Four in five against Chelmsford traffic ban plans

The majority of people are against restricting motorists from driving through parts of Chelmsford, according to a council consultation.

Essex County Council has said it will consider the findings towards a final recommendation – which will be part of the authority’s overall decision for improving travel in the county.

Its plans would see the Moulsham area of Chelmsford split into quarters, which would see motorists only able to enter and exit quarters through certain quarter gateways.

It would thereby aim to stop through-traffic within the neighbourhood, had already seen notable opposition before the consultation into the authority’s Safer, Greener, Healthier Active Travel campaign.

As part of ‘liveable neighbourhoods’ – encouraging walking and cycling by preventing cars using routes as shortcuts – the county council has with Moulsham, proposals for a ‘quarters’ system which would see a number of restrictions and modal filters used to limit access between areas, with the aim of reducing traffic in itself and forcing drivers to join roads designed for heavier traffic.

About a quarter of respondents agreed with the principle of creating a liveable neighbourhood, compared with around two thirds who disagreed.

Those living outside the area were split almost 50-50 for and against.

However, 844 people (81 per cent) of respondents disagreed with the introduction modal filters compared with the 91 respondents (15 per cent) who agreed.

One respondent said: “It will increase congestion and decrease air quality. It will mean that far more local traffic will be directed to the Army and Navy roundabout which is already a severe bottleneck.

“I live in the yellow-coloured quarter and to return from weekly shop in Tesco at Miami roundabout, I will now have to drive down Princes road to the Army and Navy roundabout then along Parkway- which will take considerable time and add even more congestion to that bottleneck.

“The installation of physical barriers to prevent travel through the area is costly and will force many residents to take a longer more congested route out of the area than the one they currently use.”

Another said: “By having to use the Lady Lane/Princes Road junction as the only way out of Old Moulsham, queues will build up on Lady Lane that will cause pollution and distress, as well as have a negative impact on the already overcrowded and gridlocked Army and Navy roundabout.

“It is very dangerous to turn right out of Lady Lane, so this is a potential for accidents.

“This proposal will not reduce traffic, as not everyone can walk or cycle to their workplace etc. and relies on their car.

“I agree with the aspiration of preventing through traffic but for local residents, the proposals are unworkable and impractical.

“The proposed locations of the gates in old Moulsham will mean congestion around the Army and Navy and Princes Road area will be even worse.”

A third said: “I have chosen to live in a city centre for the convenience of being able to get around the city and outskirts easily.

“If I wanted a liveable neighbourhood I would have chosen to buy a house in the countryside.

“Local residents have made an active choice to buy a house in the city centre and do not expect to be able to ‘play out in the streets’.

“This will have a detrimental effect on house prices in the area and encourage people to leave the area to live somewhere else without these hassles.”

However there were supporters of the plans.

One resident said: “The through traffic in parts of Old Moulsham – Lady Lane, Moulsham Drive, Finchley Road, Mildmay Road, St Johns – is awful at certain times.

“It is dangerous to cycle down these roads and very dangerous and full of air pollution for children walking to school.

“Rat running through residential side streets is a real problem – we need to make driving less, not more, convenient in order to get the overwhelming majority of short trip drivers who don’t need to be in a car out of their car. This will help.”

In November 2020, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that it will be awarding the county council £7.3million to improve walking and cycling in Wickford, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Colchester.

The Active Travel Consultation, published September 10, found traffic congestion, air pollution and road safety were top of concerns.

The six-week consultation, which ran from May 27 to July 11 found that of the 2,482 responses received:

  • 86 per cent of respondents said that they were concerned or very concerned about traffic congestion,
  • 80 per cent of respondents said that they were concerned or very concerned about air pollution, and
  • 86 per cent of respondents said that they were concerned or very concerned about road safety

The consultation also sought feedback on five proposed schemes in Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Colchester and Wickford of which the Moulsham Quarters was one.

Councillor Lee Scott, cabinet member for Highways Maintenance and Sustainable Transport at Essex County Council, said: “It is clear there is widespread support for the aims expressed in our Safer, Greener, Healthier transport agenda with particular concern expressed about congestion and air pollution across the county.

“The results show a wide variety of views for the proposals covering the five locations. I have always said this consultation is about Essex County Council listening. We have engaged with communities and spoken to people face to face and all these responses will be taken into account.

“I will now be considering the findings and making my recommendations toward a final decision being announced by the county council.

“I’d like to thank everybody who took the time to take part and give us their feedback in our recent active travel survey.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter