REASONS TO OBJECT TO ST CYRES HOUSING DEVELOPMENT

This objection was placed on the Vale of Glamorgan Website on Thursday 4th January 2018 on behalf of the Dinas Powys By-pass Steering Group by Chair Rod Harrod. Due to a recent change of policy in the Planning Department objections are no longer available to view on line – only by personal visit to the Vale Offices.

STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS Application not likely to come before the Planning Committee before 8TH March… STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS

 

Response to Planning Application 2017/01136/HYB

Proposed development on former St Cyres Junior School site

  • SUMMARY

We support the provision of new housing in Dinas Powys provided the applicable policies are complied with and the applicable standards and regulations are followed. (This would mean the development could not take place until a By-Pass and possibly also other access is in place).

Unfortunately this development does not currently comply with a number of national, regional and Vale Council policies and standards.

The application acknowledges that the A4055 strategic highway junction on which this development is located, is:

  1. already at or over capacity;
  2. that the additional traffic from this development would make existing congestion worse and
  3. That this impact must be mitigated.

But, despite policies which require the capacity of local infrastructure to keep pace with new development, no attempt is made to consider feasible highway improvement options and to recognise that a by-pass could totally mitigate this impact.

The Applicant’s current site plan encroaches on the previously reserved corridor for a by-pass which was still applicable at the time the site was advertised for sale.  Unless the site plan is revised to avoid development over the affected area, it would not be possible to achieve a smooth alignment for a by-pass.

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Other identified problems are:-

  • The gradient of Murch Crescent does not comply with standards for accessibility of the site by walkers and cyclists.
  • The nearest existing bus stop is only just within the maximum 800m stipulated distance for pedestrians but buses from this stop do not go directly to Cardiff.  For Cardiff commuters there is a walk of well over 1km to a stop on the Cardiff Road.  The Applicant does not appear to have discussed with the bus operator the possibility of introducing a route to bring buses closer to the site.  The application proposes greater bus use without recognising that increasing bus frequency and attractiveness isn’t possible while buses are stuck in congested traffic.
  • Similarly, increasing train use requires improvements to railway infrastructure and train capacity but, with a new rail franchise due in 2018, there is no certainty that these improvements will materialise and any improvements resulting from the proposed METRO City Deal are unlikely to reach this line for at least a decade.

 

On drainage, there are several issues.

  • The storm water holding cells are located in the area previously safeguarded for a by-pass.
  • Construction of the new foul rising main in the narrow road between the Health Centre and the top of Murch Crescent would probably prevent access to the Health Centre which is unacceptable.
  • The capacity of the existing sewerage system into which it is proposed to discharge foul flows from the site is questionable.  The Applicant relies on a February 2014 Welsh Water letter which carries the disclaimer that the information in it cannot be relied on after 12 months.  Extra flow into the existing sewer could exacerbate the surcharging which occurs around the junction with Castle Drive following heavy rainfall.

A Construction traffic Management Plan has not been submitted by the Applicant to show that time limits will be placed on when such vehicles can travel to and from the site. (e.g. not at peak times or within a window of when schoolchildren are entering and leaving schools along the route).

In conclusion, we object to the application for the reasons stated.  Our objections would be withdrawn if:

  1. the development is postponed until a by-pass connected to Murch Crescent is in place.
  2. the site plan is revised to free up the ‘reserved corridor’ areas.
  3. more details are provided and more commitment stated to improve the site’s sustainable accessibility and the capacity of public transport to serve it.
  4. more convincing evidence is provided that the existing sewerage system has adequate capacity to receive foul sewage flow from this site and
  5. a satisfactory Construction Traffic Management Plan is provided.

 

 

  • IMPACT ON STRATEGIC HIGHWAY NETWORK

2.1    Regulatory Setting

New developments generate more traffic.  Yes, the amount of the increase can to some extent be mitigated by improvements to sustainable travel modes and Travel Plans but there will still be an increase in the amount of traffic.  To avoid increasing traffic congestion, the capacity of the highway infrastructure therefore needs to be increased.

This is recognised in a number of planning documents.

