News and views from Paul Bull, the Labour and Co-operative Councillor for the St THOMAS Ward of Exeter City Council. Promoted by Dom Collins on behalf of Paul Bull, both of 26b, Clifton Hill, Exeter, EX1 2DJ.
Back in April, Wales + West Utilities [W+W] were working along Barley Lane to replace the gas main pipe between Croft Chase and Dunsford Road, and replace or transfer services to 29 properties.
The roadworks were finished on schedule on 08 May 2015 – but that’s not to say W+W completed the job!
There is a speed table at the junction of Somerset Avenue, Barley Lane and Eton Walk – and this has been specially laid with an imitation brick finish when Sylvan Heights was being developed.
The utility company filled in the trench they created across this speed table with tarmac…
Under s70-73 of Part 3 of Traffic Management Act 2004, W+W are legally entitled to retain an Interim Reinstatement in place for up to 6 months before a Permanent Reinstatement replaces it.
I have been in discussions with Highways officers from Devon County Council who have informed me that the utilities company is required to match trench reinstatements with the existing surface, and their Streetworks Inspector is liaising with W+W on this issue.
The problem has arisen from the fact that the imprint design on this junction is a custom design , so DCC has had to go back to the Sylvan Heights developer, Taylor Wimpey, to obtain the exact specification and contractor details to enable W+W to commission a matching reinstatement as required.
Until this can be arranged the trench needed to be reinstated to open the road fully to traffic, the quickest and easiest material to put back now which can then be excavated easily again is the temporary bitmac reinstatement.
Whilst it is not appropriate or usual to immediately take legal action [leading to a fine of up to £5,000 for failure to comply] while the Interim repair is providing a safe running surface for vehicles, the 6 months expires on 01 December 2015 so an Interim Reinstatement would become an issue after that date.
But it’s become a bit more complicated…
I am also told that W+W will have to re-excavate within this concrete section when they resume their major works on Barley Lane in January. In this instance, it would normally not be unreasonable for W+W to request that the 6 months period of grace be extended so that the specialist contractor might complete all the work on one visit to site.
Apparently W+W have registered all their reinstatement work on Barley Lane on the Register as permanent rather than interim…
Because there seems to be specific public concern regarding the visual aspect of the Interim Reinstatement I am pushing DCC not to approve consent to an extension.
Building works on one corner of the First & Last junction have closed the footway (the posh name for pavement used by DCC’s highways officers).
I am pleased to report that, despite comments I’ve heard, there has not been a wall collapse on the corner of Dunsford Road and Buddle Lane outside the Old School House.
This is not a Devon Highways scheme and doesn’t involve any highway alterations.
Mercury Construction are working on the perimeter wall ofBowhill School site. As part of these works the wall outside the Old School House was to be rebuilt, as it was beginning to show signs of movement and their were evident cracks after having stood for countless years.
The works were scheduled for the school holidays to minimise disruption, but a recent structural survey identified that the wall was in an unsafe condition to leave by an active footway.
The footway was closed two weeks ago on the 8th July and the works commenced shortly afterwards.
A Cowick resident has pointed out to me that the pavement here is too narrow at this dangerous location and wondered if DCC should take this opportunity widenthe footway at this location.
So, is the pavement too narrow?
In Design Manual for Roads and Bridges HD39/1 Volume 7 Pavement Design and Maintenance Section 2 Pavement Design and Construction Part 5 Footway Design [May 2001]
2. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
Where possible the footway width should be sufficient to allow two wheelchairs or double buggies to pass. The basic geometrical parameters are set out in Table 2.3.
220.127.116.11 The recommended minimum width of footway/footpath is shown in Figure 3.1.2.
• A clear width of 2000mm allows two wheelchairs to pass one another comfortably. This should be regarded as the minimum under normal circumstances.
• Where this is not possible because of physical constraints 1500mm could be regarded as the minimum acceptable under most circumstances, giving sufficient space for a wheelchair user and a walker to pass one another.
• The absolute minimum, where there is an obstacle, should be 1000mm clear space. The maximum length of restricted width should be 6 metres.
• If there are local restrictions or obstacles causing this sort of reduction in width they should be grouped in a logical and regular pattern to assist visually impaired people.
