Response to: Princes Risborough Southern Road Link (PRSRL) Consultation, December 2021
For: PRSRL Consultation, Highways Infrastructure Projects Team, Buckinghamshire Council, Floor 7, Walton Street Offices, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1UY
From: Risborough Area Residents Association (RARA): Chair: Will Streule, Station Rd, Princes Risborough, HP27 9DE
Risborough Area Residents Association (RARA) is a community-led, non-party political organisation with charitable tax status working on behalf of the residents of Princes Risborough, Monks Risborough, Whiteleaf, Alscot, Askett and local villages and settlements. There are around 800 households in its membership from Risborough and the surrounding area. We have closely followed and contributed to all aspects and consultations of the PREA within the Wycombe District Area Local Plan (WDALP) during and since its original development.
We write in response to the current consultation on the Princes Risborough Southern Road Link project and whilst we fully appreciate that commencement of any development in the identified Princes Risborough Expansion Area (PREA) is dependant on improvements to access to these greenfield sites, concerns remain on the suggested approach to delivering this.
Below, we highlight specific responses to the elements of this current PRSRL proposal that you have identified in the consultation feedback, despite there being a more fundamental area of concern that our members and ourselves raise:
Whilst it is envisaged that this section of road is ultimately intended to connect with phases 2 and 3 developments, there remains significant concern that phases 2 and 3 will not come forward in a timely manner. The inability to reach agreement between developers, landowners and the Council means that Buckinghamshire Council are unable to guarantee when phases 2 and 3 will come forward, if at all. This in itself raises the concern (especially with immediately affected local residents of Shootacre Lane, Picts Lane and Summerleys Rd) that this expensive and disruptive phase 1 section could end up being inherently obsolete.
It is also clear that the background to the PREA is out of date and in need of review:
Both Buckinghamshire Council and Princes Risborough Town Council are developing strategies to mitigate the effects of Climate Change;
Changes are required and expected in construction legislation to reflect climate targets;
Growing concern in central government on building on greenfield sites with a renewed emphasis from central government (and BC) on Brownfield site development;
A greater push for communities to have more say in planning;
Renewed awareness of our countrysides alarming rate of loss of biodiversity;
Increasing concern with development in areas of flood risk;
BC’s recent initiative to review the whole of the A4010 strategic route;
BC’s emerging Buckinghamshire wide Local Plan;
The rapidly approaching WDALP review as specified by the Planning Inspector (within the timescale of this phase 1):
Many of the studies that informed the WDALP need to be urgently revisited before irreversible damage is inflicted on the existing towns character and immediate residents. Much of this proposed Southern Road Link represents Buckinghamshire Council putting ‘all its eggs in one very fragile basket’. We feel that the objectives to enable development can still be realistically achieved without such disruption and without hindering the ability to progress this route if future agreement and consensus proves it to be the best option.
Timescales for delivering all aspects of the WDALP have slipped significantly since its original adoption in 2019 and even Buckinghamshire Councils expectation that the ‘relief road’ would not be completed until 2030/2035 would still seem extremely optimistic. With the Council admitting that until this time this section of road will offer no ‘relief’ to traffic flows through the existing town, it would seem more prudent to offer a less disruptive (and more cost effective) solution to providing initial access for development areas: This could and should include the Picts Lane to Station approach link (location 6 on the project map) and the Summerleys Rd link to the PREA (points 1 and 2 on the project map). Delaying work to the bridge (points 3 and 4) and to the traffic light junction (point 5) until phase 3, would ensure minimum disruption to residents, make significant cost savings and allow time for more up to date traffic modelling and ecological studies, and for BC to confirm agreement and funding for the most appropriate way forward to improve A4010 traffic flows in/around Princes Risborough and the much wider area.
With this in mind, below are RARA’s views on each of the location points identified in the consultation papers:
Consultation Response Q4: Location point 1: Summerleys Rd link to PREA
It is clear that improved access to the Park Mill Farm site is needed to satisfy the HIF requirements and for this site to be deliverable the Summerleys Rd link at Sumitomo would seem an obvious and deliverable option. We would welcome a detailed ecological report and impact statement for this ‘new link’ as it will cross one of the towns most significant chalk streams (by this point connected with other springfed streams) and adjoins the currently unspoiled and important large Park Mill pond.
Q5: Location point 2: Access to Summerleys Rd Northbound
It is essential that northbound traffic on Summerleys Rd can continue onto the B4009 (access to Longwick, Chinnor, Thame and the M40 northbound) and we see it as important that this is retained.
Q6: Location point 3: Proposed Railway Bridge works
The location of the proposed widened and deepened bridge is a surprise to many and has caused significant concern (and distress) to many residents, and our members. Whilst we understand this realignment makes sense with regard to addressing property access for residents, it will require commandeering private gardens and will represent a significant change to Summerleys Rd’s character and sense of place. Robust support and compensation packages will need to be developed now for existing residents.
We have significant concerns on the proposed road levels beneath the ‘new bridge’. With the existing bridge already subject to localised flooding and the proximity to the water table, it is inevitable that this new section will be susceptible to flooding. Although the proposal assumes a pumping station at ‘Sumitomo’ will be required to take the flood water, significant up to date research and modelling will be required for any planning permission to; a) ensure any foul water pumped into the existing chalkstream network is appropriate and suitably treated; b) the effect of additional water loads on the chalkstream network to settlements downstream (Longwick, Kingsey and eventually Thame (all already subject to damaging localised flooding issues)) is accounted for, and; c) How ongoing maintenance and running costs of any such pumping station are to be funded? Is this a sustainable long term solution?