One of the priorities of the Regional Transport Plan (2010) is to: ‘Develop an efficient and reliable transport system with reduced levels of congestion and improved transport links within the SEWTA region …‘. SEWTA is the South East Wales Transport Authority.

The Vale of Glamorgan Local Transport Plan 2015-2030 (LTP) states: ‘The LTP also seeks to tackle traffic congestion by securing improvements to the strategic highway corridors for commuters who may need to travel by car as well as providing better infrastructure for freight.

This requirement is also recognised in the adopted Local Development Plan (LDP), specifically Policy SP1 point 5, Policy SP7 last paragraph and Policy MG16 under Highway Improvement Works.  This last one states:

To mitigate the impact of development on the highway network, highway improvement works in the form of corridor or junction improvement schemes will be required.

All these documents adopt the same approach to the impact of new developments; that is that increasing traffic congestion is not acceptable and should be prevented.

In fact LDP clause 5.69 under Policy SP7 states: ‘The delivery of planned housing and strategically important employment sites will be dependent on the implementation of key sustainable transport and highway improvement schemes.’

LDP clause 5.81 under Policy SP7 states: ‘The provision of a strategic highway network is vital to the efficient movement of people and goods throughout the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Council will continue to press for improvements to the strategic highway network …….  Likewise, all new developments that have an impact on the strategic highway network will be carefully assessed in terms of the need to improve strategic access.’

In clause 5.82 under Policy SP7, the SEWTA Highway Strategy Study (2008): ‘Identifies the A4055 through Dinas Powys as a key problem area of the regional road network as a consequence of the scale of traffic and associated congestion.  Barry Waterfront to Cardiff Link Road (Dinas Powys By-Pass) was viewed as having dual benefits, helping to alleviate traffic congestion and improve road safety on the A4055 through Dinas Powys, while having the potential to improve access to the wider road network.

IMG_8429 Millbrook Road with Dinas Powys Infant School at traffic lights

2.2    Impact on the local Strategic Highway

This site’s road connection to the main highway network is at the junction of Murch Road with the A4055 Cardiff Road which is the strategic highway linking Barry with Cardiff.  It is notable that Dinas Powys is the only Primary Settlement on a Strategic Highway Corridor in the Vale which has not been provided with a by-pass.

The LDP’s section on page 180 for the planned housing allocation MG2(28) for this site states: ‘a Scoping Study will need to be agreed with the Local Planning/Highway Authority, in order to inform a comprehensive and robust Transport Assessment that evaluates and determines mitigation measures which alleviate any detrimental impact future development proposals will have on the local highway network and associated road junctions.’

So it is necessary to identify if this development would have an adverse impact on the Cardiff Road strategic highway and, if so, whether improvements to the highway infrastructure are proposed to avoid increased traffic congestion.

The impact of this development on the highway network is covered in the Applicant’s Transport Assessment (TA) dated 18 October 2017 which in turn has been reviewed by Mott MacDonald’s report (MMR) dated 8 December 2017.

The TA provides figures from work by RPS but two other consultants have done studies of the traffic situation at this junction.

First a Highway Impact Assessment (HIA) by Capita Symonds for the Vale Council in 2013 and second by Asbri for the Caerleon site Applicant in 2015.

All three studies show that the Cardiff Rd / Murch Rd / Millbrook Rd junction was close to or over capacity at the start of the study period as illustrated by the figures in the following table.

Figures are shown for PRC (Practical Reserve Capacity ) and for the number of cars queuing on Murch Road back from the traffic lights.  PRC is a measure of the spare capacity at a road junction.  A positive PRC figure in black means the junction has spare capacity.  A negative PRC in red indicates the junction over capacity.  The higher the red figures the more over capacity.

Queue lengths at the lights are available for all branches of the junction but we are showing them just for the queue on Murch Road.

The HIA and Asbri figures are based on the pedestrian lights working on each cycle while the RPS figures assume the pedestrian lights working on every other cycle.  Either assumption may be correct when children are being taken to or from the Infant’s School on the corner of this junction.  However, for comparison, the PRC figures with no pedestrian light delays are shown in brackets.

