Category Archives: Roads

Traffic in the Thoroughfare

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Thoroughfare residents join, Caroline Page and Woodbridge Town Councillors Gillard and O’Nolan to hand out information about the Thoroughfare TRO

Traffic in the Thoroughfare is governed by a TRO (traffic regulation order) made in 1995. This means that the current regulations have been in place for 21 years. They are  now very out of date.

Additionally, many people have either genuinely forgotten the terms of the TRO, are newcomers to the area and do not know the terms, or are now electing not to abide by them.

(The situation has been made worse in the last decade by the Traffic Management Act 2004 which abolished Traffic Wardens and gave their powers to the police. The police have always had a lot on their plate an have not adequately replaced the dedicated Traffic Wardens we had before. A future change may allow Suffolk’s District Councils  finally  to take  over these powers  but this will take a couple of years ).

There is little point complaining about the terms of the current TRO- it is the status quo agreed by long retired councillors and officers and we have inherited it. A TRO is Highways law.

The – admittedly confusing – signage which is up at the start of the Thoroughfare is the only one permitted by the Highways Act to cover the current terms of the TRO. It has  been up for a long time, is accurate although wordy, and does not explain by itself why more and more people are electing to ignore it.

Changes  to what happens in the Thoroughfare cannot be made without changing the TRO. Clearly this needs to happen.

However making a TRO is basically making a small law, and this cannot be done without a public consultation, and a significant expenditure by SCC. In order to use public money to best advantage then,  it is sensible to look at how the current TRO is working so we can see what bits need replacing. And everybody’s interests have to be considered:  the needs of residents, traders, disabled persons, pedestrians as well as motorists,  all need to be considered – as do the laws of unintended consequences.

Eg The Thoroughfare is not pedestrianised 24/7 so a fixed barrier not appropriate, – and anyway what about emergency vehicles?  Rising bollards for pedestrian hours would produce difficulty for the delivery patterns of some traders, and who would operate them when they came up and down. Would we have to employ someone?  How about disabled access? The current disabled access was designed in the days when Woodbridge had a half-day closing on Wednesdays – who here remembers this? What is the situation of the Thoroughfare’s residents, and their needs – not just access, but removals, deliveries,  ambulances etc. On top of this, drivers seem genuinely to have a greater sense of entitlement than in the past, and a lack of will to walk any distance from their car.  I have been calling for solutions, but solutions are genuinely not as simple as people might think.

(The only people who do not need consideration are those who are simply asserting a right to drive down  the Thoroughfare between 10-4, without belonging to one of the TRO-exempted categories. During this time it is – according to the 21 year old TRO – a Pedestrianised area…)

I have set up a Woodbridge Thoroughfare Working Group to look at usage,with a short-term and a longer term aim. Short-term is to raise awareness of the current law. (As I said, this isn’t a matter of opinion or choice – we are lumped with it).  The police have committed to enforce this more fully.

Longer term, when we have worked out what kind of changes to the TRO would most benefit all users, we will be able to put some  proposals to public consultation.

The Thoroughfare Working Group group, incidentally, is apolitical (but cross-party for elected members: I represent the County Council,  Conservative Geoff Holdcroft  represents the District Council, and Green Eamonn O’Nolan represents Woodbridge Town council). The other members are: local police, local Highway Officers, Thoroughfare residents and Thoroughfare traders.

If you have personal concerns – come and talk them over face to face at my monthly surgery in Woodbridge Library.  My December surgery is on 17th December. 9-11am as ever

What’s happening in Woodbridge (& Suffolk) – November 2016

Woodbridge has wanted 20 mph zoning for years but my work over the last year has been required to make it possible
Woodbridge has  been asking for  20 mph zoning for years .

Speed calming and the Thoroughfare have been top issues for Woodbridge  over the last weeks as I’ve been working with like-minded people  from a number of fields to try and produce a global scheme to calm and improve traffic conditions across the town.  Other issues of importance include Suffolk Norfold Devolution, now about to got to a final yea or nay vote,  and the throrny question of the new telecoms boxes at the Sandy Lane junction,

Proposed 20mph zone & Thoroughfare calming in Woodbridge   I have recently been working on initial – ambitious – proposals for speed calming in Woodbridge. These include :

  1. a) the outline of the whole-town speed calming and 20mph zoning which Woodbridge Town Council will be discussing later this evening and which will hopefully be the foundation of a document that can finally be put before Suffolk County Council’s Speed Limits Panel and
  2. b) the reforming of the Thoroughfare Working Party to try and tackle the continuing issue of the Thoroughfare, in relation to the roads around it.

I am grateful for the assistance and expertise of Nigel Barratt in examining the roads usage round the town in order to work on these issues.

