While Dynamo recognises the importance of increasing housing provision, we object to this specific application on the following grounds.
1. SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT
The application recognises the need for sustainable transport, but section 4.4 of the Transport Assessment makes it clear that there are no realistic measures to provide for it (contravening sections 102 and 103 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2019). As it currently stands, it simply adds to the burden on the existing roads. Without any suitable provision for cycling the vast majority of journeys will be made by car, resulting in additional pollution, congestion, and inactivity in the area and having a negative impact on the existing road network for all road users, including cyclists.
1.1 ASHTON ROAD
Numerous important destinations are potentially within a 20-minute cycle journey of this site, but current traffic conditions on Ashton Road make it unattractive for many would-be cyclists. Specifically, there is no dedicated cycle provision between this site and Lancaster city centre (for shops, railway station) and beyond (Salt Ayre leisure centre or Asda, a 22-minute cycle ride away), or Booths supermarket on the A6. Despite having a 30 mph speed limit, Ashton Road carries fast traffic and is reduced to a single carriageway outside De Vitre cottages. Existing provision for both walking and cycling is thus inadequate given the actual speed of traffic along this road. The section between Cherry Tree Drive and Haverbreaks Road is a somewhat hairy cycle ride in the rush hour – particularly when heading south, with the wall of the Jamea Al Kauthar College on one side and lorries on the other. The cycle lanes on Ashton Road referred to in the Transport Statement are intermittent, narrow, and unprotected.
The Transport Statement notes the utility of links to the Morecambe Bay Cycleway (section 5.3.4), but still fails to recognise the need to provide safe access to it from the development site itself.
This highlights the importance of making Ashton Road suitable for everyday utility cycling, in addition to the other benefits that increased levels of active travel provide for congestion, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improved public health. These aspects reflect Lancaster City Council’s Climate Emergency policy.
With particular regard to active travel and public health, the recent lockdown has clearly demonstrated that there is a considerable potential for increased levels of cycling in the region, but only where ordinary members of the public consider that conditions for cycling are sufficiently safe. Suitable provision for cycling along Ashton Road could be implemented either by providing a protected route for cyclists, or by implementing traffic calming measures to manage traffic speeds to within the speed limit without increasing conflicts with cyclists.
1.2 ASHFORD ROAD/CASPIAN WAY
Realistically the only local facilities that can be reached by walking within a reasonable time frame are in the vicinity of the Boot and Shoe, a 20-minute walk away. Ashford Road is a reasonable route (once you reach it), but there is a bottleneck between Cinder Lane and the A6 and the footway disappears. Extra traffic on this road would render it less attractive for active travel.
Ashford Road footway opposite the cemetery is very narrow (certainly not wide enough for 2 people) and so overhung with vegetation that you have to step into the road to avoid it. Section 4.3.6 of the Transport Statement makes it clear that there will be no widening of this footway. The developer will merely fund the pruning of vegetation – almost as if this needed to be done only once rather than regularly.
Traffic calming measures along this road are in a poor state of repair, but are extremely important for managing traffic speeds along this important link for walking and cycling. Improving the standard of traffic calming measures should be considered as a minimum here.
Buses use the link between Ashford Road and Caspian Way (section 4.3.4), even if only for parking, meaning that the route (with no pavement) is not vehicle-free for walking and cycling.
1.3 CANAL TOWPATH
The canal towpath between Deep Cutting and Aldcliffe Road is – as the transport statement acknowledges – primarily a leisure route (section 3.4.17). Without proper maintenance or lighting, it cannot be considered an all-weather, 24/7 route, and it cannot be made wide enough to meet County Council guidelines for a “proper” cycle route. Therefore Ashton Road is the only option as a promoted cycle route.
2. ACCESSIBILITY SCORE
The planning application for the previous development on this site (15/01342) included an accessibility score which was borderline. There is no accessibility score provided for this development. If there are plans to develop the field to the south of Pinewood Close (as implied in the meeting with County 29.8.2019), it seems incredibly short-sighted not to re-assess accessibility.
3. UNCERTAIN PLANS
It is premature to permit large-scale development on this or other sites while the plans for the Bailrigg Garden Village/South Lancaster area are still unformed. We have no idea what plans there will be for safe cycling and walking infrastructure between Lancaster city centre and BGV or how satellite developments, like this one, would link into them.
4. OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
We would draw your attention to the current planning application for 72 residences at Pathfinders Drive off Ashton Road (19/01568/FUL). If both that and this current applications are permitted, the knock-on impact on the local road network without mitigating measures would be substantial.
We are also concerned that at some future date there will be a planning application on the land to the south of Pinewood Close (Transport Statement 6.1.3), as with the previous application (ref 15/01342). The minutes of the meeting held 29.8.2019 (Transport Statement) between the County Council and the developer imply that this is still the case:
“DJ explained the Curtins was currently working to c.130 units (80 on the southern parcel, 50 on the northern parcel) albeit these numbers are not yet fixed. This is a similar number to that previously proposed”
Is it possible that planning applications will be made piecemeal, and as a consequence will circumvent the need for coherent sustainable transport provision? This would be deeply concerning.
5. AIR QUALITY CONSIDERATIONS
Since Lancaster city centre is an Air Quality Management Area, and has been failing air quality standards for many years, it is inappropriate to permit this development without some measures being taken to ensure that travel between it and the city centre can be made safely and without contributing further to the existing air pollution problems. The Pointer roundabout and South Road are likely to be particularly affected.
6. PUBLIC HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
Since the cost of physical inactivity in Lancashire is estimated to be over £22 million per year, and over 15% of adults in Lancaster are considered to be inactive (reference https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/media/899640/physical-activity-report-and-resources-2016.pdf, page 3), providing improved facilities for safe active travel between this development and the city centre should be a priority.
7. CROSSING ASHTON ROAD
It is unclear if there is to be a pedestrian crossing with signals across Ashton Road to the development site, or if there is simply a pedestrian refuge.
8. SO WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
The announcement in the March budget that £140 million will be made available from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to develop area of south Lancaster offers the opportunity to put in place good-quality sustainable transport infrastructure that will reassure everybody – not just existing cyclists – that short journeys can easily be made by bicycle or on foot.
Dynamo has made proposals in the past about this area (e.g. a new route parallel to the railway line, cycle lanes on the A6, some kind of link on Ashton Road between Cherry Tree Drive and Haverbreaks Road) and, once again, we would urge the City Council to build such infrastructure before the first homeowners move in so that sustainability is ingrained from the very start.
With regard to this particular development, the developer could use some of the land to provide a good-quality shared-use path along the full length of the site on its western boundary with Ashton Road as far as the canal bridge. Move the pedestrian crossing/refuge to the canal bridge so that you can safely cross the road.