South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) decision to approve a scheme that involves ripping up mature hedgerows and scores of trees to install a new bus lane along one side of Hatchet Road has been greeted with dismay by local residents and councillors.
With SGC’s own figures showing that the new southbound bus lane will reduce bus journey times by just 29 seconds, and only during the morning peak, with no improvement at other times of the day, the £1.47 million cost of installing it has been described by Cllr Ernie Brown, chair of Stoke Gifford Parish Council and one of three SGC councillors representing Stoke Gifford, as “economic suicide”.
The bus lane forms a small part of the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME), a proposed extension of the wider MetroBus network that is currently under construction. It will link Bristol Parkway Station and The Mall bus station, via Hatchet Road, Gipsy Patch Lane, through the former Rolls-Royce East Works site, along North Way, under the A38 via the existing underpass at the Combination Ground junction, and through the former Filton Airfield site (earmarked for redevelopment as part of the Cribbs Patchway New Neighbourhood).
The scheme also includes replacing the railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane with a much wider concrete structure capable of accommodating one general traffic lane and a bus lane in each direction.
Strong opposition to the Hatchet Road widening, which would require a strip of land to be taken from Meade Park (resulting in the loss of some trees) and the removal of hedgerows on both sides of the road south of Meade Park, was evident in the results of a public consultation on the proposed CPME scheme that ran from November 2015 to January 2016.
A decision on the scheme was originally expected to be made at a committee meeting on 4th May, but was deferred to allow further consideration of the implications of a number of alternative options for the section of route between Parkway Station and Gipsy Patch Lane, including some that would see buses accessing Parkway Station via Hunts Ground Road, Great Stoke Way and Winterbourne Road.
When the matter came back for consideration at a committee meeting in Kingswood on 6th July, a handful of local residents, along with Cllr Brown and fellow Stoke Gifford SGC councillor Keith Cranney, were again present to register objections to the proposed Hatchet Road bus lane.
New plans made available ahead of the meeting revealed that SGC intends to use the Meade Park car park as site compound during construction of the new bus lane, which was strongly opposed by the two local councillors.
An updated report claimed that all the options for alternative routes along Winterbourne Road would set the programme back by “up to 18 months”. It was also claimed that these routes would bring he road closer to approximately 140 private properties, compared to approximately 35 on the preferred Hatchet Road option.
No further assessment appeared to have been carried out on the three cheaper alternative options along the Hatchet Road route.
Cllr Brian Allinson, the third Stoke Gifford SGC was unable to attend due to a medical appointment but submitted a letter of objection in advance of the meeting, which is reproduced in full (see below) as it incorporates many of the points raised by the other objectors.
With public contributions concluded, the 13-strong committee then began its deliberations, with Cllr Pat Hockey once again expressing her preference for the Winterbourne Road option that includes fully segregated bus lanes, but her proposal was supported only by her two Liberal Democrat colleagues. Cllr Ian Boulton (Labour) then voiced support for the alternative Hatchet Road option that includes no bus lane but adds lay-bys at three existing bus stops, which Cllr Hockey said she would reluctantly support. However, Cllr Boulton’s motion was not supported by the seven Conservative councillors, who then, without further discussion, voted as a block to approve the officer-recommended Hatchet Road bus lane option.
Speaking at a Stoke Gifford Parish Council on 12th July, Cllr Brown described the committee’s decision as a “done deal”, adding “I’ve lost all faith in SGC, I really have”. There was talk of the parish council considering a judicial review of the SGC decision and it was suggested that the Meade Park lease could be examined by a legal expert to see if it contained clauses that might prevent SGC from altering the boundaries of the park.
An SGC spokesperson confirmed that a planning application is not required for any of the works on Hatchet Road as the work here, as on most of the rest of the CPME route, will be conducted under highway permitted development rights. Planning permission is only required for the replacement Gipsy Patch Lane rail bridge, the North Way bus link and the San Andreas bus link.
The spokesperson added:
“Through the next detailed design phase we will be investigating ways to reduce impacts on local residents living along the route. This will include working with residents who back onto Hatchet Road where the works will be happening to agree the best form of any new boundaries between their gardens and the highway.”
Construction of the CPME scheme is currently expected to commence in 2018, with the replacement Gipsy Patch Road railway bridge being installed over Easter 2019. MetroBus services should start operating on the route later in 2019.
Images: 1 How the proposed CPME fits into the wider MetroBus network in north Bristol. 2 Detail of proposed CPME route. (Click images to enlarge)
Cllr Brian Allinson’s formal letter of objection submitted to the committee meeting on 6th July 2016
Having given the matter great consideration, I now reluctantly accept the argument for bringing MetroBus into the front aspect of Parkway Station. It follows therefore that if the route is as planned to approach along Gipsy Patch Lane, then the most direct route is as proposed – to continue in a southerly direction along Hatchet Road to the entrance to Parkway Station.
However, my acceptance of that fact in no way reduces my strong objection to the proposal to introduce bus lanes along Hatchet Road at the expense of beautiful mature hedgerows and trees.
The southern approach to the centuries old village of Stoke Gifford is along the beautiful green-lined Hatchet Road; no amount of planned mitigation planting will ever replace the mature hedges that exist there now.
Such devastation of the existing route might have been understood if it were not for the fact that whatever is done to speed the transit of buses between the roundabout junction with Gipsy Patch and the Tesco’s Roundabout at Ratcliffe Drive, nothing of that magnitude can be done to the final section from the Tesco’s Roundabout to the entrance to the station itself. That dreadful bottleneck will still exist, and as a result the huge amount of public money spent on destroying Stoke Gifford’s hedgerows will have been completely wasted.
I submit that these proposals are premature. There is no accurate estimate at this stage of what the effect on traffic flow will be, after the opening of the Stoke Gifford Transport Link (SGTL, a.k.a. ‘by-pass’). Neither do we have accurate predictions of load factors in respect of MetroBus itself.
It is totally unnecessary to spend huge amounts of public money at this stage, ripping out those hedgerows, until the picture is much clearer.
Any Stoke Gifford resident will tell you that the biggest causal factor in the gridlock often experienced along Hatchet Road is buses stopping at the bus stops which have not been set into lay-bys. There are six stops along that relatively short section of road and only one is set into a lay-by. That one runs smoothly and never holds up traffic. The other five all require the bus to stop in the road and as a result traffic is held up for the period that the bus is stationary. Often quite some time.
If those stops were either abolished, or put into lay-bys, traffic would flow much more effectively.
I therefore propose that the route along Hatchet Road into the front of the Parkway Station complex be authorised, but that no action is taken at present to introduce bus lanes until the effect of the SGTL is known and also the effect of creating lay-bys, where possible, at the existing bus stops along Hatchet Road.
These proposals will save the waste of a great deal of public money.
Cllr Brian Allinson
Stoke Gifford Ward
More information and related links:
- Agenda and reports for the SGC committee meeting on 6th July
- Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (The Journal)
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.