I am hoping that the ‘Walkers are Welcome Woodbridge’ initiative will be supported by these proposals, and that they might link in with issues as diverse as the air quality work at Melton Hill, the passage of school children to school,  and the rat-running from Wilford Bridge along the Ipswich Road – producing really joined up planning for traffic and tourism.

Conservatives lose their majority on Suffolk County Council  With a LibDem win at the Hadleigh byelection last month, the Conservatives finally lost their precarious hold on Suffolk County council and are now a minority administration. The balance of power is now:

Conservative 37 – Labour 15;  LibDem 8; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent  3

Suffolk County Council’s vote on devolution deal – 23 November  Suffolk County Council – together with all district councils – will be voting on the Suffolk Norfolk devolution deal at the end of the month.  For the county council, this is:

  • The extraordinary County Council on 2pm 23rd November
  • The extraordinary Cabinet on 5.30pm 23rd November (or following the extraordinary Council meeting if later)

with the orders currently scheduled to be laid before Parliament on 24th of November.

The deal requires the 2017 election of a Norfolk & Suffolk Mayor, and the formation of a “super-authority” in which all councils from both counties  would be represented equally.

This authority would have a budget of £100m to spend on an inflated governmental requirement for  240,000 new homes ( far more than required locally so presumably aimed at London overspill)  for the next five years and would have new powers (but little new funds) to fund the required  infrastructure programmes needed to support the development the deal requires.

Although Suffolk’s County Council and all its district & borough councils backed the principle of this devolution deal in the summer, in  Norfolk the reaction was much less positive – four of the county’s seven districts (including Norwich City Council) voted to reject the deal .

New Telecoms boxes update   After I raised the issue of the 5 telecoms boxes in Sandy Lane on both social media and BBC Suffolk, EE finally got in contact with the Suffolk Highways Officers. We are now in hope that the issue can be rectified  without legal proceedings becoming necessary.

Parents urged to Have Their Say on New School Admissions Policy Suffolk County Council is seeking views from parents and carers on the proposed school admissions policy for the 2018/2019 academic year. There are proposals to make minor changes to the admission arrangements for schools in Suffolk and the policy aims to ensure school places are offered to children in a fair way.  The consultation will run until Tuesday 13 December 2016.

Dutch Kitchenware Cold Callers   Suffolk Trading Standards warn that they have had reports about (specifically Dutch) salesmen cold-calling door-to-door in Suffolk. They say these appear to be people who have targeted other areas in Britain.

The caller is typically a man selling knives, saucepans and cutlery sets that he claims that he has had left over from a trade fair. His story is that he needs to get rid of the products quickly because he is returning to Holland later in the day and cannot take them back through customs.

Although the products are described as being reasonable quality, trading standards are concerned that consumers may be paying over the odds and there are no customer rights. As ever they are concerned that undue pressure is put on elderly and vulnerable people.

Suffolk Trading standards ask that if anyone becomes aware of these (or other) salesmen operating in their area,  to please contact  via 03454 040506. They also remind Suffolk residents of the door stickers they supply to discourage cold callers.

Firebreak training in Hollesley Bay    In late October I spent an afternoon at a ‘Firebreak’ passing-out parade at Hollesley Bay prison. This is a practical but inspirational programme taught by the fire brigade (Essex, not Suffolk, on this occasion) – and the first time ever this programme has been delivered in a prison!!

Outcomes were outstanding: 12 hard-to-reach prisoners of very different ages and backgrounds had worked together to become a team, learned the cooperative and practical skills needed in firefighting, got a serious qualification, and all reported they have gained a lot from the course.

This was resoundingly echoed by guards and instructors. I very much enjoyed watching the presentation drill, and talking to the participants and instructors afterwards.

Most interesting of all, the training started to introduce the subject of ‘restorative justice’ and met with such success that the team was returning to the prison to run some sessions specifically on this, with the same prisoners.

Huge plaudits all round: to the Shaw Trust for funding it, Essex Fire Brigade for delivering it, and of course, Hollesley Bay for having confidence to go ahead with this pioneering training in the first place

New Telecoms Cabinets in Sandy Lane – and Twitter!

The 5 new Telecoms cabinets blocking the sightline at Sandy Lane junction. As you can see , some are as tall as I am. Under the Telecoms Act, such cabinets count as ‘permitted development’ but telecoms companies are supposed to consult with local highways authorities. SCC did not approve these installations – and would not have done so if they had been consulted!

 

New telecoms cabinets installed on the corner of Sandy Lane and Ipswich Road have been causing  anxiety to Woodbridge residents and Suffolk Highways officers alike since they were  unexpectedly installed over the summer.