DCC have told me the cost to widen the footway on this corner would be substantial and prohibitive in the current financial climate. In addition to the physical construction of the widened footway, there would be a need for alterations to railings, traffic signals and sensor loops, push-button signals, utility services, etc.
Also, this junction is also clearly running at capacity in terms of trying to get as many vehicles and pedestrians through the junction in the shortest possible time period. The junction layout is almost unchanged in the last century so understandably this challenge has increased.
Each of the four legs of the junction has three lanes (both directions) including a right-turn lane on each approach. There is no viable option to alter or improve this layout as the buildings restrict the available width. Any widening of the roads would impinge on the footways and vice versa.
To widen the footway outside the Old School House would involve narrowing of the road which is really a non-starter.
The ‘swept path’ is the name given to the area of road surface a vehicle uses in negotiating a manoeuvre or corner. As the drawing below shows for a longer vehicle the swept path is considerably wider than the vehicle itself and this can lead to problems at tight junctions.
The First & Last junction is already restrictive for HGVs, buses, etc. so to narrow the junction further by widening a footway, whilst still maintaining three lanes on each approach as needed is not practical.
And that response shows the primary focus of the Highways team – roads, not pavements.
Perhaps rather than a pretty pictures of an articulated lorry going round the corner, what is needed is a picture of a children’s buggy meeting a bicycle or disabled pedestrian inside the railings?
Have we lost an opportunity for want of some lateral thinking?
The opportunity to move the wall back, not to narrow the road.
The wall needs rebuilding. Why not rebuild it one metre further back? This would provide a wider pavement. And there would be NO need to touch the road, the rails or any other expensive kit!
But it seems although both under the remit of Devon County Council, the Education and Highways services work in silos and don’t talk to each other.
The scheme to repair this failing wall is part of a large programme of works by DCC Education department on the Bowhill School site. And these works had no highways impact until there was a need to close the footway due to the wall being assessed as dangerous.
The Bowhill School works are in progress and so the works have already been designed, put out to tender to contractors and the contract awarded to Mercury Construction.
As Mercury are now working on site, there is no scope for redesigning the works and changing the contract and programme.
Wholesale changes and increasing costs are an impossibility at this stage and would have had to have been proposed during the initial design to have been included.
The main trouble is no-one has ever mentioned problems with the footpath being too narrow here before. I haven’t heard about concerns and it seems neither has any other local councillor. Nor has DCC.
With no previous history of reports of the footway width as being a problem on this corner, then there would have been no motivation to address this issue.
I will be taking a greater interest in this corner in future.
AT noon on Monday, the public consultation on the draft recommendations for the new electoral arrangements for Devon County Council closed.
However, the public consultation on the draft recommendations on electoral arrangements for Exeter City Council continues for another month, closing on August 10.
The final recommendations from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE)for both reviews are due to be published on September 29.
Cowick councillor Paul Bull has represented the ward for the past four years and said: “The two reviews, running almost concurrently, are causing confusion, and that isn’t helped by the fact that Devon County Council’s electoral boundaries will no longer relate to Exeter’s ward boundaries; at present, a county council electoral division is made up of two complete city council wards – as we go forward, that won’t be the case. To use the technical term, they will no longer be co-terminous.
“I – but more importantly, the general public – would have thought that the building blocks for divisions of upper-tier authorities would be the ward boundaries of lower-tier councils and the review of Exeter’s boundaries should have taken place before the Devon electoral review.”
Cllr Bull has also pointed out a drafting error to LGBCE.
He said: “If you look at a street map, there seems to be a close affinity between Nadder Park Road and Wheatley Close and the apparently nearby Branscombe Close and High Meadows.
“However, the actual layout on the ground means it is impossible to cut through from one to the other – there is no direct route to get from Nadder Park Road to Branscombe Close – the journey involves travelling along Barley Lane, Barley Farm Road, Charley Avenue and High Meadows.
“In addition, the stretch of Barley Lane from Redhills to the junction with Nadder Park Road is a narrow country lane – the two main approaches to Nadder Park Road are via either Barley Lane from Dunsford Road or Barley Farm Road.
“For these reasons, I suggested moving Nadder Park Road and Wheatley Close from the proposed Redhills/Exwick division to the new Alphington/St Thomas one.
