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Cars before people, cars before homes

From Anthony Rae

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Preparing for stage 2 of the public inquiry now underway into Calderdale’s draft Local Plan (wearing my Friends of the Earth ‘hat’) has involved unpacking the analysis that claims to underpin it, and that throws an illuminating light on the planning application that has now been submitted by Calderdale Council to provide a 63 space car park on the site of the former Vale Centre off Stubbing Holme Road. Specifically:

  • The Council’s local plan is based on a fundamental assumption that additional road capacity must be provided across Calderdale (the so-called ‘corridor improvement programmes’ - CIPs) which will result in more road traffic, and therefore worse air pollution and more carbon emissions. Calderdale and West Yorkshire Combined Authority are being paid to do this by the Department of Transport, which has the worst climate change record of all. Transport’s carbon emissions are still higher than they were in 1990 - instead of being halfway to net zero - but nonetheless they intend to press ahead with roads and airports expansion. Why has Calderdale Council  chosen to work with the DfT in this way, and why it has repeatedly failed to disclose what will be the consequences of the CIPs for road traffic levels and resultant increased pollution in local communities?
  • In fact what the CIP means for Hebden Bridge is that road traffic on the A646 alongside Mayroyd will increase by 14% if the CIP measures were to be implemented, and in the centre of Hebden Bridge by 7%. In both locations vehicle speeds will increase, and with it road danger. The planning application untruthfully states that removing the parking alongside Mayroyd is required because it’s ‘preventing buses and HGVs from passing side by side and results in delays and congestion’, whereas the real reason is that this will allow traffic volumes  and speeds to increase. Equally fallacious is the rationale consequently claimed for providing replacement parking at Stubbing Holme Road for that lost on the A646: those parking at Mayroyd because it provides free longstay parking (maybe because they have a low paid job) won’t be transferring to a paid car park on the other side of town, whilst rail travellers will transfer to the expanded station car park.
  • Access to the proposed car park is at probably the most polluted part of the Hebden air quality management area (AQMA), declared in 2006 but with air pollution still exceeding the legal limits 14 years later. Large quantities of cars will have to manoeuvre in and out of  the inadequate access from the A646, causing queueing in both directions on the main road, and then proceeding across a bridge which already has inadequate pavements: all making the air pollution not better but worse. Calderdale Council has also repeatedly ignored the fact that there is already an existing 30+ space car park almost at the same location which they won’t make available for public parking because it’s uncharged.
  • Calderdale’s planning application has chosen however to completely omit any reference to increased road traffic levels, air pollution in the Hebden Bridge AQMA, these access difficulties, etc, etc. Presumably that would get in the way of the CIP proceeding.  They’ve also failed to point out that this is part of a major expansion of car parking in Hebden Bridge, contradicting their own transport strategy which talks about ‘rationing parking spaces’ and making more productive use of parking sites for such as housing.
  • So it’s even more hypocritical that the application appears to be an attempt to pre-empt the proposal in the draft neighbourhood plan for Hebden Bridge (shortly to go out to public consultation) that the Vale Centre site should be allocated not for parking, but for much-needed new housing, sustainably located in our town centre. Even though Calderdale Council are not proposing to provide the car park until 2022, the consequence of them proceeding with the application now is to undermine the neighbourhood plan proposals for new homes instead, and for the general improvement of the Stubbing Holme Road area.

Maybe Calderdale Council’s slogan - instead of  ‘building a sustainable future’ - ought to be ‘cars before people, cars before homes’. On Weds 4th November it’s likely that Hebden Royd Town Council will be deciding whether or not to support this planning application, and you’ll be able to watch their discussion by Zoom. It’ll be interesting to see where the priorities of our town councillors lie.

From Lesley Mackay

Monday, 2 November 2020

I am really disappointed with Calderdale Council.  For many years now, they have signally failed to tackle the air pollution on the A646.

Apparently the Corridor Improvement Plan was going to sort it all out. Now we hear that air pollution from road traffic is going to increase around Bridge Lanes simply by creating a car park with some of the worst access in Hebden Bridge.  They don't really care, do they?  Queuing traffic on the A646 will have a devastating effect on air quality in this already heavily polluted part of Hebden Bridge.  