Drivers report that visibility to the right coming out of Sandy Lane has been severely affected.  The eastern cabinet is also far too close to the road edge and to passing traffic, could cause cyclists to be squeezed between cabinet and vehicle – and indeed may get hit by something if left as it is.

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A screen grab from Google Maps shows what the junction looked like until the new cabinets were installed in August.

For the last month it has  been impossible to get any response from EE and TMobile (who Highways inform me are the principal companies concerned) so yesterday I took to Twitter to  give the matter the oxygen of publicity and today I spoke about the cabinets on Radio Suffolk’s Breakfast Programme.

Interestingly, this seems to be was what was needed to get things going. EE are now in communication – and tell me they are ‘investigating the matter with the company who installed the cabinets.’

I am  hoping the matter can now be satisfactorily resolved.  Woodbridge residents shouldn’t be expected to have to choose between road safety and a 4G signal

Whats up in Suffolk June to July 2016

Caroline Page, Woodbridge County Councillor (Phot: Toby Gray Photography)
Caroline Page, Woodbridge County Councillor (Phot: Toby Gray Photography)

Though these last few weeks have been dominated by the national Referendum  and the Norfolk and Suffolk Devolution debates, other things have – of course – been happening on the domestic front.  The big issues in SCC have been a new plan for maintaining Suffolk’s Highways and the future of the Ipswich Park and Ride, not to mention  the political stability of the Conservative administration, while locally,there has been continuing work to secure the future of the Woodbridge Youth Centre

A new Highway Maintenance Operational Plan  SCC’s Cabinet  has just approved Suffolk’s new Highway Maintenance Operational Plan.

Basically they had little option because the past Highways Maintenance plans have been a disaster, criticised by everyone, regardless of party affiliation. (And anyway, this Plan has been running (‘trialled’) without Cabinet consent since early May.)

The good news is that it concedes that the previous way of Highways Maintenance working was unwieldy and inefficient, as county, town and district councillors across Suffolk can testify. There will now be a much more unified and strategic way of working between SCC and contractors Kier to try and make things work more efficiently than they have (with clear matrices for action for all eventualities). This may mean that the Highways small schemes backlog may clear at long, long last.

The bad news is that the mantra of ‘you’ve got to pay the market price for the work you get’ is very much to the fore, so there is no suggestion of many highways schemes being affordable any more.  (An example was given of how a simple Highways marking job where the paint cost £49 would be charged out at £1989.) Unfortunately this seems to be the inevitable result of a market driven solution. Small towns like Woodbridge will no longer be able to rely on their County Councillors’ Highways budgets. Currently these are half what they were at best (mine is £6660 this year).  Yet jobs will be many times more expensive.

At the Cabinet meeting I asked whether this was not a case of the ‘tail wagging the dog’? That this newly designed Highways Maintenance Operational Plan (the second one in a year!) had been constructed to fit the contractor because the contractor had been unable to stick to the agreed plan?(This was loudly rejected – but with little evidence).

In particular I  pointed out the anomaly of a private organisation uttering the ‘you’ve got to pay the market price for the work you get’ mantra whilst

  1. having no competition to ensure that they are offering good value for money
  2. charging for the time worked by SCC officers  on projects (when these officers  have already been paid by SCC) when billing councillors for these projects             and
  3. failing to recognise the principle of counter-charge that ought to apply when the contractor wastes the time of County Councillors – who they rely on heavily for advocacy and intermediary work.

Surely these charges must be reciprocal? I suggested. Surely a free market model will not be wholly accurate unless the councillors too have a market rate set against  the work they do? For equity,  a charge for councillors’  work ought to be introduced which could then be levied  against  excessive charges and the incompetence of the contractor. Why should local highways budgets suffer from inflated charges without any redress?

Naturally this is far too sensible and logical a suggestion to be accepted by the SCC administration, but  I am recording it to ensure you are aware that the suggestion was made by me, in defence of local councillors’ highways budgets.

For the rest, we will have to wait to see how this will pan out.

 

SCC’s Conservative majority on a knife-edge  After a Conservative Carlford win Suffolk County Council continues to be led by a technical minority administration, with the following political make-up:

Conservative 37 – Labour 15;  LibDem 7; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent 4 (eg a technical opposition of 38)

However, one of the Independents remains the notorious Hadleigh councillor, ex-Conservative Brian Reilly, who will insist on holding onto his council seat although  disgracefully he has lived in North Carolina for a long time now. In Cllr Riley’s absence this makes the vote 37:37.  On the rare occasions he graces the chamber with his presence, he votes with the Conservatives (this  presumably being why they have been so reluctant to take constructive steps to get him removed).

