County failing to engage over major travel plans claims city council leader

The leader of Chelmsford City Council claims that the county council is failing to engage with residents after its plans for travel changes across Chelmsford were revealed without any prior consultation.

Proposals for Chelmsford will see the improvement of three routes – enabling people to walk and cycle safely between the railway station and Baddow, the railway station and Burgess Springs and along Springfield Park Road.

Existing well-established cycling provision is to be extended.

These are journeys which Essex County Council (ECC) say it knows are being made by car and, therefore alongside other measures in the city, would help tackle congestion – creating a safer, greener, healthier Chelmsford.

Councillor Stephen Robinson, leader of the council, said at a recent city council meeting, that it would have been an ideal opportunity for people to see the plans before they were published online.

Cllr Robinson said: “We set up a working group called Improving Movement Around the City which includes highways officers and city councillors – so it was for both authorities to come together – that is meeting next Tuesday.

“So should have quite reasonably had this on the agenda.”

Moulsham Quartering plans have received particular criticism from residents – who, while able to access their homes and premises via a limited number of gateways, are unable to travel by car between areas of Moulsham.

Pedestrians, cyclists and buses will, however, be able to travel between and within all of the quarters.

Cllr Robinson continued: “In principle we want to encourage more bus use, cycle and walking.

“But the county tends to proceed without fully engaging with residents and comes from an engineering perspective rather than the users perspective.

“That has certainly been our concern with the Broomfield road scheme which has had to have remedial measures on it.”

Cllr Robinson highlighted the Springfield cycle route being truncated halfway along by Springfield Road, without any obvious means to cross it.

He added: “The county council is simply not listening to the public or local ward councillors and key stakeholders.

“It is really important that if you want to get a genuine change in behaviour and switch away from private car journeys that you take the public with you and don’t just impose something on people.”

An Essex Highways spokesperson said: “These proposals are currently the subject of a public consultation, please go to: https://bit.ly/3fKtbUw

“While we recognise that petitions are one way in which people can let us know their concerns, we would encourage anyone with views on the proposals to respond directly to the consultation, then their views have to be taken into account, by law.

“We will also be gathering data from other sources such as polling, focus groups, direct engagement and traffic counts and all of these findings will be used to agree next steps.”

A spokesperson for Essex Highways further added: “Active Travel proposals for areas in Chelmsford are currently the subject of a public consultation.

“The whole purpose of a consultation is to allow members of the public to give their views and to help shape the final proposals before they are implemented. This consultation, which exceeds Department for Transport best practice guidance on consultation, can be accessed online at https://bit.ly/3fKtbUw

“We would encourage anyone with views on the proposals to respond directly to the consultation. We will also be gathering additional data from other sources such as polling, focus groups, direct engagement and traffic counts. All of these findings will be used to agree next steps.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter