The impact on residents of the absence of effective traffic management

Last week marked a significant anniversary of Dr Richard Beeching’s report on ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’, a study which resulted in the loss of many of Britain’s rural railway services. The Transport Users Consultative Committee had already condemned our own ‘Hayling Billy’ at a meeting in Havant Town Hall, now ‘The Spring’, in Dec 1962. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time but sixty years on we’d probably all agree that an electrified and traffic-free public transport route from Havant to West Town via Langstone would answer a great many of today’s local transport questions.

It’s worth reflecting on the relatively low impact that rail travel has on residential populations. Even those residents living within five minutes walk of Havant’s mainline station are rarely troubled by noise from the railway as this fascinating display from the England Noise and Air Quality Viewer shows:

The strategic noise maps shown in this post were generated as overlays on Google Maps using a web service provided by Extrium, a specialist consultancy providing support to UK government departments with regard to the Environmental Noise Regulations. Strategic noise maps and action plans are required by Defra to be produced every 5 years. They must be produced for agglomerations with a population of more than 100,000 people; for major roads with more than 3,000,000 vehicle passages per year, and for major railways with more than 30,000 train movements per year.

To put this map into context, look at the equivalent noise being generated by road traffic and consider just how much more of the residential population of Havant is significantly affected.

Next time you take the lovely walk down the Billy Track from the New Lane level crossing to the Langstone shore, consider the road roar as you approach and pass under the A27 between Lower Grove Road and Wade Court. At this point you’re passing through a Defra ‘Noise Action Plan Important Area’, one of around 10,000 such areas in the country. The ‘Important Areas (IAs)’ highlight “hotspot” locations where the highest 1% of noise levels at residential locations can be found. The map below shows the current defined extent of that A27 IA which currently stops short of the Warblington interchange. The current Noise Action Plan was published by Defra in July 2019 and with a revision due in 2024, we would expect that area to increase, probably stretching to the east to cover the new, densely-packed Barratts’ developments at Saxon Corner and the one proposed at St Georges Avenue.

To the west of the town, the A3(M) cutting at Bedhampton currently provides the other ‘Important Area’, expanded below. Once again, we would also expect this designated area to be revised, extending to include the Barratts’ development at Harbour Place, the Bargate Homes’ developments at Lower Road, and other recently approved housing developments east of Scratchface Lane and west of Hulbert Road to the north.

As the charts show, traffic noise affects a large part of the wider Havant residential population. This week we’ve received notes from concerned residents living in both of these designated areas of importance, prompting this article.

To let us have your own comments on the topic of Havant’s traffic, please just click this link to email us.

Unfortunately, nobody in authority appears to care about the impact of traffic on Havant.

As of 1 April, Havant Borough Council have disbanded the post of ‘Traffic Manager’, which was in any event a badly named part-time role essentially limited in scope to managing temporary parking restrictions and road closures. Despite the apparent importance of the role as a ‘statutory consultee’ on local authority planning applications, the standard response usually given was typically trivial, as in this example submitted for the Amazon planning application.

In our two tier system, the primary authority for roads and traffic lies at The Castle in Winchester with Hampshire County Council to whom we pay the bulk of our council tax. HCC is an authority teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and, judging by the state of our pot-holed roads, one in which the staffing of its Highways department comes a long way down its priority list. In the case of Amazon, the Hampshire County Council transport planner, fresh from his previous role as a ‘ride operator at Peppa Pig World’, reviewed the applicant’s deeply flawed transport assessment and declared it to be ‘robust’.

National Highways provides a third tier of authority over roads and traffic, concerned with the impact of development projects on the Strategic Road Network, in particular the loading on motorway and trunk road junctions. In the case of Amazon, with no direct access to the New Lane site from the A27 and A3(M) junctions, HBC Planning Services didn’t think to seek the opinion of National Highways. With 95% of the traffic destined for those junctions, this was a serious oversight.

The development at New Lane demonstrates a clear failure of collective intelligence, ‘joined-up thinking’, on the impact of traffic, enabling Amazon UK Services Ltd. to capitalise on the process weaknesses across these various authorities and, in particular, the credulity of the officers and elected representatives at Havant Borough Council.

When the council candidates knock on your door in the run-up to May’s election, you might care to ask them whether they understand the problems and if they do, how they intend to address them if elected.