“It is worth noting that this suggested boundary line is reflected in the new St Thomas ward in the draft recommendations on the new electoral arrangements for Exeter City Council.”
I’ve had a update from Devon County Council to summarise the current position, which I post unedited – I trust this is helpful…
The County Council maintains that there is a strong case for a Park and Ride site (with opportunities to Park and Cycle, Park and CarShare) at the interchange of the A30/A377; however, we took a decision to pause and re-evaluate the alternative options as we may at some point need to demonstrate why no other alternative site is suitable. We have always been clear that the site must be within the vicinity of this junction because it will attract people from both the A30 and A38 directions, therefore our assessment included sites within 500m of the junction. Outside of this range and traffic is expected to find it too remote and there would also be substantially increased revenue costs associated with running bus services to the facility.
I’ve set out below some of our reasons for proceeding with pre-application discussions on the basis of the ’round field’ site…
There are a number of challenges in delivering a Park and Ride facility on the Oaklands site, which is part of the Alphin Brook Conservation Area and Valley Park.
Whilst we believe that there are opportunities to sensitively design the site to minimise landscape/visual impacts and enhance the park with additional planting and new improved routes, it remains a sensitive issue amongst the local community and key stakeholders, including English Heritage.
The Round Field site is part of an Area of Great Landscape Value; however, is an isolated field located between the A30, which runs directly alongside one edge of the field and the road that leads to Ide (it is largely out of view from this approach). Although a raised site, we believe that with appropriate planting, the impacts from long distance views can be minimised.
Given the busy nature of Alphington Road, in order to serve the Oaklands site there would need to be significant junction works to introduce signals and also address the level changes between Alphington Road and the site itself. Furthermore, at some places, a 4 lane-wide carriageway would be needed to provide for an inbound bus lane, an inbound all-traffic lane, an outbound traffic lane and an outbound right turn lane into the P&R. This would require loss of the screen of trees running along Alphington Road and would be costly in engineering terms.
The round field site, by comparison, is served off a less busy road and could be accessed by a simple roundabout junction. A junction in this location may also have the benefit of slowing speeds for traffic exiting the A30 and heading towards Ide.
In the morning peaks, traffic exiting the A30 (and turning right towards the city) can queue in lane 2 on the slip road.
The Park and Ride traffic would be able to use the comparatively empty lanes towards Ide to bypass the queues and gain easy access to the facility.
There would still be plans to create an inbound bus lane but this would make Alphington Road only 3 lanes wide and could retain the screen of trees along its length, therefore minimising the environmental impacts.
There is scope to improve cycle routes from the round field site towards the city centre as there is a route under the A30 adjacent to it.
There is also potential to improve walking and cycling routes to local communities, offering opportunities for residents to interchange with a frequent and direct bus service to the city centre.
Our most recent assessment concluded that a 600-space P&R facility would be sufficient based on predicted demand; however, the ’round field’ site was previously rejected on the basis of a 900-space car park. Our assessment suggests approximately 600 spaces could be accommodated at the round field site and therefore should not be discounted as an option for being ‘too small’.
Both the County Council and District Councils have less funding directly available to them and there are significant demands on Community Infrastructure Levy, therefore it is important that we find a solution that delivers best value for money.
There were significant costs associated with the Oaklands Site, namely the need to raise the site by 1 metre in order to achieve satisfactory drainage and the highway works described above under ‘Accessibility’.
Although a full cost assessment has not been carried out for the ’round field’ site, the fewer environmental constraints and ‘simplified’ highway works would suggest it could be delivered at a reduced cost to the Oaklands site.
We are planning to host a public consultation at West Exe School between 4pm and 8pm on 21st July, where there will of course be opportunities to ask officers questions about the proposals.
As part of the Sylvan Heights development off Barley Lane, the developers – Taylor Wimpey – proposed off-site highway works in the form of a raised table safety measure along Barley Lane. The raised carriageway would extend across the width of Barley Lane from approximately 7 metres north of the proposed main site entrance to approximately 5 metres south of the entrance. It would also extend across the Barley Lane’s junction with Somerset Avenue and the main site entrance and for approximately 5 metres along these roads. At each of the points where the raised table meets the road, a 2 metres long ramp to gradually raise the carriageway to 50mm height is proposed. [Officer Report on Planning Application 08/1476/03 presented to ECC Planning Committee on 06/03/09].
