Active Travel on a Proposed New Residential Development (Sketchley Gardens)

Just a quick thing...

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There’s a proposal to build a new housing estate in east Nuneaton, in farmland off Eastboro Way. As it stands, there are a number of improvement points to make it good for active travel, and given this is a brand new development, it makes sense to get it right from the start rather than retrofitting measures at a later date, at greater inconvenience and expense. To that end, I submitted a number of comments on the plans which I’m going to detail here.

The Site

First, let’s get a good idea of the area and what is proposed to be built. It may be beneficial to read this in conjunction with viewing the site in Google Maps (link opens in new tab), although I’ve put together a combined image that shows a satellite view of the area overlaid with the outline plan and design statement (below).

Eastboro Way is a main road with a 40mph speed limit that runs as a partial boundary to the east of Nuneaton between Whitestone and St Nicholas Park. It connects to a number of industrial and business units in the area and as a result has associated goods and worker traffic making it at times a busy road, and one that is never pleasant to cycle along given it has no cycle infrastructure at all.

The proposed site itself, known by developer Crest Nicholson as Sketchley Gardens, is to the east of that road, extending out the town’s eastern edge and eroding that boundary marked by the road. To the west of the site is Attleborough Fields Industrial Estate. There is a public right of way running east-west through the centre of the planned development. To the north is a mostly unused road off a roundabout. Currently that is solely for accessing the crematorium and (presumably) for farm traffic to access what is currently fields, but will form the primary motor traffic access route.

The nearest infant/primary schools are Wembrook Primary (1.2 miles, west); Whitestone Infant School and Chetwynd Primary Schools (1.5 miles, south); St Nicholas C of E Academy (1.5 miles, north); All Saints C of E Primary (1.7 miles, south west); and Middlemarch Primary (1.6 miles, west). The nearest secondary schools are George Elliot (1.3 miles, south west); Etone College (1.6 miles, north west); and Higham Lane (1.8 miles, north west). To the best of my knowledge, there are no nearer educational facilities specifically servicing the eastern area of Nuneaton. The distances given are all walking routes as provided by Google Maps.

Fields of Heart of England Way, Nuneaton
Proposed Site of the New Housing Development (Heart of England Way, Nuneaton)

The Proposal

The plans themselves call for 360 housing units (270 private, 90 affordable) ranging from 2-bedroom to 5-bedroom dwellings. There is no provision for new educational sites or other facilities, but the development would connect through to some existing services to the immediate south, namely a Costcutter local store, Lloyds chemist, butcher, hairdresser, chippy and pub.

In terms of active travel, the existing Public Right of Way (PRoW) would be retained and developed as a walking and cycling route (see yellow line on the map, below), however it features multiple points where roads intersect with the path – not necessarily an issue if it’s done right, but potentially problematic. Some improvements to the east side of the Eastboro Way carriageway would be made to develop a shared space path leading south from the PRoW to the Crowhill area (see thick blue line on the west of the site), but no provision would be made heading north. A footpath would be created arcing around the access road (Heart of England Way) to the roundabout (dashed blue line on the map) before stopping, with the intention that pedestrians would cross Eastboro Way to access existing footpaths (a new pedestrian crossing would be installed to facilitate this).

Eastboro Way Housing Development Boundary and Active Travel Proposal
Eastboro Way Housing Development Boundary, Layout and Active Travel Proposal

In summary, this appears to be a pretty ordinary proposal in that whilst it gives lip service to active travel, it does not go far enough in its provision – especially given up-to-date design standards. It appears to be the usual case of providing some shared use paths which invite conflict with pedestrians, must give way to motor traffic, and do not go far enough in terms of their connectivity. The plan does not provide logical connections, such as to the industrial estate off the northern roundabout on the above map, where only a footpath and pedestrian crossing is proposed, or to the nearest schools (see below). Nor does it appear to leave the option for a future connection to the north-east along Eastboro Way to connect to the eventual high quality cycleway along the A47 Long Shoot for St Nicholas Park, Weddington and Hinckley.