At the other end of Hebden Bridge, I am dreading the increase in speed of vehicles storming into Hebden Bridge.  It is a nasty experience as a pedestrian to walk alongside the A646 in Machpelah - just try not to be intimidated.  

Then, waiting longer and longer to be able to cross the road (you do know that pedestrian lights are set to favour motorists).  

Well we know Calderdale's priorities don't we?  Favour the motorists but not the health or welfare of residents. 

From Anthony Rae

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Further to my first posting about the planning application submitted by Calderdale Council for a new 63 space car park off Stubbing Holme Road - this came up for consideration at Hebden Royd Town Council last Wednesday, and having run through the detailed arguments to oppose it, I concluded as follows – “There are many reasons from the national to the very local to object to this application, but in fact they boil down to just one: the DfT want to increase the volume of road traffic nationally; Calderdale Council wants to help them do that, and now - in our town - they want you to support their intention to put ‘cars before people, cars before homes’. Please don’t do that; please reject the application.”

I’m pleased to report that the vast majority of councillors supported this position and voted to object to the application. It now goes to Calderdale Council’s own Planning Committee for formal determination. You’ve still time to submit your own comments here, where you’ll also be able to read the reasons why Friends of the Earth have objected.

From Anthony Rae

Thursday, 31 December 2020

On Tuesday 5th January, Calderdale Council will be determining the planning application for the proposed new Stubbing Holme Road car park (watch the committee meeting online at 2pm here). It won’t be a surprise that the planning officers’ report is recommending approval, but how adequately has it dealt with the issues raised in my previous posting of 28th October, and by other local objectors?

What it does is tell the planning committee councillors a completely misleading story about the application, based on disinformation, contradictions, and an absence of evidence. 

  • So the A646 ‘corridor improvement programme’ (CIP), which is driving the whole process, is apparently not about providing additional capacity for more road traffic, but in fact just the opposite: it’s creating ‘a more integrated transport network that provides reliable and more accessible sustainable alternative modes of travel to the private car’. It’s a way to ‘encourage more bus usage’.
  • How does the report get round the evidence, from Calderdale’s own figures, that the CIP will cause road traffic in the centre of Hebden Bridge to increase by 7% (and alongside Mayroyd by even more - 14%)? By not mentioning it.
  • What about the problems caused at the Stubbing Holme Road/A646 junction by the quantity of cars generated by a large car park queueing and trying to manoeuvre in and out of the narrow access road? The answer is a single sentence assertion, without supporting analysis: ‘The Assistant Director – Strategic Infrastructure (Highways) has been consulted and confirms that there are no highway objections to this application … the scheme is unlikely to have any detrimental effect upon the highway network.” The officers state that the vehicle movements associated with a 63 space short stay car park  “are unlikely to be significantly in excess of” an ordinary business use. And concerns expressed that ‘the pavement on the bridge is too narrow’? The answer apparently is that car park users and Stubbing Holme residents, rather than accessing the town via the river bridge and polluted Market Street, should instead walk along the canal towpath.
  • What does it say about the effect of the increased traffic on air pollution in the Hebden Bridge air quality management area? When it quotes from Calderdale’s 2020 AQ monitoring report, what it doesn’t mention is that this records that pollution here is still at almost the same, illegal level after more than a decade. But then the planning report once again asserts, with no quantified analysis of the impact of increased traffic and congestion at the junction, that “it is not anticipated that the development itself would contribute to a worsening of air quality in the vicinity. No objections have been raised by the Assistant Director – Neighbourhoods (Environmental Health)”. 
  • And what about the effect on the proposals of the draft Hebden Royd & Hilltop Parishes neighbourhood plan, shortly to go out to consultation? It will undermine the plan’s alternative parking, housing (it proposes badly needed housing on this site), and Stubbing Holme area regeneration strategies; the latter says you need not more but fewer cars accessing the area. My judgement - seeing that the car park wouldn’t actually be provided until 2022 at the earliest - is that making the application now is an attempt to pre-empt Hebden Bridge making its own choices about all these important issues.

In other words: according to Calderdale Council a scheme to provide more spaces for cars to park, as part of a programme to increase road capacity, will in fact make it less attractive to come to Hebden Bridge by car, and have no negative impacts! Confronted with this amount of misrepresentation about the scheme, how could we expect councillors on the planning committee to reach a different conclusion? I’ve asked to speak at the meeting as an objector to the application, and I’ll do my best to explain what it really represents.

