Bus stop at the First & Last

Along with my co-councillor, Heather Morris, I have long considered the many options surrounding the junction at First & Last – where 4 busy roads converge: Cowick Lane, Dunsford Road, Buddle Lane and Cowick Street.

Yellow box junction at F&L
Yellow box junction at F&L

I had a faint hope that, with the First & Last empty for so long, DCC would buy it up and knock it down and widen the junction. Now that the pub is to be redeveloped for housing that dream has disappeared.

According to Stagecoach SW, the First & Last bus stop is the busiest bus stop in Exeter. I think that means 18 of their buses are timetabled to stop here, but after spending (far too much) time here, I often see that buses DO NOT stop as there are no passengers to pick up or set down.

And if there are passengers, the fact that Stagecoach don’t use the Smartcard technology they have on their buses, the bus remains at the stop for long times (especially in rush hour) as those passengers pay with cash – and need change.

So I believe the only alternative is to move the bus stop.

The case can easily be made – the junction only “works’ at present because of the yellow box junction…but as it stands the current yellow box junction is probably illegal!

Here’s the relevant section of Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 5
(v) the carriageway beyond the junction should be free from obstruction (this may necessitate the imposition of waiting or loading restrictions, or the adjustment of bus stops on the lengths concerned)
so the only way to make the yellow box junction suitable would be to move the bus stop!

The first point to make is that there is no out-bound bus stop on the opposite side of the road – the equilvalent stops are around the corner: the A to Alphington stops 50m or so along Cowick Lane and the E/F1/F2 Exwick services stop outside the entrance to Bowhill school.

In-bound there is a stop for the A bus on the opposite side to the road to  the out-bound one.

However, there isn’t an equivalent one on Buddle Lane – but if  one was placed in the lay-by by The Green Gables, the one at F&L could be removed.

Passengers alighting at F&L have 2 main destinations – the school and the doctor’s surgery

The school would be served by the new stop on Buddle Lane for children from the Exwick direction; those travelling from Alphingside could easily alight at existing stop on Cowick Lane, a slightly longer walk, admittedly

For pasengers wishing to get to the doctors’ surgery on Cowick Street, they could use the stop outside the Sawyers Arms – the distance from this stop to the pedestrian crossing to the GP surgery is exactly the same as from F&L stop (I know, as I’ve paced it out!)

DCC are ultimately responsible for the siting of bus stops – but of course, they would take guidance from Stagecoach SW on this.

And we must take into account the views of the bus users who use this stop.

#EXEStThomas – Planning Application 14/4821/03

There is now a planning application lodged with Exeter City Council – 14/4821/03 – for a “change of use from existing public house and one first floor dwelling in to three dwellings plus an additional new build dwelling and associated ancillary facilites.”

Following a meeting with the Case Officer,  made the following comments as part of the public consultation:

I am pleased that the plan provides for 6 cycle spaces [2:03: Amount]

design-report-2-03

The Design Report document from architects Hilton Barnfield clearly acknowledges that the development site is in “a city centre location with good public transport connections” [1.02: Site Analysis].

design-report-1-02

And later in the report it states ‘the location is within walking distance of Exeter city centre and local amenities in the St Thomas district. Cycle routes connect the site with the city centre and routes out of the city” [4.00: Sustainability Statement].

design-report-4-00

However, one fact that is missing from the report is that the site is across the road from a bus stop that is, according to Stagecoach, the busiest in Exeter – there are 18 Stagecoach buses an hour timetabled to use this stop, along several out-of-town services throughout the day.

This alone, I would hope, would make this site a suitable candidate for a “car-free” development. And this would mean a restriction on residents applying fora permit in any Residential Parking Zones, as was the case of the old print works in Albion Street, St Thomas.

However, as we discovered when viewing the ground plan, I would question if there was enough space provided to enable 4 cars to manoeuvre into and out of the designated spaces.

So I would maintain, that as drawn, there is inadequate space to enable the provision of 4 car parking spaces. Yet again, to me, pointing towards a “car-free” development.

The junction at the First & Last is where 4 busy roads [Cowick Lane, Dunsford Road, Buddle Lane and Cowick Street] meet.