What Taylor Wimpey actually delivered was a speed table with an imprint design in a ‘granite set’ pattern This is created with a ‘stamp’ that imprints a pattern into the surface to give it the appearance of a granite set construction.
No-one travelling along Barley Lane over recent months could have missed the utilities works being carried out by Wales and West Utiltities, where they were laying a gas pipe.
However, no-one travelling along Barley Lane now will be unaware of the state Wales & West have left the speed table.
I have been told by Devon County Council Highways officers over this who have informed us that under the New Roads & Street Works Act (NRSWA) 1991 “the utility company is required to match trench reinstatements with the existing surface’
The delay to reinstatement has arisen from the fact that the imprint design on this junction is unusual, if not unique. As imprint stamps have many varieties then it is important to get a like for like match, Wales & West have employed a contractor who will make up a stamp to recreate the imprint design as close as possible to the original. This will enable Wales & West to commission a matching reinstatement as required.
Wales & West have a 6 month period in accordance with NRSWA to make this reinstatement permanent.
Until this can be arranged the trench needed to be reinstated to open the road fully to traffic, the quickest and easiest material to put back now which can then be excavated easily again is the temporary bitmac reinstatement.
Exeter City Council have analysed the 2011 Census on a ward-by-ward basis across Exeter.
The data for Cowick gives some interesting points to consider when feeding into Devon County Council’s Public Transport Review:
Persons of retirement age = 22.6% 2nd highest ward of 18
Persons stating general health ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ = 5.9% 3rd highest ward of 18
Households with no cars / vans = 21.3% 12th highest ward of 18
Just the sort of people who need and use the P bus – the only route that serves the majority of the ward; the one that doesn’t go anywhere the GP surgery that serves the ward; and who would become isolated if DCC withdraws the subsidy for evening and Sunday services.
The Needs Assessment in particular talks about the the value of bus services in Devon and acknowledges
“Withdrawing public transport is much more than just a withdrawal of a service – likely to profoundly affecting people’s lives adversely in a way that many other service withdrawals do not, by denying access to many services, jobs and independence”
And the same paper quotes from a 2014 survey :
73.7% of all passengers on DCC funded bus services could not travel long-term if a bus service ceased
58% had no alternative way to make the journey if the service was cut.
46% are totally dependent on the bus
and a further 37% are “quite dependent” of which 38% did not think the alternative would be sustainable
And it links to to study by PTEG who represent the strategic transport bodies serving the six largest city regions outside London and declare themselves “the voice of urban transport”.
4.60. Despite the fact that people increasingly enjoy a sociable, healthy and active older age, it is estimated that overall, around 10% of people aged over 65 in the UK are lonely all or most of the time. Some 12% of older people feel trapped in their own homes and 17% are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week.
4.61. These problems can be exacerbated if the bus services that older people rely on are cut back, curtailing their ability to access key local services and to socialise and maintain vital links with friends and family.
So some strong evidence on the important of a decent bus service in combating social isolation.
Yet none of this seems to feed into DCC’s Public Transport Review which is focussed entirely on costs.
The section on the P service suggests that the withdrawal of evening and Sunday services on the route would mean 17,541 passenger journeys per year would be lost to give an annual saving of £24,119.
Gong back to the 2014 survey which said 58% had no alternative way to make the journey if the service was cut, that 10,000 passengers unable to make a journey – 30 passengers a day facing possible social isolation
So I question if the strict application is the only criteria that needs to be considered?
There are no parallel routes available to Cowick (and Pennsylvania) residents. It’s a long haul up the hill from Buddle Lane for elderly residents. There must be someway of quantifying the social needs of potential passengers as well as the financial implications.
I’m writing this in Hexham (where I’m currently working for a few days)
I’ve been contacted by a a resident about a number of issues, including the number of potholes around the ward.
The roads around here, notably Somerset Avenue, Sussex Close & Dorset Avenue are an absolute disgrace.
They a patchwork quilt of potholes, some of which have been bodged up but a lot of them have been left untouched.
