Patricia and Matt spent Friday morning with a Planning Policy Officer from Lancaster City Council to look at areas identified for residential development in the Local Plan, with a view to identifying how new cycling and walking routes could link to the existing network. The aim is to effect a modal shift – i.e. encourage people in these new housing estates to use their cars less – and the priority is utility cycling to the main “trip attractors” (i.e. work, shops, railway stations, schools).
So far, so positive and proactive. It’s very heartening that there are people in the city and county councils who are prepared to draw up possible plans well in advance of any development. When – if – each development proceeds, these plans will be ready to be taken off the shelf and presented to developers, with a request for a contribution towards the new route*. To Dynamo’s mind, this is a great improvement on the current system: when a planning application is made, County Highways seem to make an off-the-cuff decision about what the developers can be asked to pay for. (See the idea of a shared-use path beside Ashton Road for the Pathfinders Drive development.)
Three sites were examined in detail. They are all in the Local Plan as potential areas for residential development to fulfil central government’s housing allocation quotas. We may all feel a pang at seeing these spaces concreted over, but from a hard-nosed perspective it would be worse if they were concreted over and nothing were done to promote sustainable transport.
Each development would have two access points for vehicles and further access points just for cyclists and pedestrians.
South Carnforth – ca. 700 houses
The canal towpath (which would definitely have to be upgraded) is both a key route and a barrier. It’s difficult to find the best place to put a new canal bridge for cyclists and pedestrians: the obvious position (to take you to Tesco and the railway station) is blocked by gardens and private land. You also have to consider the height of the bridge and the slopes required to make it compliant under the Disability Discrimination Act. The alternative is to cross the canal at Carnforth North Road Primary School. New Street might become the route between the railway station and the new houses; Dynamo suggested making that into a no-through road for cars.
North Lancaster – ca. 700 houses
Car access would be on the A6 and Halton Road. Cyclists and pedestrians would need access from both east and west and a way of crossing the canal that didn’t involve using the bridge on Halton Road. Direct routes could be through Skerton/Ryelands Park and along Halton Road. Could there be protected routes for cyclists along these roads? How do you get across the northern end of Skerton Bridge to Lune Street? Cyclists would no doubt also use the canal towpath to get into Lancaster, but this is a more circuitous route.
East Lancaster – ca. 900 houses
The problem here is that it is seriously hilly. (One for electric bikes, perhaps?) Car access would be from Caton Road opposite McDonalds and from Stone Row Head. Cyclists would use the Ridge estate/Ambleside Road (but crossing Keswick Road is tricky and the sight lines aren’t good enough to put a toucan here), or cross Caton Road (perhaps using a crossing installed for the alternative route during the River Lune works?) to the Millennium Path, or use Stone Row Head and skirt/cycle through Williamson Park.
Lancashire County Council is looking at plans for the city centre and the one-way system, but the City Council is interested in how the plans for the Canal Quarter can improve cycling. A through route (rather than crossing from Edward Street to Bulk Street) and a link from Albert Street to the canal towpath would be good.
So, all in all, a very interesting and useful meeting. Dynamo is now off to look at the planning applications for Aldi on Aldcliffe Road, Lidl on Caton Road and consultation on the Canal Quarter.
* For those who are interested in such things . . . at present, the councils follow the Section 106 planning gain methodology, which basically asks for contributions from developers towards necessary infrastructure improvements in the vicinity of the development. So, for example, Section 106 planning gain funded the number 18 bus service that goes to the new housing estate at the Moor Hospital.
Lancaster City Council is currently looking at introducing a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) instead of Section 106. A CIL would fund strategic infrastructure improvements within the larger area to realise social, economic or environmental benefits – such as a new school at some distance from the housing estate. On the plus side, this acknowledges the impact that any large new development has on the wider area; on the minus side, it may mean that requests for transport funding will be competing against equally valid needs.