There is always chaos, confusion and congestion at rush hour – often resulting in the yellow box junction being illegally blocked. But I have spent many hours at this junction and I can confirm that this congestion isn’t always limited to rush hour – it can happen at any time of day.

The Design Report mentions that the site includes “a large used site to the rear with existing vehicular access’ [1,02: Site Analysis] but it latter mentions “the busy road intersection [2.02: Layout].

design-report-2-02

As it stands, the current courtyard has good visibility of the junction – the whole width is bounded by a low wall with a wide entrance provided.

I haven’t compared the planned width of the new entrance with the current one, but with a new building in place, the view of the junction to the right would be severely impaired and, in my view, would be extremely dangerous.

But my reservations don’t end there.

The entrance to this courtyard is immediately opposite the set-back white STOP line for traffic in Cowick Lane to turn right into Cowick Street – this is to enable the A bus [and other long long vehicles] to make the left turn from Cowick Street into Cowick Lane.

design-report-groundplan

I believe that this would make the vehicular entrance into the new parking courtyard hazardous.

The only way to reduce the danger would be to proscribe that exit could only be by LEFT turn into Cowick Lane, and that ingress would only be from vehicles coming from Buddle Lane.

As these conditions cannot be made, I would hope that Devon County Council as Local Highways Authority would come to a similar conclusion to me – that providing parking spaces for this development would not be appropriate.

So my only conclusion is that this development should be car-free.

#EXEStThomas – Reflections at the First & Last

Over the past 4 years, I’ve spent far too long opposite the First & Last pub, studying both the bus stop and the junction there.

Refections of the First & Last
Refections of the First & Last

The bus stop there is claimed to be “the most used in Exeter” – but is that because it serves 18 Stagecoach buses every hour (plus additional services from outside of Exeter run by Western Greyhound, County Bus and others) rather than passenger numbers?

And during rush hour, the yellow box junction often gets clogged up – the stop line on Cowick Lane is set back and visibility for cars turning right into Cowick Street from this direction is non-existant as the line of sight into the exit of the junction is blocked by the First & Last.

An unusual view of the First & Last - no traffic on the yellow box junction
An unusual view of the First & Last – no traffic on the yellow box junction

For a long while, the pub has been empty and I had a dream that it might be knocked down to widen the junction to allow for free-floowing traffic!

But that’s not to be.

There is now a planning application lodged with Exeter City Council – 14/4821/03 – for a “change of use from existing public house and one first floor dwelling in to three dwellings plus an additional new build dwelling and associated ancillary facilites.”

The architects planning statement has the following to say:
1.02 Site Analysis
The site and existing building present a number of positive opportunities for development:
– Generous existing footprint.
– Existing interior suitable for conversion to residential.
– City centre location with good public transport connections.
– Surrounded by residential properties.
– Good solar orientation and access to south and west light.
– Large unused site to the rear with existing vehicular access.

So, with the developer delivering 6 cycle parking spaces and an acknowledgment in the planning statement of “good public transport connections (as well as many local amenities within walking distance), why are there plans for 4 vehicle parking spaces?

And what about that “existing vehicular access”?

At present, there is a large open car park with a good view of traffic on Cowick Lane.

Current park car at First & Last
Current park car at First & Last

The developer’s proposed addtional dwelling would be on the site of this car park, meaning cars would exit onto the very busy Cowick Lane along a very narrow alleyway with restricted visibility..

Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 07.19.55

And it worries me that the exit would be directly in line with the STOP line for traffic wishing to turn right into Cowick Street – as I pointed out above, already a source of traffic chaos

It seems to me that this development could easily be car-free, and along with that an understanding that residents wouldn’t be eligible for permits for nearby residential parking zones.

Indeed, perhaps the developer could go further?

In his Autumn Statement in December 2014, the Chancellor announced changes to affordable housing provision,  and developers no longer need to provide affordable housing on projects of 10 homes or less outside of rural areas. (Previously in Exeter, this requirement was for developments of 3 or more as outlined in the  Exeter City Council Core Strategy – akaLocal Plan).

