Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Village plan seeks (again) to solve traffic problems

A 20MPH speed limit and no parking zones could be introduced in Whitchurch.

They are two of the recommendations made in the draft village plan, which will go out to public consultation in the summer.

The document, which is being written by 15 volunteers under the parish council’s supervision, identifies seven “high priority” initiatives.

All but two of these are designed to tackle speeding, traffic congestion and parking problems in the high street, which residents have complained about for years.

In the past year alone, there have been at least three incidents in which vehicles damaged verges and brick walls after the drivers lost control or misjudged their turning space.

The plan recommends:

• Reducing the current speed limit of 30mph to 20mph.

• Tidying the verges.

• Introducing “no parking” zones along with parking bays, including some for residents only.

At the moment there are no marked spaces or any yellow lines, only solid white lines across residents’ driveways, which are advisory.

The new measures would cost a total of £33,000 and would have to be approved by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

The parish council is to spend £1,750 on appointing a consultant to investigate further.

In a survey carried out last summer, 128 out of 150 respondents supported a 20mph speed limit. Many said their cars had been hit while parked.

However, less than one-third of them were willing for their council tax to rise by £50 a year to fund improvements in the parish.

The draft plan also supports the council’s plan to replace the sports pavilion at the village green off Eastfield Lane.

This was granted planning permission in January and will cost more than £208,000, of which the parish council would pay about £28,000 with the rest coming from grants and fund-raising.

It is hoped that the new building will open next year. The document also endorses a £23,000 overhaul of the village hall off Manor Road in order to increase the number of hirers, which would help pay some of the maintenance costs.

The windows were recently double-glazed at a cost of £7,000 and there are plans to retile the floor, improve the stage area, install a new boiler and toilets, put in a wi-fi system, refit the kitchen and surface the car park.

The draft plan also calls for the pavement at the southern end of High Street, which is level with the road, to be raised at a cost of £10,000.

It recommends the pavements in Hardwick Road are resurfaced at a cost of £15,400 and for £7,700 to be spent on improving the Manor Road pavements.

Another recommendation is to pay the village’s habitat study group £1,500 to continue improving the verges and footpath along Hardwick Road. The plan also proposes setting up a “green team” of volunteers to maintain the village’s open spaces, including the memorial garden at the former Polish church off Manor Road.

It says the village’s conservation area assessment should be revised in order to give greater protection from inappropriate development.

The total cost of implementing all the recommendations would be £310,220 of which the parish council would pay £120,370.

John Bradon, who chairs the committee of volunteers, said: “We’re pleased with the recommendations and the only thing that remains is to put them out to the community.

“They should be in line with the findings of the survey and hopefully represent a reasonable compromise in terms of what people want.

“The proposed traffic solutions will not please everybody because some residents may not want yellow lines but we will be seeking people’s views as we don’t feel we can do nothing on the issue.

“We will welcome any input and our suggestions could change once we’ve received the consultant’s report.”

The last village plan was published 10 years ago and several of its recommendations have been implemented, including the establishment of the village green, which the parish council took over in 2012, and the launch of a village website.

It also called for traffic-calming measures in High Street and Hardwick Road, including a 20mph limit.

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