This is what we have been doing about the potholes
As ever, this is a Devon County Council issues, in their remit as Highways Authority.
Throughout the county, Devon are budgeting for £35m a year for road resurfacing – unfortunately it costs £65m to keep them in the current – appalling – state.
Nothing I can say or do can change that decision.
But I am working with my colleagues to draw attention to state of the roads in Cowick.
I’m not sure if you saw any of the articles in the Express & Echo but we recently ran a petition about the condition of Dorset Avenue – I counted over 200 potholes along the entire length.
That petition was presented to Full Council in December, and we are now waiting for a response from DCC. I will admit I am not hopeful of a good outcome. But I have other measures up my sleeve to take this further.
It’s not as favouritism that we were focussing on Dorset Avenue, but because of the vast number of potholes. Be assured that we are aware that all roads throughout the ward are, similiarly, in a terrible state of repair.
So although many roads are in desperate need of a resurface, as it stands at present DCC will only tackle what are described as ‘safety defects’ – 40mm deep (that’s the size of a golf ball) and at least 30cm long in one direction, leading to the patchwork you describe.
I will continue to walk around Cowick with my trusty golf ball and point out to DCC when I believe a pothole is big enough to be a ‘safety defect’.
I’ve been contacted by a a resident about a number of issues, including the untreated weeds that are in abundance throughout Cowick.
While I am in the mood possibly someone can tell me exactly what my council tax is spent on ?
This year the council “forgot” to spray the weeds on the edges of the roads and when they finally remembered they announced it was too late to do it this year.
He concludes “it is about time our representatives pulled your collective fingers out and started doing what you were elected for.”
This is what we have been doing about the weeds
As ever, this is a Devon County Council issue in their remit as Highways Authority.
Although ECC do the actual spraying, they do it on behalf of DCC.
So it wasn’t ECC who forgot to treat the weeds, it was DCC who forgot to send the official order.
Without he official paperwork from County officers, ECC do not get paid.
And that it in turns means means more pressure on the other services ECC delivers on your behalf.
It might surprise you that only 8% of your Council Tax paid to ECC remains with ECC – that’s a round £2.50 a week for a Band D propoerty. The balance goes to DCC, Devon & Cornwall Police, and Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service.
Not everything I write for the newsletter actually ends up in the newsletter:
Back in 2011, when he first stood for election in Cowick, Cllr Paul Bull noticed an empty property on Newman Road.
“I looked very run-down and in need of some loving care. I wondered why it had fallen into this state of repair.”
Paul found that the empty property was a Laings’ Easi-Form building, and there were 2 other examples of this non-conventional construction type were laying empty in Cowick.
“I found out that they were in need of varying amounts of structural repair, and up until then, ECC Housing Department would normally transfer this type of stock to Sovereign Housing Association, who had easier access to grants to bring them up to a habitable standard. But those grants were become harder to get”
Paul was becoming frustrated. “I was sitting on committees approving an Empty Homes Strategy, yet in my own ward I knew there were 3 such properties, and these had been empty for some time.”
The issue of refurbishing these Laing Easiform properties was discussed by Exeter City Council’s Executive on 03 July 2012, where they agreed ECC would retain ownership of the remaining 21 properties and keep the income and the repairing obligations associated with ownership. This option would require a total refurbishment investment by the Council of at least £1.58m, which would be increased if any of the properties were able to have extensions. This expenditure would need to be funded from the HRA but it would only be payable as and when the Laings homes became vacant and refurbished
As a result of pressure from Paul and his co-councillor Heather Morris, ECC looked at new and innovative ways to restore and refurbish the properties.
Three years on, the properties are now occupied and were recently shortlisted as Best Energy Efficient Building Scheme in the prestigious Green Energy Awards 2014 organised by Regen SW.
Paul says: “I am always keen to promote green initiatives and the conversions of these 3 properties have put my green ideals into practice.
“Before work started these properties were very poor in terms of energy efficiency. Through a range of measures brought together in the refurbishment, they are now new homes with high levels of insulation that will be more economic to occupy.”
Paul concludes: I am pleased that the refurbishment of these properties has been recognised nationally and acts as a replicable pilot for other housing stock of similar construction type in Cowick and elsewhere.”