As a consequence, there is no affordable housing provision proposed within this application. Maybe the developer might be able to use this saving as a s106 planning consideration into helping set up a Car Club in St Thomas (see Chapter 11 of ECC Supplementary Planning Document on Sustainable Transport).

Further Reading:
Some of these thoughts formed the basis of comments on ECC Planning Application 14/4821/03
DOWNLOAD from here –  PDF Icon Com – Cllr Paul Bull (0.03 MB)

Cowick Deserves Better Buses | Timetable at Crossmead Villas

Yesterday I and fellow councillors organised a public meeting calling for better buses to serve Cowck.

The meeting understandably concentrated on the route of the P service and trying to think of a way for to get local residents  to the GP surgery nearest to the ward – St Thomas Health Centre on Cowick Street.

Bu the P isn’t the only route that runs through Cowick – there are a number of routes  originating outside of Exeter that travel along Dunsfrod Road to the Last & Last and beyond.

If I git my fact right,  these are:

82 – Darline

359 – Country Bus

360 – Dartline

which I beleive are funded by DCC

and 2 routes operated by Western Greyhound routes  – which do not receive DCC funding.

All of these stop at Crossmead Villas, close to the junction of Dunsford Road and Barley Lane.

And the trouble is the timetables at this bus are not really user friendly

DUNSFORD ROAD Bus stop 01 [20 May 12]
Timetable at the Crossmead Villas bus stop
They are the full timetables,  listing the start of the journey form places far, far away, mention stage timings along the route, yet make little reference to the times when a bus might stop at Crossmead Villas.

And that’s if you can actually read them – the type is in an extremely small font. I certainly need my reading glasses.

What is actually needed here is just a list of times when a bus is due at the bus stop. In large type.

Surely that is possible to arrange?

And probably it is easy to arrange?

All we need now is the will to arrange!

Bus surgery on buses to the surgery

Screen shot 2015-08-08 at 06.30.10
Do you think Cowick deserves better buses?

It is believed by many that the public transport delivered by Stagecoach for Cowick residents does not meet the needs of the travelling public

It is a 2-bus trip to access medical and health services provided by the St Thomas Medical Centre on Cowick Street, a difficult and taxing journey for those with mobility problems and young children in buggies.

They have to make a change of bus at St Thomas precinct – the 2nd bus stop is not even directly opposite the in-bound bus stop. They have to walk some 100m to catch the second bus.

Yet up to 8 buses an hour from Exwick stop at the First and Last bus stop allowing residents from Exwick convenient access to the health centre. These often cause traffic congestion at this busy junction, inconveniencing Cowick residents opting to use their own private transport, yet no direct bus from Cowick goes to this end of Cowick Street

It also means that it is expensive to travel to reach the health centre. Patients either have to buy 4 single tickets or an Exeter Dayrider at £3.50 to  make a bus journey to travel less than a mile as the crow flies.

On Thursday 1 November, Cllr Paul Bull, intends to experience the journey,  catching the P service departing Crossmeads/Sylvan Heights at 09:40 [the first service available to bus pass holders] to time the journey to St Thomas Health Centre.

Paul then plans to spend time talking to passengers on the service throughout the day to discover what they think of the current service offered by Stagecoach.

Follow Paul’s journey using the twitter hashtag #CowickBuses

E&E Letters | Any ideas about traffic solutions?

COUNCILLOR Paul Bull and I have been looking into the issue of traffic congestion at the Cowick Street/Dunsford Hill junction for several months.

I met with Stagecoach in April and they warmly supported my suggestion that we should all be looking at this junction and seeking a solution. Having looked at previous reports, I have noticed that the police, Devon County Council and Exeter City Council recognise there are problems at this junction, but have been unable to agree any solution.

I don’t think it is acceptable to say “We don’t know what the answer is,” and just let matters lie.

Clearly a solution needs to be found and there is probably not one that will suit all.

However, by bringing this issue out into the public domain once again let’s see if an agreement can be found on a way forward.

Cllr Bull (cllr.paul.bull@exeter.gov.uk) and I would like to hear from any commuters or residents that have a suggestion on how to deal with this junction.

Cllr Heather Morris
Labour city councillor, Cowick
cllr.heather.morris@exeter.gov.uk