Pedestrian Forum meetings on the Wellesley Development
In preparation for our future comments on the Wellesley proposals (Aldershot Urban extension), the pedestrian forum of The Farnborough Society held two meetings to discuss both the pedestrian and cycling facilities envisaged, as well as the likely consequences of this large development on our local highway infrastructure. We were very pleased that on both occasions our meetings were attended by a guest from WSP UK Ltd. WSP are the transport consultants chosen by Grainger plc, the site developers, to prepare the Transport Plan for this development.
Our September meeting featured an excellent presentation given by Andrew Winmill on the walking and cycling strategies that WSP propose for the site and its surrounds. Mr Winmill explained how WSP had sought out the existing pedestrian and cycle routes, listed likely destinations either within or near the development, and used all of this to produce a comprehensive Transport Plan for the site. His presentation devoted special attention to a number of local junctions, including the Queens Avenue/Allison Road crossing, the Hospital Hill/A323 crossing and the Thornhill Road/Government Road area. Improved pedestrian crossing and new shared pedestrian pathways were suggested for these localities.
Mr Winmill unveiled some novel and modern proposals for the Allison Road/Queens Avenue and the Hospital Hill/High Street junctions which featured diagonal pedestrian crossing routes that could better support pedestrian desire lines compared with the conventional approach.
The subject of a safe route for cyclists and walkers to Connaught School was also examined and two routes were suggested, one via North Lane and one following the A323 (High-Street/Ash Road) in an easterly direction. This particular topic was of interest to the Pedestrian Forum, who had previously written to HCC making suggestions on the need for improvements to the pedestrian crossing of Ash Road near its junction with North Lane and also pointing out that the pedestrian/cycling route to the closer Wavell School is much safer than the route to the more distant Connaught School. The latter secondary school is the one currently favoured by the county for future students from the proposed development.
We learnt that a new junction was to be provided for the A311 (Blackwater Valley Relief Road) but that this junction would only cater for traffic joining the Northbound carriageway and leaving from the Southbound carriageway of this important local link route.
Some of the discussion that followed the presentation centred on how well some of the local roads might cope with the impact of Wellesley development. The limitations of this new junction was raised with fears that traffic wishing to travel to destinations to the south of the development would lead to extra traffic along North Lane or along the A323 (Ash Road). The need for improvements to Government Road, which would be the main feeder route or this junction were also discussed.
In view of the traffic concerns raised at our first meeting we decided to hold a discussion meeting at which emphasis would be placed on the impact of the Wellesley development on the local road infrastructure. At this meeting, held in December, we were delighted that Mr Andrew Blacker attended to represent WSP at the discussion.
The proposed new junction with the A311 was again discussed and Mr Blacker was able to assure us that substantial improvements were proposed to Government Road, including the additions of combined cycle/pedestrian path adjacent to the road and an upgrade to the bridge crossing the canal. The pedestrian links between the new development and Aldershot town centre were raised, especially the crossings of the A323 at its junction with Hospital Hill and Gun Hill. We learnt that WSP had proposed a significant pedestrian and cycle improvement at this junction to link Gun Hill with Pickford Street together with providing a shared cycle and pedestrian route on Pickford Street. However, HCC were not willing to accept this design and instead opted to use the existing crossing facility opposite the Burger King restaurant where pedestrians and cyclist would have a more complicated route to the station and across the A323, the High Street and Station Road. We were also disappointed to hear that the diagonal pedestrian crossing, proposed for the Allison’s Road/Queen’s Avenue and A323 Wellington Ave/Hospital Hill junctions were also not accepted by HCC and regrettably only a conventional pedestrian crossing, similar to that which currently exists, would now be considered,.
The subject of safe routes to Connaught School was again discussed at this meeting. Mr Blacker suggested that a safe route along North Lane was going to be difficult to provide and favoured the second route which follows the A323 (High Street/Ash Road) suggesting there was room to widen the footway along the A323 to provide a shared cycle and pedestrian route between Hospital Hill and Lower Farnham Road as part of this route.
Throughout the meeting the point was made that if more cycling and walking is to be encouraged in urban and residential areas, then the needs of these groups should be considered first and not viewed as secondary to the requirements of the private motorist. We hope that this new development, through example, will make the case for sustainable development.
At the time of writing the Wellesley plans have just been submitted to RBC and should soon be revealed to the general public allowing us to make our comments on the proposed travel plans for this future residential area as part of The Farnborough Society’s overall response to the development.
Clive Andrews Jan 2013