Study HIA for Vale Council (2012) Asbri for Caerleon (2015) RPS for St Cyres  (2015)
PRC during morning peak -18.7% (7.8%) 16.2% (42.7%) 11.0% (36.6%)
PRC during afternoon peak -46.7% (-5.7%) -6.6% (15.6%) -1.5% (16.4%)
Murch Rd morning queue 27 cars 13 cars 10 cars
Murch Rd afternoon queue 70 cars 12 cars 11 cars

The Vale-commissioned HIA study shows the junction is over capacity to a greater amount and with longer queues on Murch Road in 2012 than the studies for developers show in 2015.

All studies assess the future traffic situation taking into account general growth, committed development and planned developments such as at Caerleon Rd and St Cyres.  The HIA and Asbri give projected traffic figures for 2026 and 2028 respectively while the RPS gives projections for 2022 and 2028. The TA does not give RPS figures for future years without the pedestrian lights operating.

The following table shows the predicted figures from these reports for future years.

Study HIA for Vale Council (2026) Asbri for Caerleon (2028) RPS for St Cyres  (2028)
PRC during morning peak -91.8% (-40.4%) -19.6% (2.2%) -31.8%
PRC during afternoon peak -84.6% (-33.5%) -43.6% (-16.3%) -36.6
Murch Rd morning queue 94 cars 43 cars 69 cars
Murch Rd afternoon queue 181 cars 54 cars 55 cars

What all studies show is that the predicted traffic congestion at the Cardiff Rd / Murch Rd / Millbrook Rd junction taking into account general growth and planned developments will be significantly worse in the future if these developments are completed without improvements to the highway network.

This can only mean the provision of a by-pass and its connection to the top of Murch Crescent because the Council’s own Highway Authority states, as recently as November 2017, that the capacity of the Cardiff Road junction cannot be increased.

The results of the traffic analysis carried out shows that the Murch Road / Cardiff Road junction is now ‘close to design capacity’ (TA clause 5.42).  The projected traffic figures for 2022 and 2028 clearly show that this junction would be well over capacity even after making the allowance for MOVA (Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Actuation) operation of the traffic lights (TA clause 5.43).

The TA states that the future extra traffic ‘results in the junction exceeding its design capacity’ (clause 5.42) and ‘the junction’s predicted performance deteriorates further in the 2028 scenarios’ (clause 6.8).  This means that, without effective mitigating measures, this development would not be compliant with the referenced LDP and other Policies.

The MMR states:  ‘In both future year scenarios (2022 and 2028) without the proposed development the junction is shown to be operating over capacity, due to background traffic growth alone.  With the inclusion of development traffic, the junction is forecast to be a further 10%-20% over capacity, with significant queuing and delay.  It is not agreed that the development traffic is of no material impact.  What can be ascertained is that in the future years assessed the junction is forecast to be over capacity and will suffer significant congestion and delay.

In relation to the Murch Road / Cardiff Road junction becoming even more congested, the MMR also states: ‘Although not recognised in the TA, it is likely that a percentage of westbound traffic will start to use Longmeadow Drive and Cross Common Road to gain access on to Cardiff Road.’  Local residents report that traffic on these roads has already increased as have accidents.

IMG_8456

 

2.3    Mitigation Proposals

Having stated that this development ‘will see an increase in the number of vehicles on the local highway network’ (clause 6.26) and acknowledged that the capacity of the existing Murch Road / Cardiff Road junction cannot be increased (clause 7.7), the TA accepts that mitigation of this adverse impact is required.  The TA notes that the LTP objective cannot be met at the Murch Road / Cardiff Road junction.

It might be expected that, at this point, the TA would consider how the highway capacity could be increased, for example when the by-pass is in place with a connection to the top of Murch Crescent.  This would not only mitigate the adverse impact of the extra traffic but would comply with the LDP Policies referenced in section 2.1.

