Four cyclists (not all representing Dynamo!) spoke at the Planning & Highways Regulatory Committee yesterday to object to the current plans for the path. A couple made the suggestion that the wall be built on factory land rather than on the current path, and everyone voiced concern that an alternative route for cyclists during the construction period had not yet been identified.
Here’s Dick’s report:
A sort-of positive outcome from the planning meeting was achieved.
It’s not that the proposed building of the Lune Flood wall has been cancelled – although that could still happen – but the changing of a single word may make a big difference.
Planning permission was originally to be granted on condition that ‘the scheme for an alternative cycle route to be provided during the construction period’. ‘During’ has been replaced with ‘prior to’ construction. [The council’s legal officer pointed out that it was unlawful not to have an alternative route in place before construction in the case of a footpath.] And if I understood correctly, interested parties need to be consulted as to what constitutes a safe and accessible alternative path along Caton Road.
In other respects the meeting was disappointing. Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox could find no evidence in the paperwork that alternative routes for the flood wall had been properly explored, such as the one that Dynamo and Matt Hodges had argued for – namely, one inside the perimeter fence of the Luneside factories, which are, after all, the major beneficiaries of the wall. This would minimise disruption to path-users.
It was also disappointing that nobody present could account for the absence of the, ‘vulnerable road user audit’ which the County Council had asked for but which did not appear in the officer’s report to the committee.
Funding of the project remains problematic: the City Council is hoping to get funds from both the EU and the riverside factories, but these may prove elusive.
Thank you to Matt Hodges, Tim Dant and John Butler for speaking up for the need to build a 100% safe alternative route along Caton Road. I think it was at least made very clear to the committee just how dangerous a road it is.
In their response of 17 September, the County Council Highways team says in the third bullet point at the top of page 2:
In order to ascertain the impact of increased pedestrian/cycle movements along the carriageway and separately adjacent footway I would ask that the applicant submit a “vulnerable road user audit” as a means of assessing the impact of proposed changes to the [footway/cycleway] network.
There’s no mention in the officer’s report to the committee of such an audit having been carried out.
One to raise at the Planning Committee tomorrow.
It’s a slightly odd title for a Dynamo piece, but it refers to a report on the BBC website by Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst. He refers to a recent report by Transport for New Homes, which looked at more than 20 large new residential developments in England. In some cases the new estates were plonked down some way from the nearest town, beside a bypass or link road, with no facilities and no safe way of getting to schools, shops, work other than by car.
It’s not a heartening read: it talks of how the public realm in these estates is dominated by the needs of the car, and how planners and developers can’t tell the difference between an everyday utility route (i.e. one that gets you to work or school) and a recreational walking and cycling route (i.e. let’s spend the whole afternoon cycling 3 miles as the crow flies, is muddy when it’s wet, and is a bit too dark and isolated to feel quite safe at night).
The report identifies the difficulties and offers some solutions, and it is sympathetic to local authorities. Their powers and funds are too limited to link existing towns to new greenfield developments, and the developer is only interested in what is built within the red lines of their plot.
And, in relation to our own Bailrigg “Garden” Village (or whatever it is now called), this is particularly pertinent:
An increasingly popular solution to the problem of ‘where to put all these houses’ and locate a five-year housing land supply, is the urban extension or ‘garden village’ of a few thousand homes. Developers offer sites in greenfield locations and do all the master-planning and the construction – a kind of ‘plug and play’. These places, as we have explained, are by and large car-based but our visits to this model of development also revealed another important flaw. Not only were homes often built on fields some way from the town, but even if they were next to other suburbs on the edge of town they typically didn’t properly connect to the existing suburban streets. They tended to be isolated bubbles as opposed to new quarters of the town connected to the existing street network.
Dick’s letter on air quality appeared in this week’s Lancaster Guardian:
Seventy-nine car parking spaces at St George’s Works on the quay have been given planning permission by Lancaster City Council as part of the package of new student accommodation, reports Nick Lakin in Bonfire Night demolition date at historic mill.
This decision raises concerns about the lack of imagination of our council, which continues to provide yesterday’s solutions for our current and future needs.
Air pollution levels around our city centre, especially on the gyratory, are well above both the safe and legal limits, as indeed they have been for many years.
So why are students being encouraged to use cars to drive to university, especially as the package includes new cycle and walking infrastructure? It is, after all, only a short walk to the nearby bus station from where regular buses run to the university.
Cycling could be made more attractive for students by replacing most of these car parking spaces with secure cycle parking cages.
Moreover, by building a cycle crossing at the end of the quay as part of the long-overdue junction improvements, all cyclists are provided with a safer route into the city centre and beyond.
When students come to live in our city, the message should be: help us detoxify our city centre, not poison it further, and don’t make the traffic congestion even worse.
And the message to the city council is to think ahead when granting planning permission. To imagine the sort of city we need in the future. Surely a city centre which is less polluted and less traffic-congested than it is currently.
At the risk of sounding as if she has nothing better to do, Patricia checked up on the cliff-edge end to the newish Quernmore Road shared-use path which Dynamo complained about a year ago. (Opposite the Williamson Park entrance.)
The good news is that there will be a dropped kerb eventually. The even better news is that the path is being extended slightly.
The bad news is that cyclists on the path will have to give way to motorists at the junction. These priority matters need to be changed at a national level to bring us into line with Germany and the Netherlands, where cyclists sail safely across such road junctions. The only example [but see comments below] we have of such a junction in the district is across the offshoot of Marine Road on the way to Rushley Drive (photo below):
Marine Road offshoot on the way to Rushley Drive, Hest Bank, photo taken 2009
South Road, Morecambe
A photo of the newish cycle contra-flow in Morecambe. It takes you the short stretch from the west end of South Road to the junction withLancaster Road, directly opposite Schola Green Lane, and hence gives you access to the Lancaster-Morecambe greenway. It’s a narrow contra-flow so you may have to breathe in to pass an oncoming car, and crossing Lancaster Road safely is fiddly, but it’s still a useful quiet route between Bare and the greenway.
The City Council’s case officer for the River Lune works has recommended that the Planning & Highways Regulatory Committee should approve the planning application at its meeting on 12 November, on the condition that there is a “Scheme for alternative cycle route to be provided during the construction period [of approximately fifteen months]”.
You can read the full report here; the relevant section is 7.7, and the conditions under which approval is recommended are on the final two pages.
This is perhaps the best we can expect under the circumstances, although it would have been nice to know exactly what the “scheme” will be.
Thank you to everyone who contacted the City Council to stress the importance of keeping a protected route open for cyclists during the construction works.
Update: Dynamo will be speaking at the 12 November meeting.