Work on Stratford’s Clopton Bridge set to get under way despite campaigners pointing to new set of problems improvements will cause
CONTROVERSIAL changes to Stratford’s Clopton Bridge are due to get under way next month with campaigners claiming the intended improvements will cause a whole new set of problems.
The work by the county council will see traffic lights installed at the junction of the bridge with Swans Nest Lane, Tiddington Road and Banbury Road – while other measures will include a traffic light-controlled pedestrian crossing at the start of Tiddington Road.
A council spokesperson confirmed this week the work is due to start in late February and will last for about six months.
A crucial aim of the plan is to let traffic from Tiddington Road turn right on the bridge rather than join the flows to and from the Banbury and Shipston roads – part of the response agreed when the go-ahead was given to more housing on the south side of the river.
But the members of Stratford Town Transport Group have deep-seated concerns about the work. They believe key issues have changed since it was originally put forward as part of the planning process and it should not go ahead in its present form.
Chairman Colin Stewart, a transport consultant and former director of Arup – responsible for transport projects – told the Herald this week: “The group had been awaiting revised plans for a long while. When these eventually arrived in November, showing only very minor changes, the group carried out a review of the project and came to the conclusion that the project should be withdrawn.
“The problem is that the scheme was conceived over seven years ago in a very different environment. It is disputable how well it would have worked then, but there have been major changes in transport and environmental priorities since that time.”
He highlighted that the town, district and county councils have declared climate pledges, committing to reducing carbon and pollution – and government guidance is to prioritise active travel, where walking and cycling is encouraged.
Mr Stewart added: “This scheme seems to go against both of these initiatives and has the potential to make things worse.
“By their very nature, traffic signals create queues where previously there have been none. Consequently, the review identified a number of issues which would increase the need for vehicles to stop, idle, and start, and hence increase emissions.
“The scheme does include a much-needed controlled pedestrian crossing of Tiddington Road, however, this could be provided in a different form without the need to re-configure the junction.
“Other than the ability for cyclists to turn directly out of Tiddington Road onto the bridge rather than negotiate the roundabout, the scheme is lacking in facilities to encourage and provide safer active travel.
“The county council have confirmed that further traffic modelling assessments are being carried out, but with the work reported to cost approximately £2m, and being imminent, the TTG have suggested that the scheme should be halted. The funding could then be redirected towards transport initiatives which will have a real beneficial impact on the town.
“It has been said that it is a done deal, because it was the result of the planning appeal and planning approval. However, in my experience there is always scope to enter into dialogue with developers and negotiate variations.”
Town, district and county Cllr Kate Rolfe is part of the town transport group and also shared her concerns.
She told the Herald: “My biggest issue is that since the councils have adopted the climate pledge, I really worry about the emissions from lorries with their engines idling on the bridge or the roads approaching.
“I don’t want there to be, but I am sure there are going to be problems. It’s going to have a knock-on effect to the gyratory because there will be traffic stopped on the bridge at the traffic lights.
“Some of it might benefit pedestrians and cyclists – but not much.
“I will be asking the county that they have monitors put in place to keep an eye on emissions. The worry is that they discover six months down the track that the emissions are very high. I just hope the county does something if this is the case.
“We were slightly scuppered when the inspector allowed it to go ahead. Did he really look at it that closely?”
Avoiding changes being driven by developers and any resultant appeals is something that also concerns Mr Stewart, who said: “I have not found anyone who is in favour of this scheme.”
He added: “A key problem for Stratford is that current transport infrastructure improvements appear to rely disproportionately on proposals and funding put forward by developers, who are required only to provide mitigation of their developmental impacts rather than to secure genuine ‘improvement’.
“The town needs imaginative solutions, and the Town Transport Group is currently finalising a position paper on developing an Integrated Transport Plan, with the hope of providing a step change and to assist in moving forward.”
On the issue of any changes to the bridge scheme, the county council spokesman added: “In principle the scheme is the same as previously stated, however, we are currently reviewing the proposed road markings and signage.”
And in terms of the impact on users of the bridge, he said: “The construction works contractor when appointed will outline and submit traffic management proposals, including arrangements for pedestrians.”