A PETITION against the transformation of a public highway has an ally in a town council which challenged the legal basis of the project.

Gerrards Cross Town Council has weighed in alongside an almost 800-signature publicly-led petition in opposition to a temporary travel scheme, or “quietway” introduced between Chalfont St Peter and Gerrards Cross.

Petitioners claim they were not consulted beforehand, which Buckinghamshire Council does not deny.

The project is part of a wider set of plans to convert public highways in towns across the county to support more walking and cycling as people return to work and leisure “as lockdown restrictions gradually ease”.

The unitary authority was awarded a £514,000 Emergency Active Travel Fund by the Department for Transport (DfT), for a series of “temporary active travel schemes” across Buckinghamshire to be implemented throughout August and September.

Buckinghamshire Council sent to residents on July 20 a letter notifying them a series of decorative planters will be installed in the following areas:

  • Lower Road – south of the junction to Chiltern Hill
  • Lower Road – south of the junction to Claydon Lane
  • Lower Road – north of the junction to South Park
  • South Park – north of the junction to Oak End Way

A temporary closure between the A413 Amersham Road exit and South Park was also announced.

But no sooner had the scheme been implemented did it hit its first bump in the road.

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Superna Bhardwaj, and Janning Shenoy, of South Park, and Sian Hewson, of North Park rallied residents to a petition against the installation of the planters.

They claim the scheme was “forced through without full public consultation”, adding it has increased traffic in surrounding roads.

Their appeal received nearly 800 signatures in 48 hours.

“Apparently the aim of this initiative was to reduce traffic and encourage cycling, but this seems to have had the opposite effect for local roads,” said Ms Bhardwaj.

“It has forced lorries and cars to now use all of the quiet surrounding residential roads.

“In one hour, we have had over 80 cars drive up South Park, when there are normally around 10 to 15.

“All of the residents nearby are really upset by this. Many have to get access to the A413 several times a day, and the smaller roads will take the toll of the extra miles, not to mention the increased noise and air pollution.

“I can only wait and see how bad the situation gets once schools start opening, particularly around St Mary’s School on Packhorse Road.

“It is now hazardous for our children to cross the road and walk to the bus stop to get to school.”

Ms Hewson said the council has created a “safety trap for everyone’s kids”. Adding: “I am horrified at the negative impact this change will have not only on my road, but those surrounding.”

Gerrards Cross Town Council first raised its concerns to the new unitary authority on June 23, ahead of a virtual meeting on July 14 when it expressed outright opposition.

It then doubled down in a letter to Buckinghamshire Council on July 29, further setting out its case against the initiative.

The town council’s main points of contention are:

  • No need for a quietway – arguing “perfectly good alternates exist” (though they do require maintenance)
  • Consequences to road closures – intensified traffic on single-track lanes “where children may be playing”, and increased carbon emissions
  • Restricted access – emergency vehicles, disabled people, and the local school “essentially cut off”
  • Value for money – how taxpayer’s money might be better used to meet government policy and “the needs of the local people”

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“As the town council, we have not yet found a resident or trader in Gerrards Cross who is supportive of this scheme,” it said.

The town council also challenges the legal basis on which Buckinghamshire Council is implementing the scheme, adding just “a scattering of residents has received a letter”.

It also demands consultation-based evidence for selecting the proposed route between Chalfont St Peter and Gerrards Cross.

It asks to be part of any project by using its “local knowledge and understanding of real community need” to influence such initiatives.

Buckinghamshire Council cabinet member for transport, Nick Naylor, said: “Councils up and down the country are busy implementing temporary schemes to encourage safer walking and cycling and reduce rat-running as part of the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.

“Unfortunately, due to the rapid response needed in these unprecedented times, councils have not had time to formally consult first. However, we did write to all those local people affected.

“The benefit of the temporary nature of schemes like this is that we can all see how things work in real life and tweak if necessary.

He added: “I’d ask local people to give this scheme a chance and see how things go over the coming months. We’ve already received a wide range of views even before it’s been fully implemented, so please keep those comments coming in. These, together with our own detailed evaluations, will help us make future decisions about whether this scheme works overall.”

To find out more, or to sign the petition, click here

For details about the travel schemes, click here 

Image courtesy of Google Maps.