We would like to see better informed and more detailed proposals for this coming forward as part of the commitment to phase 3 of the PREA Plan and suggest this element of the PRSRL is deferred until phase 3.
Q7: Location point 4: Retained Bridge for residents
For all phases of the proposed ‘relief road’ to eventually become an alternative to the A4010, improved height restrictions at the bridges here, and at Grove Lane, Kimble would be needed. We appreciate that the deepening of the existing bridge would remove the ability to access some properties on Summerleys Rd so would support retaining this and keeping it open for walkers, cyclists and residents.
Q8: Location point 5: Traffic light controlled junction – Link Rd/Station Rd/Station Approach/Summerleys Rd
With there being no material increase in traffic flows expected through this phase of the ‘relief road’ until the eventual longer term phase 3 connections, such a car-centric junction here seems incongruous (and out of tune with current government guidance).
This area has low level lighting and naturally dark skies - lighting assessment and its impact needs to be developed and be supported by the community. The area is also heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists (and Escooterists) - the traffic data modelling for this area is now out of date and we are unaware that concerns originally raised to the traffic modelling during the Local Plan hearings have yet been addressed. There is also concern from local residents that traffic lights would cause unnecessary ‘backups’ with idling vehicles and it is felt that a roundabout would offer better traffic flow and be more appropriate especially until up to date traffic modelling can be calculated and compared, and until significant traffic flow increase is expected (phase 3).
This junction would serve as an entrance to a wholly improved station area (we would hope) and as such must not sever the station from the existing town. We would like to see pedestrian and cyclist access to the station (and to the National Cycle Network Route 57) be better addressed and given greater priority (see below).
Q9: Location point 6: Picts Lane to Station Approach link.
The station area has been an unsightly brownfield site for many years now and the inclusion of this link road section must be welcomed if it allows development and improvement of this important ‘Gateway to Risborough’ site. We appreciate the complexity of this link with regard it crossing and following (in the link roads entirety) the route of the Pyrtle Spring chalkstream and welcome the inclusion of drainage ‘gravel’ sections to ensure run off drainage to the aquifer rather than into the stream network. Similarly, this area currently has naturally dark skies and is populated with many owls and other wildlife including bats – We would welcome up to date data on this and details of how the construction of and design (quiet surfaces, lighting) of this road link can mitigate any impact on this.
We are unaware of much concern regarding the new cul-de-sac section of Picts Lane and, in fact, see how this could be welcome for many residents here. We are glad to support the inclusion of pedestrian and cycle access from here to the other section of Picts Lane (although it does narrow considerably at this point) and beyond but would hope that these could be given more prominence and pedestrians and cyclists segregated. This needs to be better integrated into the existing road network as, again, part of the National Cycle Route 57 and as visitor access to the Ridgeway national trail.
The Local Plan under para 5.3.140, promises ‘a safe crossing of the relief road for non- motorised users between the east and west parts of Picts Lane’. There is no evidence of this in the current proposals.
Residents of here and adjoining roads (Station Rd and Poppy Rd) would welcome a new vehicle entrance/exit to Blanchfords on the new ‘link’ road to relieve localised issues with delivery lorries.
We also welcome the ‘descoping’ of Picts Lane and Shootacre Lane in the PREA plan and whilst this must offer some relief to these residents, the uncertainty surrounding the ‘Culverton Link’ as part of phase 3 remains a significant concern: Unwilling developers, lack of funding agreement and the ‘as yet to be offered’ requirement to demonstrate ‘exceptional circumstances’ for developing a road within the AONB and Greenbelt cast a very dark shadow over the deliverability of this future section and its impact on residents, and the AONB - including views from the National Ridgeway Trail at Brush Hill and elsewhere.
Q10: Shared foot and cycle paths
With continually changing evidence of the increasing need for pedestrian and cycle access, and with a significant number of Princes Risborough Station users walking or cycling to the station currently (or now scootering, in response to the successful escooter trial in the town), we would like to see much greater priority given to this. Although the shared cycle and footpath option meets requirements and can be evidenced elsewhere, we feel that with cycle and pedestrian routes being an integral part of the PREA as a whole, they should be separate, distinct and given more prominence, as favoured by recent government reports and its own advisory ‘Manual for Streets’:
Q11: Other comments
There is no mention in this consultation of changes and improvements to bus routes and the station. This needs to be looked at closely at this stage/phase of the PREA and incorporated in up to date traffic modelling to inform the best approach to the junction at the station (Location point 5).
An integrated strategy for bus routes along with the cycle and pedestrian routes (as above), around the station area in particular, needs carefully developing. Instead of just meeting minimum requirements, Princes Risborough is ideally placed (station forecourt potential, the phoenix trail, National Cycle Route, proximity to the Ridgeway, Gateway to the Chilterns) to become a beacon for forward thinking transport solutions.
There is little evidence that climate change has been considered and taken into account in the design proposals.
New traffic proposals that are likely to lead to further congestion on the A4010 and exacerbate the safety and environmental concerns on this route should be fed into any proposed new strategy for the A4010. This strategy should be agreed and funded before any significant increase in traffic volumes on the Risborough ‘relief road’.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the project team to discuss this further should this be possible.
Risborough Area Residents Association
Chairman: Will Streule