There have been a number of recently approved planning applications where residents have had serious concerns over the impact on traffic through the town. We therefore thought it would be helpful to residents if a representative of the Hampshire County Council (HCC) Highways Team attended our public meeting on 3 November to explain their processes for assessing traffic impact and to answer your questions.
Our Treasurer, Vernon Stradling, contacted HCC with this invitation. Unfortunately, the invitation was declined with the explanation that the Council was concerned that it would set a precedent requiring attendance at similar meetings across the county. The Council also felt that our request was about general principles, and they would be better able to respond to a request linked to a specific application.
Undaunted, Vernon replied:
|16 September 2022 10:53|
Dear Councillor Heron,
Many thanks for your email and for taking time to consider our request. It is true that our members and the wider Havant public are interested in the general principles and methods used for the Transport Team’s traffic assessments but this interest arises from the outcome of a number of recent planning applications that have, to residents at least, appeared to have significant traffic implications. By definition, concern about the cumulative impact of developments cannot be ascribed to any one specific application.
We felt that an HCC officer attending our meeting would prefer to address the topic more broadly rather than reopen recent wounds concerning somewhat contentious applications. If that is not the case, I am very happy to set our request in the context of specific applications, both recently decided and live.
APP/20/01221 was recently approved by Havant Borough Council and concerns the construction of a new Lidl store at Purbrook that will share access to the highway with a large B&Q, situated very close to a traffic hot-spot known locally as the “Asda roundabout”. The applicant’s traffic consultant stated (confessed?) that his analysis had been carried out using an HCC model developed to support the case for a major enhancement to the roundabout that was completed
seven years ago. This model is clearly out of date and certainly did not take account of live application APP/20/00441 for 100 new homes close by on one of the roads feeding the roundabout. Neither did it account for two nearby developments of 130 dwellings (APP/19/01101) and 102 dwellings (APP/22/00439) respectively that are currently before HBC and would also feed into the roundabout. Havant Borough Councillors, together with residents, expressed concerns about the traffic implications but these were apparently not shared by the HCC Transport Team.
APP/21/00200, approved last year, was for a very large “last mile” distribution centre at New Lane, Havant. The applicant’s own traffic assessment, which we consider grossly flawed, estimated over 2,000 extra vehicle movements per day but, again, HCC’s Transport Team did not seem to share residents’ concerns over the impact on local traffic density. Also in this case the cumulative impact of developments very close by was not considered. (APP/19/00007 for 70 dwellings, approved; APP/20/00761 for a 64 bed care home, approved; APP/20/00658 for 175 dwellings, live.)
Given the above, I am sure you can appreciate that the concerns of Havant residents are in fact very much focussed around a small number of specific applications and I hope therefore that you will now feel able to support the attendance of an officer or elected representative at our meeting. While this may appear to be an invitation to enter the lion’s den, I can assure you that our members are fully open to persuasion that the HCC traffic assessments are rigorous, appropriate and fit for purpose but, at the moment, the process seems uncomfortably opaque.
This brought the following response from Councillor Edward Heron, Executive Lead Member for Transport and Environment Strategy:
|Dear Mr Stradling,|
Thank you for your email, I have discussed with officers the principles on how planning applications for development are considered with regards to transport matters.
It is important to understand that the Highway Authority’s recommendations on the planning application have to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework requirements with regards to only recommending refusal of an application based on a significant and severe impact. These definitions are not defined, and it is for each application to demonstrate that they mitigate impacts accordingly and do not therefore result in an impact which would support a reason for refusal against this criteria.
The Highway Authority are required to assess each application on its own merits, and this can include consideration of the local plan position and current permitted use for the land. An application must provide a transport statement or assessment (depending on its scale) which sets out the existing use of the land, existing trip generation, proposed use, proposed trip generation, distribution of traffic (existing and proposed) and the resulting demand at junctions identified within the agreed study area. Where necessary due to significant increases in traffic demand through a junction as a result of development, then these are modelled using industry approved software which varies depending on the junction form. There are then industry set thresholds for when a junction performs efficiently and when it doesn’t (above 90% is when traffic and congestion generally starts to be problematic, an 85% operation is generally considered optimal in design terms). The Highway Authority assess traffic impacts within the peak hours as this is the time when in capacity terms the network is at its most stretched and therefore assesses the worst-case scenario. Whilst it is acknowledged traffic generation from developments is across the whole day and for employment sites the generation can be greater outside the peak hours and this is considered for specific applications when determining the peak period, overall increased traffic, and the impact in terms of amenity is for the Planning Authority to consider against other factors such as noise.
Committed development is considered along with general background traffic growth using TEMPRO predictions (background traffic growth forecasts). If there are significant specific applications which have cumulative impact on a junction additional traffic might be added on top of TEMPRO growth however this is not always necessary. A forecast year is used to determine impact in the future, this is usually a period 5 years from application or post occupation.
Sustainable forms of access available to the site (walking, cycling, buses and trains) are also considered in detail and this is becoming more of a prominent focus for applications given the Climate emergency and emerging policy. If required, suitable mitigation of the development is identified either through direct improvements to the affected network in the form of junction improvements, crossings etc, or financial contributions towards more significant schemes.
Reasons for refusal must be robust, supported by evidence and supported by planning policy in order to maintain an objection through the appeal process. In the case of both applications referred to the applicants provided suitable mitigation to offset any vehicular traffic impact and therefore a robust reason for refusal couldn’t be sustained. It should be noted for both cases the Highway Authority initial responses were not favourable and if the suitable mitigation measures had not been agreed we would have recommended a refusal to the Planning Authority.
Regarding the Lidl store referred to, the Campdown development was considered as committed development within the base scenarios and this is documented within the evidence base and Highway Authority responses. It was considered committed despite it not having a planning permission because of its size, its inclusion in the emerging local plan and the application having been made with Planning Authority. The Southdowns College application was made after the Lidl application and was within the emerging local plan and it is of a much a small scale and distance from the site would mean that direct impacts would be covered at the Lidl junction through background growth forecasts.
In respect of the 32 New Lane application the developments referred to along Bartons Road are in some cases partially occupied and therefore reflected in traffic count information. Again because of the scale, nature and distance from New Lane the impacts would be reflected in the background growth assumptions at the junctions considered for the New Lane application.
I hope this information is useful to you.
Councillor Edward Heron
Executive Lead Member for Transport and Environment Strategy
Lyndhurst & Fordingbridge Division
Hampshire County Council
We remain disappointed that the Highway’s Team will not be attending our meeting but appreciate the effort Councillor Heron has made to respond to our query in some detail.
We have invited our local Hampshire County Councillor to the HCS Public Meeting and trust that she will take this important issue up on our behalf with a view to facilitating a more effective debate on the traffic problems that Havant Borough experiences.