Friday, 04 December 2020

£50,000 survey to gauge effect of new houses on traffic

A STUDY on the impact that 450 new houses would have on Henley’s roads could be carried out at a

A STUDY on the impact that 450 new houses would have on Henley’s roads could be carried out at a cost of £50,000.

Town councillors are to consider commissioning the traffic study as part of the town’s joint neighbourhood plan with Harpsden, which will name the sites where the homes should be built.

The study would estimate the number of extra cars that each development would bring and the number of journeys they would make.

Using traffic modelling, it would predict which routes drivers are most likely to take on a daily and weekly basis. It would then look at existing traffic levels on those streets and work out possible “pinch points”.

The researchers would also try to predict increases in air pollution and ways to tackle the problem, such as building more cycle routes or improving local bus and train services. The study might also suggest new road layouts or additional traffic lights and mini-roundabouts as well as estimating how many car journeys each of these measures would reduce.

A second draft of the neighbourhood plan will be the subject of a six-week public consultation, starting on January 30. If the town council decides to commission the study, the research would not begin until it was certain that no more changes to the plan were needed.

Dieter Hinke, chairman of the council’s neighbourhood planning governance committee, says the traffic study would be paid for out of the £1 million it expects to receive from developers and a further £3.5 million by selling town council land for housing.

Councillor Hinke said: “The first thing everyone asks when they see the plan is, ‘okay, but what are we going to do about the extra traffic?’

“I think this is such an important issue that we need to grasp the nettle. It’s just an obvious and natural part of the process. It is quite expensive but we have funding coming in and I believe the people of Henley would want the council to do this.

“If it improves the quality of residents’ lives we should spend the money rather than sit on it.”

Oxfordshire County Council carried out a traffic study 10 years ago but says it cannot afford to repeat the exercise.

Cllr Hinke said: “Every single town in Oxfordshire is facing the same problem so I can understand why they haven’t got the money.

“However, if they won’t do it then we should. We often moan about other authorities not paying for things but we need to take responsibility for our own destiny here. I’m sure the county council will help us by providing information. They won’t just stand by and leave us to do all the work. I’m also sure that they will be interested in the results and that it will be helpful to them in the long term.

“None of us wanted these houses but we have no choice in the matter. We have to work out what we’re going to do about the traffic.”

David Nimmo Smith, who represents Henley on the county council, said: “There are more than 20 neighbourhood plans being drawn up over Oxfordshire and the county council can’t afford every single one.

“This seems like a good compromise and clearly the county will be need to involved in scoping the report and implementing any suggestions.”

The council’s finance strategy and management committee will discuss the proposal on Tuesday and make a recommendation for the full council to consider.

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