Why did HE withdraw objection to a planning application, leaving the cause unaddressed; what are the plans being considered to address severe traffic issues at M5 J14.

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Dear Highways England Company Limited,

In May-June 2016, Highways England, as a consultee, had raised an objection to South Gloucestershire Council Highways department in respect of a proposed, nearby, large housing development. The objection was on Highways Safety grounds in respect of the likely impact on the safe operation of the junction of M5 J14 and the B4509.

Subsequently, Highways England, Atkins Ltd and representatives from Stroud District Council and South Gloucestershire Council, met to discuss M5 junction 14 and its intersecting road, the B4509. Both Councils, mindful of the many large housing and commercial developments already approved and in the pipeline, sought reassurance that the safe operation of the junction was being safeguarded by Highways England and its partners.

However, Atkins Ltd reported that J14 was already operating over designed capacity during morning peak periods and near capacity in the evening peaks. Especially problematic was the severe risk to safety experienced by vehicles queuing on the northbound off-slip, which was spilling onto lane one of the motorway and likely to lead to high-speed shunts.

The parties resolved to work on the matter and the record shows that, in the absence of resources to replace the outdated, diamond design, motorway junction, in good faith, Atkins Ltd were to attempt to design a temporary ‘fix.’

Highways England gave assurances to South Gloucestershire Officers that specifying a Condition attached to the nearby development, requiring the ‘fix’ be built and in operation before first occupation of any dwellings, would enable Highways England to withdraw its published objection.

Unfortunately, traffic modelling later confirmed that this ‘fix’, which had proposed to widen the off-slip to provide three lanes at an estimated cost of £1.145m., would not address the root cause of the off-slip queueing: the proposal had to be scrapped.

That should have been the end of the matter until alternative schemes had been proposed and agreed. However, extraordinarily and without explanation, Highways England withdrew its objection to the nearby development. No doubt shocked at the withdrawal, South Gloucestershire Council, SGC, Officers found they had been ‘dropped in it’ by their Highways partners. SGC had no option but to withdraw its pending objection to the development: for it was to have been based on enforcing the delivery of a scheme was now never to be built.

Highways England had left the fundamental unsafety of M5 J14 unaddressed, and the Local Planning Authorities exposed, because any traffic attracted by or generated by further developments likely to use J14, would surely make the situation, already serious in 2016, worse.

Please will Highways England provide an explanation for withdrawing their objection to a development that they had considered a severe risk to highway safety – and which they were set to spend over £1m to fix - without it being addressed. Secondly, please will Highways England describe the plans being considered to address the serious traffic issues at M5 J14, plans which the leader of South Gloucestershire Council told a recent public meeting are in progress.

Thank you.
Yours faithfully,
J Wheldon

Highways England, Highways England Company Limited

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Sandy, Rachel, Highways England Company Limited

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for emailing Highways England in respect of your concerns regarding M5 J14.

So that we are able to provide you with a full and comprehensive response, please can you provide me with the planning application and reference for the site you refer to in your email? We respond to a number of planning applications across South Gloucestershire and Stroud and so this information will enable us to address your specific questions.

Kind regards
Rachel

Rachel Sandy
Spatial Planning Manager – South West
Highways England | Brunel House | 930 Aztec West | Bristol | BS32 4SR
Tel: +44 (0) 300 4704303 | [mobile number]

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Dear Ms Sandy,

Thank you for your request for further information.

As you are aware, it's the cumulative effect of extra traffic attracted to and emanating from any new development that has an effect on the SRN including the motorways. Commonsense tells us that the closer to a motorway a development is, the greater the traffic that will use the closest motorway junction. Also, the greater the distance a development is located from, for example, places of employments, schools, shops, health services and amenities, the more a development will be dependent on the use of private vehicles when there is a lack of public transport

Falfield, S. Gloucs., (directly relevant applications being PT16/0770/O and PT17/4880/O and the answer to your question) is adjacent to the B4509, M5 link road and also scores a very high mark for unsustainability, as above-described.

Also relevant, however, are other approved planning applications in recent years, with ca. 1250 more dwellings steadily generating large volumes of extra traffic to and from J14, especially those on the northern fringe of Thornbury, S. Gloucs. You will be well aware of the huge developments at Park Farm, Butt Lane, and Thornbury Fields, Morton Way. This is traffic in excess of that which can be said to be accounted for by published, yearly traffic-inflation increases. Furthermore, large developments at Charfield has generated traffic at the eastern approach arm to M5 J14.

Again, as you know, it's the cumulative effect of traffic at all the arms of the J14 junction that clogs it, leading to off-slip tailbacks extending to lane one of the motorway that is a severe issue.

We can say, after a post mortem, that a turtle died from the effects of a belly-full of plastic. We are unable to attribute this one death to a particular plastic manufacturer or waste facility etc. but we do know what the root cause of the problem is and can take immediate steps to ameliorate it.

After queuing had been observed on lane 1 at J14 , HE and other parties collectively agreed that the junction needed fixing and were ready to spend £1m+ to do so. Responsibly, HE raised an objection to the Falfield planning application. While it would be unlikely that a causal link would show that approval of a particular planning application had generated the traffic that resulted in a lane one pile-up one morning., nevertheless, a junction already operating in excess of its capacity and posing a severe risk could only be made worse by permitting even more traffic.

But when the 'fix' was found to be fatally flawed, the objection was withdrawn. Why?

Yours sincerely,
J Wheldon

Sandy, Rachel, Highways England Company Limited

Thank you for your prompt response clarifying the planning applications to which your FoI request referred.

I am currently in the process of responding to your FoI request but I will also address the additional concerns outlined in your email below in that response so that we have one, rather than multiple lines of correspondence.

I trust this is an agreeable way forward.

Many thanks

Rachel Sandy
Spatial Planning Manager – South West
Highways England | Brunel House | 930 Aztec West | Bristol | BS32 4SR
Tel: +44 (0) 300 4704303 | [mobile number]

show quoted sections

South West Enquiries, Highways England Company Limited

1 Attachment

Please see the attached response.

 

Kind regards,

 

Beth Galloway – Performance  Assurance and Business Services
Highways England | Brunel House (Area 2) | 930 Hempton Court | Aztec West
| Almondsbury | BS32 4SR
Web: [1]http://www.highways.gov.uk

 

This email may contain information which is confidential and is intended
only for use of the recipient/s named above. If you are not an intended
recipient, you are hereby notified that any copying, distribution,
disclosure, reliance upon or other use of the contents of this email is
strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and destroy it.

 

Highways England Company Limited | General enquiries: 0300 123 5000
|National Traffic Operations Centre, 3 Ridgeway, Quinton Business Park,
Birmingham B32 1AF |
[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati... |
[3][Highways England request email]

 

Registered in England and Wales no 9346363 | Registered Office: Bridge
House, 1 Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LZ 

 

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