With no new schools being provided, the existing services detailed above will have to be used. Given the poor implementation of cycle infrastructure, this would likely mean an increase in motor traffic at peak times as parents drive children to and from a school. Although the nearest (Wembrook) is only 1.2 miles away, the associated walk of roughly 25 minutes each way would likely be unappealing to many parents, especially when they have their own commitments to attend to between drop-off and pick-up. Were safe, direct routes provided, cycling would become a viable option, in this case taking only roughly 10 minutes. However, such links are beyond the scope of this plan. For older children attending high school who might be able to make their own way, they would be presented with a 30-40 minute walk to/from school, along busy main roads that do not provide for them to cycle to school safely.

There is a suggested connection to an existing shared use route through the Attleborough Fields Industrial Estate to the west where a toucan crossing would be installed to facilitate crossing by both pedestrians and cyclists (see dashed green line on the map, above). That route is the suggested walking and cycling route to town, and by extension, to some school sites. But in itself that is not ideal at all times due to isolation and accessibility issues (this is something I want to look at in a separate article, so I won’t go into a lot of detail on that front here).

My Comments

The specific comments I raised in relation to this plan are detailed here. There is no particular order to them, and there are likely to be things I have missed – in hindsight, it would have been beneficial to write this blog post before submitting the comments as it would have helped in bringing thoughts like the schools issue more into focus.

