Monday, 21 June 2021

Expert too busy to deliver traffic report on time

AN expert tasked with resolving Sonning Common’s traffic problems has been criticised by the parish council.

Ben Hamilton-Baillie was due to deliver a report to the council last month but this has been delayed until mid-November because he is busy with other work.

The document is due to form the basis of a working party’s recommendations for easing congestion and improving traffic flow in Wood Lane and other streets in the village centre.

The council has budgeted £100,000 to design and implement a new scheme.

Councillor Stuart Howe, who chairs the working party, told a council meeting he was disappointed at the delay in Mr Hamilton-Baillie’s report.

He said: “I think he has taken on too many other projects, Henley Town Council being one, and he is doing Ted talks and many other things. It seems we have been pushed down the pecking order.

“Last week I got an email saying he was not going to get the report done and he had too many commitments. He is now saying it will be available in November, probably the back-end.

“I have sent a response saying this is not acceptable but I have not yet had anything back. This problem is to do with project management skills. He understands the brief but it’s getting the presentation together. He is in high demand.”

Mr Hamilton-Baillie visited Sonning Common in the summer and spent a day cycling and walking around the village with Cllr Howe.

He also provided a brief traffic report after visiting the village in 2013 which was used as part of the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan.

This said the most urgent areas for improvement were the centre of Wood Lane as well as two “entry points” to the street from Kennylands Road and Peppard Road.

The plan sets out a vision to modernise the village centre with a new car park, better bus services, free flowing traffic along Kennylands Road and Wood Lane and a focus on retail.

Councillor Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury said the delay of the latest report was affecting the work of the Village Gardeners, which she runs.

She said: “We are waiting on the plans and we can’t get on with any work. We work extremely hard to make a positive impression and at the moment the village centre looks awful. It’s very depressing. I’m wondering whether Ben Hamilton-Baillie is too big a fish for us or we are too small for him.”

Councillor Tom Fort felt the council should persevere with Mr Hamilton-Baillie.

“The reason is he in such high demand is because he is the right man,” he said. “He has shown us work he has done in other villages which are similar in size to us.

“My impression is he does his work on his own and does not have much in terms of delegation skills.”

Councillor John Stoves said trying to find a replacement would only cause more delays.

Mr Hamilton-Baillie, from Bristol, launched his business, Hamilton-Baillie Associates, in 2003. It provides “specialist knowledge and experience of innovative solutions for reconciling traffic movement with quality public spaces in cities, towns and villages”.

He has previously worked on projects in Bristol, Oxford and Bath as well as villages across the country.

⚫ Last week, Mr Hamilton-Baillie spent a day cycling around Henley, taking photographs and filming as he seeks to find solutions to the town’s traffic and air pollution problems. Later, he gave feedback at a closed meeting of councillors from Henley, Harpsden and Remenham.

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