My week – week ending 28 September

I have decided to change the format of these posts – rather than being a simple review of meetings etc, I will also include issues that have come up during the past 7 days.

One of the biggest issues over the past 7 days has been the congestion around the town – not just in the town centre, but on the bypass and surrounding roads. Although this week’s problems have been worse than normal (exacerbated by multiple sets of roadworks at various points around the town), it is clear that the roads in and around the town cannot cope with the volume of traffic.

The Town Council contacted CBC Highways a few weeks ago about this issue – the rather lengthy response is at the end of this post. Unfortunately, the substance of the reply is CBC are offering no solutions at the moment. However, I do not accept that nothing can be done – something has to be done to relieve the congestion. I believe that the traffic flow on the bypass between the Grovebury Road and Billington Road roundabouts could be improved if new road markings were put down to spilt the road into two lanes at the approach to each roundabout (after all, the road is more than wide enough!).

A number of comments have appeared on social media sites regarding the ‘repairs’ to the bollards in the new town centre. Clearly, it cannot be left as it is. I am assured that this is a work-in-progress, and it will be coloured and printed to match the surrounds. I will be keeping an eye on this to ensure it is done in a timely manner.

At this weeks CBC Full Council meeting, a question was asked regarding the New Homes Bonus (this is funding received by CBC from new developments). Over the past 4 years, CBC has received over £32 million to support front line services across the district (of which, almost £4 million was generated from new developments in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade). This funding has allowed CBC to maintain services – leisure, libraries, children’s and social services and so on – despite the increase demand that arises from these new developments. This funding is in addition to the S106 funding that new developments generate.

On Wednesday I visited Pages Park Pavillion, which is currently being refurbished by the Town Council (sorry, I forgot to take any photos). The work is progressing well, and is due to be completed in early November. This will be a valuable addition to the Town Council’s portfolio of pavilions that are available for local residents and groups to hire across the town.

Looking at the week ahead,

  • LLTC Full Council – Monday 30th September @ 7.30pm, The White House
  • Mayor’s Coffee Morning – Saturday 5th October @ 10.00am to 12.00pm, Pizza Express
  • Living History Weekend – Saturday 5th October @ to 4.00pm, High Street
  • … plus I will be attending several officer briefings.

CBCs response re. congestion within Leighton Buzzard

The Council recognises that congestion and delays are increasingly a cause for concern amongst residents in Leighton- Linslade, with the feeling that new developments within the town have contributed towards this. In response, we highlight our general approach towards addressing congestion issues. This is focused on a hierarchy of interventions designed to ensure that a sustainable, value for money approach is taken and that interventions can be justified.

The first stage seeks to reduce the demand to travel, particularly in the busy peak period. There are many ways this can be achieved, such as enabling people to work from home or by growing the number of jobs available closer to home.

Secondly, the authority seeks to reduce reliance on the car by promoting alternatives, such as public transport, walking and cycling and encouraging people to car share. This again helps to reduce the pressure on the highway network in terms of the number of vehicles on the road whilst also providing many other advantages to the individuals choosing alternatives, including both financial and health benefits. A major focus in this respect, is the school run.

Thirdly, it is important that we make the best use of the existing capacity on the network. For example are the phasing of traffic lights appropriate and do they enable maximum efficiency? Do junctions allow the most possible number of vehicles through in any given time? Is road space allocated in a way which benefits the most number of people? This ensures that we are getting maximum value and maximum benefit out of our existing assets.

Finally, once all other options have been explored the authority will then consider the potential scope for additional capacity and new road building. This is the final option that the authority will consider because the costs involved are often prohibitive, it does not provide a sustainable solution to growing demand, it undermines the benefits of more sustainable travel options, and new capacity often attracts more car uses and so the same problems can often re- emerge further down the line.

This approach is taken both in the assessment of planning applications once received by the authority and subsequently securing appropriate mitigation from the developers in each instance, and also in terms of the authority seeking to address existing problems on the network and devising our own programme of improvement schemes.
Number, type and positioning of zebra crossings

The town’s inner ring road – comprising Leighton Road, West Street, Leston Road and Lake Street, was comprehensively remodelled in 2008-9, with the replacement of all traffic-signal controlled junctions and crossings with roundabouts and zebra crossings. A 20 mph speed limit was introduced, supported by traffic calming measures. The scheme was well- received, leading to an increase in the number of people walking and cycling, smoother traffic flows and reduced delays and fewer collisions, particularly those affecting vulnerable road users.

Since 2010, the number of people travelling by car during the peak hours has increased. In consequence, congestion- related delays have also increased, including on Saturdays. Drivers’ frustration with these delays is evident and has seen appeals for the decade-old change to be partially or comprehensively reversed. The most frequent request is for the zebra outside of the Leighton Middle School / Riverside Centre to be replaced with a signal-controlled crossing.

Given space constraints, there is no simple way to deliver congestion relief by re-engineering the highway. Greater use of traffic signals would not be a panacea, given there is limited room to add additional capacity at each junction. Removing selected pedestrian crossings would assist flows in the peak period, but disadvantage vulnerable road users. The risk is that people then walk less and drive more. Taking this action would also be counter to the council’s policy of making town centre services more assessible to people travelling sustainably.

This is particularly the case with the popular crossing outside of Leighton Middle School. Because of engineering reasons (bridge deck and multiple service access roads), it is not really feasible to move the crossing away from its current location, a main ‘desire line’. Therefore, installing a push button control would mean converting the Bridge Street junction to signals. The impact would reduce the junction capacity, making the situation worse not better.

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