  1. While the walking and cycling route through Attleborough Fields has its uses (green dashed line on the map, above), in its current form, it is isolated, obstructed, and not accessible (see Equality Act 2010, Section 20), particularly to the connection with Gatsby Court. This would be a particular concern during quieter hours or after dark when fewer people are around especially given the limited options to enter and exit the route.
    Therefore, more public routes suitable for safe walking and cycling regardless of age and ability, must be provided along key roads such as Eastboro Way and Attleborough Road for access to and from the town centre.
  2. The cycleway on Eastboro Way (as indicated by the solid blue line) must include proper separation between motor traffic, cycles, and pedestrians. It must be designed and built to the standards detailed in LTN 1/20, allowing the possibility of future extension to the north and south for a continuous separated cycleway along Eastboro Way.
  3. The estate itself must be designed with the principles of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN):
    1. maximum speed limit of 20 mph,
    2. motor traffic to take detoured routes where pedestrians and cycles are provided direct access,
    3. off-street parking and loading bays (to prevent roads and pavements being obstructed by parked vehicles, which increase hazard and access difficulties for pedestrians and cycles,
    4. cars as guests behind pedestrians and cycles.
  4. The cycle and pedestrian route running east-west through the centre of the site roughly along the existing Public Right of Way (see yellow line on the map, above) must be continuous with roads giving way. Clear site lines must be provided in order that drivers can clearly see approaching pedestrian and cycle traffic in order to safely stop and give way.
    Motor traffic must be presented with a raised table (speed bump) to cross in order to slow progress at a potential conflict point, which will have the benefit of maintaining a continuous level for cyclists and pedestrians, improving the ease and accessibility of walking and cycling. Cycle and pedestrian traffic must also be able to safely leave and enter the route at these crossing points.
  5. High quality pedestrian and cycle links must be provided to all local services including those located to the south-west (Crowhill), designed to the standards provided in LTN 1/20 in order to promote active travel over motor traffic.
    Direct access to these services should not be provided to motor traffic which must access via Eastboro Way and Crowhill Road, as at present.
    Cycle and pedestrian access must be designed to the standards given in LTN 1/20. It must not be obstructed, must be light and visible, and must be able to accommodate the Cycle Design Vehicle (LTN 1/20, Table 5-1; DMRB CD-195, E/2).
  6. The proposed signalled crossing on Eastboro Way to connect to the existing shared facility through Attleborough Fields (marked “Toucan Crossing” on the map, above) must be a parallel crossing in order to reduce conflict between pedestrians and cycles.
    The approach by cycles should be detected through induction loop or camera technology to reduce the reliance on push-button control. Where a push-button is still provided, this must be appropriately set back from the road edge in order to be safely accessible regardless of cycle type (i.e., without edging the cycle too near to the edge of, or into, the road). Crossing signals should be provided on the opposite side of the road to improve visibility, where same-side signals can suffer poor visibility due to off-angle viewing, sun glare, and can be an accessibility issue where awkward turns of the body to view signals may not always be possible.
  7. Any access points from the existing residential area to the south must be for pedestrians and cycles only (i.e., motor vehicles must use Eastboro Way, following the principles of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood – see point 3, above). Such access points must be constructed to the standards of LTN 1/20 and accommodate the Cycle Design Vehicle without obstruction. Access points must be bright and visible, avoiding a sense of isolation particularly for use after dark. Good quality connections must be provided to the existing play area and bridleway.
  8. The outline application indicates improvements to be made to the footpath around the roundabout between Eastboro Way and the primary site access (Heart of England Way) (See dashed blue line on the map, above). Separated cycle provision must also be provided here, as well as a high-quality crossing point designed to enable pedestrians and cyclists to access the industrial area at Townsend Drive.
    People to the north of the proposed housing site should not be expected to travel south to access the existing shared use path and crossing point, where that may provide a less direct route to industrial and business units to the north of the Attleborough Fields site.
    In order to minimise signalled crossing points in fairly close proximity on Eastboro Way, it appears there may be space here to provide a sufficiently wide foot and cycle bridge, to be designed with shallow inclines for accessible cycling (notwithstanding the presence of a planned sustainable drainage feature and wildlife habitat indicated near this position).
  9. Related to points 2 and 8, above, the proposed footpath improvements (which, as noted, should also accommodate cycles) should continue from the roundabout with Heart of England Way heading south to connect with the proposed foot and cycleway improvements.
    As noted before, given Eastboro Way is a main road and key route, this must incorporate a high quality separated cycle route designed to LTN 1/20 standards, allowing users to connect into Townsend Road, and allowing for future expansion to the north-east on Eastboro Way (ultimately to connect with the Long Shoot and the planned cycle infrastructure there).
    Where this cannot for any reason be constructed as part of this development, the development should only proceed in such a way that it does not preclude constructing this infrastructure at a later date. (i.e., maintain sufficient space between the carriageway and the site). This may mean that maintaining a hedgerow for screening here may involve moving that hedgerow back from its existing line, or running a route behind that hedgerow through the site but in a way that does not interrupt following the direct line of Eastboro Way and does not add distance.
  10. In addition to the east-west pedestrian and cycle route along the existing Public Right of Way (PRoW), a north-south provision should also be provided to commence from the primary access to the site (Heart of England Way), down to the recreation ground, and to the existing local services (Crowhill).
    It is notable that there is a lack of any pedestrian and cycle specific infrastructure in the northern half of the site, in comparison to the southern half of the site. It is important that the entire estate is safely accessible by foot and cycle, regardless of age, confidence or ability.
  11. There appears to be a lack of education provision in the area (infant, primary, secondary schools). Links to existing education facilities must be possible by cycle to reduce the reliance on motor traffic. For example (but not exhaustively):
    1. linking through the Crowhill Estate to connect to Whitestone and Chetwynd schools to the south,
    2. linking along Eastboro Way and Avenue Road to Wembrook Primary,
    3. connecting through Horeston Grange, or via Eastboro Way and Hinckley Road to access Weddington and Higham Lane School
    4. Linking through to the town centre for King Edward IV College, or Etone College, but noting that the existing route through Attleborough Fields to Gadsby Court and William Street may not be appropriate given the comments already made (point 1, above), and where large volumes of pedestrian and cycle traffic on the associated dense residential streets with parked cars on both sides could become congested.
    The distances to the schools indicated are easily travelled by cycle in under 10-15 minutes and this form of transport must be prioritised over increasing motor traffic to the existing school sites.

Cover image: Google Earth

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