From Myra James

Thursday, 31 December 2020

The air pollution in this area is already bad enough to feel it in the throat. We have recently had the first instance of air pollution being cited as a cause of death, in the case of the 9 year-old girl who died of asthma in London. Now more than ever is the time to take air pollution and its effect on human health very seriously. Perhaps the planning officers should re-write their reports with this in mind and postpone the hearing. And to attempt to subvert the wishes of the Neighbourhood Plan is cynical beyond measure. This is an ideal location for affordable housing.

From Vivienne H

Friday, 1 January 2021

Thanks for pursuing this, Anthony. Not that it makes much difference - the consultation process was a joke. 

I'm really concerned that banning free parking around Mayroyd will deter many people from coming into Hebden, & our small businesses, already  overburdened by floods and lockdown, just won't have enough trade to keep them open.

Those on low incomes won't be able to add £5 a week to their grocery costs for the privilege of local shopping, which will become an exclusively middle class pastime. Tourists coming by train or bus won't appreciate visiting a town which is becoming simply a corridor, & they're primarily fairweather customers anyway. 

I appreciate the concern about air quality and cars, but increasingly, people have moved away from diesel and towards electric, so that is resolving itself. In any event, having heavy traffic idling around as vehicles try to manoueuvre themselves into & out of a narrow street, will only make things worse. How did we let the Council become so unaccountable?

From Graham Barker

Saturday, 2 January 2021

All this fuss about one car park with a maximum (now) of 61 spaces in a town that badly needs off-road parking, on a site that has limited scope for other uses because of the flood risk? 

It’s undeniably not wonderful - turning right towards Market Street will be a nightmare unless light controlled - but it’s another pardonable compromise because Hebden Bridge isn’t Milton Keynes and never will be.

From Anthony Rae

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Vivienne - confirming what you say, the surveys I did of parking alongside the A646 at Mayroyd showed that the largest segment of it were people (maybe lower paid employees in the Hebden’s retail or hospitality sector) who could not afford an all-day charge. The idea that people stopped parking there (on the pretext that this is obstructing the flow of traffic - on one of the widest sections of the A646! - it’s not) will transfer to a charging short-stay car park on the other side of town is a deception.

As for concerns about air quality and cars, I’m afraid the Calderdale planners are already deploying the claim that the shift from diesel/petrol - which will accelerate in the 2nd half of the 2020s and  onwards - will somehow resolve the problem of air quality now. What they’re effectively saying is: ‘having left the problem of illegal air pollution on Market Street to fester for the last decade, let’s just continue doing that for the next 5+ years and eventually it will go away. But, immediately, let’s make it worse’. And, to do that, they need to pretend to the Planning Committee that the issue of 'traffic idling around as vehicles try to manoueuvre themselves into & out of a narrow street' simply doesn’t exis t.

Graham - it’s a common fallacy to believe that you deal with situations of occasional parking over-demand by providing more physical spaces; that’s never going to be possible in the constrained land use of a town like Hebden. What you need here is a policy of ‘dynamic demand management’, largely by price. So if we want additional parking at the end of Market Street, why does Calderdale Council not put a charge on the existing Stubbing Holme Road 30+ space car park (‘blocked’ from public use because it’s free)? That’s something I’ve suggested to them for the last decade but which they’ve always refused to consider.

As for the site being unsuitable for housing ‘because of flood risk’: it’s already been agreed with Calderdale’s strategic planners and the Environment Agency as part of the neighbourhood plan process - which is arguing that we want new housing to be built in sustainable locations in the valley bottom, not on Greenbelt in the uplands - that any new housing in flood zones would be ‘up on stilts’ (if you will). In that situation the Stubbing Holme Road site is a prime location for housing, including affordable housing as Myra notes.

As I said, the real question is: should it be ‘cars before people, cars before homes’, or the other way round?

From Kevin S

Monday, 4 January 2021

I cannot believe the Hebden vale centre has been left since 2015 near enough an empty site when parking is so needed in Hebden. Get a pay and display in there and let's get it used.

The car park at the other side of the vale centre is mainly used by residents and to be honest it's becoming an eyesore with all the huge vans with no tax on and even a caravan now, not often a worker or visitors can get a spot in there.