Section 7 in the TA does talk about mitigation measures to improve footways and public transport but says nothing about such measures for local highways.  Although it is known that the Arcadis study, which includes options with a by-pass, is in progress, the TA does not mention let alone propose any road improvement by way of mitigation.  This appears to be a deliberate refusal to acknowledge the possibility that a by-pass may be chosen by the Arcadis Stage 2 study and that it could benefit this development.

Although the TA refers to the LDP’s and to the other planning requirements referenced in section 2.1 regarding implementing highway improvements to cater for new developments, it chooses not to comply with them.

The TA insults the reader’s intelligence by saying that these results ‘show that the impact with the development will not materially affect the operation of this junction’ (clause 5.42) and that the results indicate that the traffic from the development ‘can be accommodated on the local junctions’(clause 6.4) including the Murch Road / Cardiff Road signalled junction.

Instead the only mitigation measure proposed to address the impact of extra traffic and congestion is a Travel Plan which relies totally on persuading residents to stop using their vehicles and walk and cycle more, including the elderly, infirm and parents with young children.  A Travel Plan cannot be relied on to achieve the mitigation objective and thereby comply with LDP Policy SP7.

 

2.4    Conclusion

Four reputable consultants have shown that this development will have an adverse impact on the Murch Road / Cardiff Road strategic highway junction.  MMR refer to the LDP’s requirement that delivering key infrastructure improvement is necessary to mitigate the impact of development.

But no feasible improvements to the highway network have been mentioned let alone proposed to properly mitigate this impact.  In fact, the Vale’s own Highway Authority, in January 2016, when commenting on the Caerleon 70 house development, pronounced there was nothing that the applicant could do to improve the capacity of the Murch Road / Cardiff Road A4055 junction. Yet this Highway Authority then proceeded to say they would offer no objection to the application.

Similarly no mention has been made of the fact that a by-pass could fully mitigate the impact.  This means that the development as proposed is non-compliant with a number of national and LDP policies and we suggest should therefore be rejected.

What’s the point of having LDP policies stating that highway infrastructure capacity, particularly for strategic highways like the A4055, must keep pace with new developments if these policies are flagrantly ignored?

 

3.0    SITE BOUNDARY

The corridor for a by-pass, which had been safeguarded in the 1996-2011 Unitary Development Plan (UDP), cuts completely through the eastern corner of this site.

But, when the previous Council administration commissioned site investigation work in 2013 and offered the site for sale in late 2014, the part of the site encroaching on the safeguarded corridor was not excluded from the investigation scope or the sale advert and the Applicant’s current Planning Application shows their proposed housing development covering that part.

The adopted UDP had time expired in 2011 but was still being referred to as the point of legal reference in other applications by Council Planners and, in 2013/14, had not been replaced by an adopted LDP which, at that time, was only in draft form.  The reason for the Council’s decision to proceed as it did is unclear.

The Council should have taken the adopted UDP, which included the safeguarding, into account when deciding the boundary of the land offered for sale.  The Applicant’s plan for this development should not encroach over the by-pass corridor and the current site plan should therefore be rejected.

 

4.0    SUSTAINABLE ACCESSIBILITY OF THE SITE

4.1    Regulatory Setting

Clause 5.69 under LDP Policy SP7 states: ‘The delivery of planned housing ….. sites will be dependent upon the implementation of key sustainable transport ….. schemes.

In clause 2.40, the TA mentions the LDP’s requirement for new developments to ‘promote the use of sustainable travel’ and to ‘provide a safe and accessible environment.’

As pointed out in the MMR, though not in the TA, the Department for Transport’s Manual for Streets defines the maximum walking distance to a bus stop as 800m and the desirable distance as no more than 400m.

The Manual for Streets also gives guidance on gradients for pedestrians and cyclists.

For pedestrians it states: ‘steep gradients can have particular impact on older people, those with physical disabilities and parents with pushchairs.
▪ 1% (1 in 100)        – is never an obstacle.
▪ 2% (1 in 50)        – can be managed by most people.
▪ 2.5% (1 in 40)         – can be managed by many people.
▪ Steeper than 2.5%     – impossible for many manual wheelchair users’.

For able bodied pedestrians the maximum comfortable gradient is given as 5%.

