A5 Dordon to Atherstone Consultation

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National Highways are running a consultation on a “road improvement” scheme at Atherstone, and between Grendon and Dordon. This is to “accommodate increased travel demand associated with proposed growth”.

Three options have been proposed for the new road layout, and these are detailed in the public consultation brochure, but all three involve the creation of a new roundabout and short bypass road that will deviate traffic away from a main road residential stripe where the A5 currently routes.

While one of the stated aims of the scheme is to “meet the needs of all road users”, the high-level plans make no mention of active travel. While the plans do not provide a lot of detail, it is sufficient to see how the road layout could change for motor transport. The same is not true for walking, wheeling, or cycling. There are a number of small towns in the area – Dordon, Grendon, Saint Helena, Atherstone – and the large town of Tamworth a short distance away, all within cycleable distance. There is also an industrial/business estate providing a source of employment. These areas are not currently directly cycleable and the proposed plans make no indication as to how this will be improved.

This is a failing by National Highways who are motor-oriented and do not properly consider other forms of transport in their stated aim of accommodating increased travel demand. Active travel is given the tiniest of mentions in the brochure, yet enabling modal shift for short journeys is an important means of achieving the goal – shifting local journeys from car to walking, wheeling, or cycling frees up motor capacity for others.

When I asked National Highways about the plans for walking, wheeling, and cycling, they said:

There is an assessment currently being undertaken on walking, cycling and horse riding and this review will aim to:
  • gain an understanding of all relevant existing facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians in the local area;
  • provide background user information that can be referred to throughout the development of the highway scheme;
  • identify opportunities for improvement for users;
  • continually review proposals for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians throughout the development of the highway scheme design;
  • review the potential impact of the proposed highway scheme on users in the area and on existing facilities.
National Highways, by email

This assessement should have been conducted prior to the current consultation, with plans for active travel properly developed for inclusion in the above brochure. It is clear that the process National Highways follows puts active travel very much in a secondary position to motor transport.

The consultation on this scheme runs until 23:59 on 27 October 2022, and the means for responding can be found on the National Highways website. I have submitted the following as a formal response by email; others are welcome to use this (or parts of it) in their own comments should they wish to do so.

Consultation Response

Greetings,

Further to your response on 29 September to my questions regarding active travel infrustructure for the proposed A5 scheme between Dordon and Atherstone, I would now like to make the following formal response to your consultation.

I am making my submission in this format because some questions as listed in your consultation brochure (and presumably mirrored online) cannot be answered sufficiently: I do not use the route at present, but it’s not because I do not want to; it’s because my journey by cycle is not enabled. I cannot choose a preference between your three options because the plan is equally flawed in all cases – but this is not to say that I have ‘no preference’, where I infer that choice to mean I would accept any option; I do not, as they currently stand. I support improvements along the A5, but not in the form of the three options as communicated.

This submission therefore serves as an objection on the following grounds.

All options currently outlined provide high level, but reasonably detailed, plans for changing road and junction layouts with the aim to make improvements for motor transport on this corridor. However, there is no detail at all as to what proposals National Highways is making to facilitate and improve active travel. Your response to my question stated that there is an assessment underway for walking, cycling, and horse riding; this should – indeed must – be concluded and plans for active and sustainable travel developed to at least the same degree as they have been for motor traffic before this scheme is then re-issued for consultation.

Your failure to include and consider active travel at this stage treats non-motor transport as secondary. This is unacceptable. The A5 corridor should be an important connection for active travel between Dordon and Grendon but also for broader journeys including linking to Atherstone – all within fairly close proximity that is easily cyclable. The Birch Coppice Business Park is an important employment destination in easy cycleable distance from Atherstone, Grendon, Dordon, Saint Helena and Tamworth, yet it is not possible to cycle the journey on a safe, direct, comfortable, coherent, accessible and attractive route. Instead, the connection between Grendon and Dordon requires taking either significant personal risk riding on carriageway on the A5, or a long diversion around country lanes, themselves which present as hazardous in their own right. Neither of these are appropriate for consideration as everyday cycling routes, accessible to all regardless of age, ability, disability, or fitness.

At present, the A5 in this location does not facilitate cycling, yet road schemes like that you are proposing are ideal opportunities to make improvements with a broader aim to provide a continuous high quality foot, wheel and cycle route along the length of the A5.

This is a fundamental part of improving overal traffic congestion, where simply expanding motor vehicle capacity will not resolve motor traffic issues long-term through the known effects of induced demand. Enabling modal shift to move some local journeys away from motor traffic is essential where this reduces the number of vehicles using the route.

There is a clear national objective to improve and enable active travel given unsustainable growth in motor transport which cannot forever be accommodated, and the climate change impact from transport – one of the biggest contributors to harmful emissions in the UK. Current guidance for active travel infrastructure applies to new road schemes (LTN 1/20, paragraph 1.3.1) and it is therefore absolutely imperative that National Highways build-in high quality infrastructure from the offset, to be considered as a core part of road improvements and not something to be tacked on afterwards or forgotten about entirely.

Please acknowledge receipt of this objection.

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