Those cars parked on Mayroyd daily are nearly all commuters not Hebden workers, you can see that from the time it starts to fill up along there.

Double yellow lines along there during the week and parking allowed on weekends would be better for Hebden businesses. 

From Nina Smith

Monday, 4 January 2021

Kevin S claims the cars parked along the.A646 at Mayroyd are commuters and not Hebden workers. I think he is mistaken. The station car:park has not been full during the pandemic, so no need for commuters to overflow onto the A646. I think it is clear that the Mayroyd parkers are people who work in Hebden Bridge. Some, at least, will be in low wage jobs such as retail, so you can't blame them for parking where it is free. A few of the cars that park there belong to residents of houses and canal boats in Mayroyd. Where else are they meant to park?

The real problem on the A646 in Hebden is the number of drivers who blatantly ignore the 20mph limit. It's there for a purpose, to save lives, so observe it!

From Anthony Rae

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

When people hear about the government 'roads programme', maybe that conjures up pictures of a new bypass route cutting through green fields and woods. But that's just one of the ways the Department for Transport pursues its objective of getting more vehicles onto our roads, with consequences for carbon emissions and air pollution that apparently can be ignored. Another way is by removing 'obstacles' on an existing road in order to increase its capacity - and that's what West Yorkshire and Calderdale's 'corridor improvement programmes' are. 

Whilst part of a national plan, they ultimately have quite local effects: in our case it's the Stubbing Holme Road car park – approved by the Planning Committee on 5th January. Thus: more road traffic through Hebden; more air pollution; more space being allocated to the cars attracted by capacity expansion, instead of more socially useful purposes like housing; faster vehicle speeds and more road danger previously prevented by 'obstacles' like the cars parked on Market Street or at Mayroyd. So - Hebden Bridge has been 'road programmed', as organised by Calderdale Council who are planning this all over the borough because they've been offered a large sum of money to do it by the DfT. 

And they can't plead ignorance or naivete about all these negative consequences, because Friends of the Earth explicitly warned about them. How did Calderdale Council get round that? Simple: 'make up claims about the positive benefits of the CIP, whilst pretending that all the negative impacts don't exist'. Consequently none of the latter were presented in the report assessing the car park application. When FOE presented the planning committee with the evidence - about 7% increases in traffic on Market Street; air pollution in the Hebden Bridge AQMA still above the lawful limit of 40 μg/m3, 14 years after its designation; and the potential for a 63 space shortstay car park to generate congestion on narrow Stubbing Holme road and the A646 junction - the councillors didn't discuss any of those issues, because they'd been completely omitted from the officers report. Instead they spent their time discussing the need for railings around the site to prevent cars being washed into the river in rare times of flood. There's a lesson here: if you control the information available to decision-makers, you also control what they decide.

What about the future consequences of the decision? For a start, maybe no increase in Hebden's physical parking capacity until 2025 (assuming that's a good thing, which it's not) - see my post on the other Hebweb thread. More importantly, a destructive intervention by the district council, ignoring the local knowledge of our Town Council which rejected the scheme. Clearly Calderdale think it's going to be good for this area of Hebden to be turned into a dumping area for cars: 2 car parks and a scrapyard. And when, shortly, Calderdale officers come to review the draft neighbourhood plan's proposals for regenerating the Stubbing Holme area - which are dependent on reducing, not increasing, car access - are they now going to overturn those? Calderdale's own local plan allocates just two sites in the entire neighbourhood plan area for new housing - one on Greenbelt, and the other at … yes, High Street - opposite the application site - which the same planning committee refused in February 2019 because of the claimed effects of air pollution. The draft NP on the other hand has tried imaginatively to find sustainable locations for new housing; developed carefully, there couldn't be a better one than the 'car park site'.

Calderdale Council are clear that indeed it is 'cars before people, cars before homes', and they've decided to impose that view on us.

From Anthony Rae

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Since the problems created by the A646 corridor improvement programme and Hebden Bridge's unlawful air pollution won't go away, until they are addressed by Calderdale Council, I asked another question about them at Tuesday's Calder Ward Forum. The Calderdale Council transport officers provided a response - in which for the very first time they publicly admitted that the CIP will cause more road traffic in and around Hebden Bridge ('greater volumes of flow in future scenarios') - and those that are interested can read it here, together with my comments on what it said.

See also: Planning Watch