For cyclists, the Manual for Streets gives the maximum gradient for distances over 100m as 3%.

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4.2    Site’s Hilltop Location

The fact that the site is at the top of a hill is not mentioned once in either the TA or the MMR which is a serious omission since it is very relevant to the site’s accessibility by walking and cycling.

The ground rises from a level of 13m amsl at the junction with Castle Drive to around 40m amsl at the entrance to the site.  Murch Crescent is the steepest part of this route with a gradient of approximately 10%.

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4.3    Sustainable Travel Proposals – Walking and Cycling

To access local facilities, bus stops and stations from the site, pedestrians have the option of Murch Crescent / Murch Road, the Ash Path and a bridleway to Sunnycroft Lane.

For cyclists, Ash Path is not suitable due to its narrow width and, if they wished to cycle towards Barry, it would probably be quicker to use Murch Crescent / Murch Road to reach the Cardiff Road rather than the bridleway to Sunnycroft Lane.

The TA says that the bridleway would be improved and that there are footpaths each side of Sunnycroft Lane. This is not correct.  Yet no commitment is made that the Developer will make the improvements or how the upper part of Sunnycroft Lane north of Longmeadow Drive, which is unsurfaced and has no footpaths at all, would be improved.

While it may be feasible for pedestrians and cyclists to travel down Murch Crescent, the gradient for journeys back to the site is far steeper at around 10% than the maximum gradients given for both pedestrians and cyclists in the Manual for Streets.

Strangely the TA talks about cycling to local bus stops though what cyclists are meant to do with their bicycles once they get there is not stated.  Neither train station has under cover cycle parking facilities. The TA also proposes ‘improvements to existing cycle facilities’ and says that ‘provision for cyclists will be proposed as part of this application’ but, though the MMR states that improvements are critical, no details are contained in the application and no details are given and no commitment made that the Applicant will do the work and pay for it.

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4.4    Sustainable Travel Proposals – Buses

The bus stop on Plas Essyllt is stated to be the nearest one at 750m from the site entrance which will be well over 1km from the western end of the site.  But the bus route along Plas Essylt does not go direct to Cardiff and its frequency is less that ten times a day, none after 17.30 or at all on Sundays.  So, if commuters want to travel by bus directly to Cardiff, they must walk to a stop on the Cardiff Road which is over 1km from the site entrance and nearer 1.5km from the far end of the site.

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The distance from the site entrance to the nearest bus stop is only just under the maximum 800m given in the Manual for Streets and far longer than the 400m desirable limit.  The stops on Cardiff Road are well over the 800m maximum distance.

The MMR says that the developer should have had discussions with the local bus company about taking a new bus route to the top of Murch Crescent but this is not mentioned in the TA.

The TA proposes that part of the Sustainable Transport Contributions are to be used to improve the existing bus shelters on Plas Essyllt but makes no commitment that the Developer would do the work.

The TA says that the Travel Plan will promote greater bus use but notes that ‘the existing infrastructure may need to be improved to accommodate the additional passengers’.  It doesn’t mention that more buses won’t improve the service if they are stuck in worsening traffic congestion.

 

4.5    Sustainable Travel Proposals – Trains

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Both the TA and the MMR note that, at peak times, the trains are currently at capacity and that improvements to the existing rail infrastructure, which presumably includes facilities at stations, and the capacity of trains would be needed to help realise a shift from cars to trains.  But, with a new rail franchise happening in 2018, no proposals are available so there is no certainty that this will happen. Park-and-ride facilities are minimal at one station only.  Any improvements provided by the proposed METRO City Deal are unlikely to reach this line for at least a decade.

 

4.6    Conclusions

The gradient of Murch Crescent means that it does not comply with the Manual for Streets as the main route for walkers and cyclists to access the site and facilities.

The only way to mitigate this would be the indefinite funding by the Applicant of a bus service up and down Murch Crescent.  Otherwise the application should be rejected on grounds that it fails to comply with the guidance for sustainable accessibility.

Improvements to bus and train services and capacity are essential to enable a shift to sustainable travel.  While these are somewhat outside the Developer’s control, it would have helped if the TA had reported that the Applicant had held discussions with those service providers about possible improvements.  But no such discussions are reported.

