience in talking to me and exploring the traffic issues involved in Story Homes’ proposal for housing at Strawberry How. 

I am very disappointed that Story Homes are choosing to pursue attempts to create the impression there is sufficient road infrastructure in place to cope with over 300 more homes on the East side of Cockermouth.   The purpose of this letter is to lay out in detail why this is not the case to help you move forward in understanding why your development is currently facing universal opposition.

The essence of the problem is the limited capacity of the junction between Lorton Street, Station Road and Station Street which I will refer to as junction A.  This is a substandard junction with four way lights allowing each road to have full priority (required because the junction is so narrow) and a pedestrian phase on request.  This junction is under stress due to the volume of traffic using it and generally continues to flow only because so much traffic manages to use Kirkgate and Market Place despite the limitations of that route.

However Kirkgate is often shut due to there being a substantial single width strip of road with no pavements which has to close whenever work is done to the services underneath the road or to the buildings which border it.  The frequent closures of Kirkgate are part of life in Cockermouth and must be expected.  Although they are usually done during the school holidays or at off peak times, they still cause junction A to fail to cope in a very severe way.  Junction A backs up in all direction.  On the East side of Cockrmouth the queue of traffic rapidly extends beyond the top of Kirkgate.  Traffic therefore queues for very long periods of time to access this route from all roads but most importantly from the substantial Slatefell/Gable Avenue estate.  Because the alternative routes via Embleton and Southwaite are so long and involve roads many drivers choose to avoid, vehicles which would be prepared to use those routes are blocked by those which aren’t and cannot exit their roads and estates as each has only one exit. 

This creates a severe safety hazard as obviously emergency vehicles cannot access these areas of town.

By creating an extra 200 cars/hour we know you will be inflicting these issues on us all the time rather than just when Kirkgate shuts.  We will also have to cope with much more serious issues Kirkgate shuts as it inevitably will.

There is no need for any of these issues as we live in an area where it is perfectly possible to construct suitable infrastructure. 

Story Homes’ continued assertion that significant improvements to traffic flow can be made through minor modifications exists despite the obvious reality that this not true.  This is obvious to all Cockermouth residents and it the fact that this assertion is still being made seriously undermines Story Homes’ espoused commitment to being a responsible developer.  Given my knowledge of what has already been done I would challenge you to come up with any modifications which will create any improvements whatsoever.  Given the reality that we live in a context where other developments, most particularly the new hospital, will also impact negatively on traffic flow it’s unrealistic to expect anything other than a deterioration even without the development you are proposing.  If you really do have any ways of improving traffic issues with minor changes I would ask you to share them and we are very open to new ideas which stand up to scrutiny.

It is not, for example, the case that simply modifications can be made to the phasing of lights at junction A which improve things.  When the junction is beyond capacity traffic backs up in all directions, most obviously uphill from this junction where the next junction also fails to flow due to downhill traffic being backed up beyond it.  It’s important to understand the lights do substantially favour Lorton Street but that traffic can use junction A at a slow rate due to the tight angle and the narrowness of the junction.  Each large vehicle causes significant delays. 

Unless Story Homes decides to address the serious loss of amenity to the town and the safety issues which would be caused by building this development without the construction of essential road infrastructure they it’s unrealistic to expect anything but unified opposition from the whole town. 

Best regards,

Rebecca Hanson MA(cantab.) MEd, FRSA.

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