Future of the Ipswich  Park & Ride  SCC’s administration’s plans to make the Park & Ride service self-supporting by getting the bus companies that operate alongside it to take over its services were looked at by the Suffolk CC’s Scrutiny committee who were not satisfied with what they saw and voted  to send the plans back to Cabinet. These were reassessed and once again passed.

In a slightly rewritten proposal the  ultimate future of the P&R will not hang immediately on the success of this scheme. If it fails, the plan will have to go back to Cabinet for reassessment before any thought of closure. However, Woodbridge and Martlesham residents will be concerned to discover there is as yet no clarity as to which First buses will be operating at the Martlesham end. This obviously makes a difference – both to the P&R service AND to the service it operates within.

(I had been told by officers very clearly that it would NOT be the Martlesham-terminating 66, but our less circuitous 63, 64, 65 will become Park and Ride buses. The Labour spokesperson has been equally clearly informed it will be the 66. I asked Cabinet Member James Finch for disambiguation at the previous Cabinet meeting. Unfortunately  he had no idea whatsoever.)

I have been promised that once the scheme has been passed we will get confirmation as to which of these two options  will be in operation.

I remain unsure how successfully this  service will work. It seemed to me that the best way to make the P&R more income-generating would be to make it more responsive to unmet demand  – and that would be to provide a good service for London commuters. This our local buses does not do.

Indeed at the moment I cannot see any very compelling reason why people should now drive to the P&R from Woodbridge rather than getting on the same bus in Woodbridge – especially as they will be able to use their bus passes in Woodbridge but will pay to sit on the same bus if they board it at the Park & Ride! We will wait and see as more details emerge.

 

Proposed Gladman development on Woodbridge fringe

I have written with the significant concerns I have regarding the outline planning application proposed for the land east of Bridge Farm, Top Street, Martlesham –  the impact of which would fall within the Woodbridge division.

While we all  recognise the desperate  need for affordable housing in oue area, I would be very concerned if permission for this particular development were to go ahead  (particularly as the proposed development of 2000 houses at Martlesham  Adastral Park still remains under consideration).

Apart from the fact that this is the last piece of greenfield separating Woodbridge from Martlesham  – a fact which holds great significance for both communities – my principal concerns deal with  transport:

  • The application proposes vehicular access.  Proposed access  for residents’ cars is onto
    i) a narrow uphill section of Top Street  just after a railway bridge and
    ii) a wider, but heavily used and equally uphill section of B1438 (here called Ipswich Road ) which is heavily used, being  the main access road through Woodbridge.
    Neither seem to be adequate or appropriate exits onto the roads in question. There appear to be no other viable options.
  • Sandy Lane Gladman plan detailThe  ‘proposed  public open space footpath route’  as labelled on the Gladman  plan (see left – click to enlarge: an open corridor that leads from Sandy Lane, at a place that has no pavement towards Woodbridge  or  ongoing footpath without a risky walk around a blind bend under the railway bridge, to a part of Top Street which has no pavement or ongoing footpath) is misleading. It is in fact the corridor through which the EA One underground high tension cabling is due to be routed. And on which restrictive covenants will remain in place afterwards preventing building and planting (further details here  )  This is therefore not a ‘proposed  public open space footpath route’ but a guaranteed  space along which it is not possible to build or plant, which leads to nowhere substantive – and for which any developer needs to find an explanation.
  • I do not know what the planning guidance is on EMFs (Electro magnetic fields) and health when planning a new development – particularly one housing young families, and most particularly when there is a proposed children’s play area right next to buried high voltage lines?  The location causes me considerable disquiet.
  • Planning development with affordable housing will help house  young families who cannot afford local prices. Sadly this development would not encourage children to walk to school or socialise  in Woodbridge,  or indeed encourage any residents to walk to Woodbridge, or young parents with buggies to walk anywhere  as the ‘footpath’ debouches onto two pieces of road without footways.  If the primary catchment is Kyson (as Kyson’s catchment map suggests) there will be no safe means to walk to the school, unless a crossing is built across the Ipswich Road. Apart from expense, this which would cause congestion and possible  accidents in rush hour as the B1438 is the principal exit route for Woodbridge commuters.
    However, without a crossing, the County Council will potentially face a large and ongoing bill for education transport on ‘safety of the route’ grounds.
    The other great need for affordable housing is amongst the  older downsizers. These may often have the same requirements for pedestrian access as young families. And again these are not met.

In short, if a housing development – and specifically one with a significant affordable element – is proposed, it needs to be placed where  it is safe and convenient for people to live and where they find safe and convenient ways to get to work, to education and to socialise. The location of this proposed development does not  provide for this