 

5.0    WASTE WATER DRAINAGE AND DISPOSAL

5.1    Storm Water Drainage

The developer proposes that storm water is drained from the site’s roads and hard surfaced areas into buried storm cells and that the discharge from these is limited then taken via a gravity drain into an existing water course.  There is no objection to this in principle other than that the location of the storm cells is within the corridor which was safeguarded for a by-pass.

In order to leave the part of the site which encroaches on the by-pass corridor clear of development, these storm cells would need to be relocated within the site.

 

5.2    Foul Sewage Drainage

It is proposed to drain the site’s foul sewage by gravity to an upgraded Stonylands Pumping Station and from there to pump it in a rising main to an existing sewer manhole at the top of Murch Crescent.

Our objection to these proposals relates to the route of the rising main and to the capacity of the existing sewerage system to accept the flow.

The rising main route is shown running in the existing Murch Road past the entrance to the Health Centre up to the existing manhole.  But the narrow width of the existing road means that it would probably be necessary to close the road while the new rising main is laid and the trench backfilled and reinstated.  But it would be unacceptable to close the road to the Health Centre not least for emergency vehicles.  This could be mitigated by routing the rising main in the wide verge on the west side of the road.

The capacity of the existing sewerage system to take the foul sewage flows from the site has been the subject of correspondence between the Council and Welsh Water for several years but apparently without a definitive answer as shown below:-.

  • In November 2013, the draft LDP stated under MG2(26) that the local sewer network is ‘too small to accommodate the foul flows.
  • In February 2014, a Welsh Water letter stated that foul flows ‘can be accommodated within the public sewerage system’.
  • In May 2015, the DCWW / Vale Council Statement of Common Ground stated under MG2(26) that the network is ‘too small to accommodate the foul flows from this development’.
  • In June 2017, the adopted LDP stated under MG2(28) that: ‘A hydraulic modelling assessment will be required to establish the point of connection to the public sewer system.’
  • In September 2017, in a letter to the Applicant’s consultant RPS, Welsh Water stated that foul flows ‘can be accommodated’.
  • The Applicant’s Drainage Strategy document dated October 2017 and submitted in support of their application includes no clear statement that the existing sewer can accommodate the site’s foul flows.
  • RPS’ Pre-Application Consultation report Rev 2 posted on 30 October 2017 stated that: ‘Discussions are however ongoing with the developer’ regarding discharge of the site’s foul sewage into the existing sewerage system.
  • In November 2017, Welsh Water’s letter to the Council stated that ‘foul flows can be accommodated into the existing sewer but also that the discharge point shall be made ‘at a point identified by a hydraulic modelling assessment OR the 150 dia foul sewer at top of Murch Crescent.’

The Applicant’s updated Drainage Strategy Report posted on 19 December 2017, relies on Welsh Water’s 18 February 2014 letter saying that their existing sewer can accommodate the site’s foul flow.  But a disclaimer at the bottom of this letter states that the information above cannot be relied on after 12 months from the date of the letter!

Although reference is made to the foul flow from this development being similar to the foul water discharge from the previous school on this site, no actual comparable figures have been provided.  Young children using the toilets between 9.00 a.m and 3.30 p.m. can hardly be compared to 24/7 use by 215 housesholds. The foul flow from the Health Centre has also not been taken into account.

Repeated reports over the years of sewer surcharging around the junction of Murch Road with Castle Drive following heavy rainfall does raise a question over the capacity of the existing sewers down and in the vicinity of Murch Road.  When this history is considered together with the expected increase in foul flow from the Caerleon development and the less than reassuring record above of exchanges with Welsh Water regarding the St Cyres site, there must be a doubt over the wisdom of connecting the foul flow from over 200 more houses to the system unless its capacity is increased.

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6.0    IMPACT OF CONSTRUCTION TRAFFIC

This subject should be covered by a Construction traffic Management Plan but to date such a Plan has not been posted on the Council’s website for this development.  This application should not be considered until this Plan is provided and time given for its review.

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