Sustainable travel plans a ‘deliberate’ move to make Brentwood car journeys unbearable

New sustainable travel plans for Brentwood are making car journeys so “deliberately unbearable” that drivers stop using their vehicles, the council’s leader has said.

Brentwood Borough Council has passed a motion criticising parts of Essex County Council’s active travel plans.

The authority’s leader, Councillor Chris Hossack, said the overwhelming problem is the Shenfield Road proposals and the impact on the busy Wilsons Corner.

He is calling for a meeting with key stakeholders in order to explore other options at the earliest opportunity.

The council motion acknowledges the efforts of the Highway Authority to promote active travel, in particular the proposals for schools streets in the Shenfield Road area – noting the findings of the active travel consultation published in September 2021 that reported traffic congestion, air pollution, and road safety as being the top of residents’ concerns.

However, it also said efforts to reduce pollution through the introduction of cycle lanes, are expected to increase town centre congestion, particularly at Wilsons corner.

The proposals for Shenfield Road include creating a two-way segregated cycleway on Shenfield Road between Wilson’s Corner and Crescent Drive, linking the towns. It is hoped this will provide a safer alternative as opposed to cycling on the carriageway.

To create this space, part of the road would need to be re-allocated for the cycleway.

To meet the required road width, this would mean that the eastbound right-turn filter lane entering Middleton Hall Lane and Nuffield Health and the westbound right-turn filter lane entering Sawyers Hall Lane would be removed.

Crossing improvements are also being considered on Shenfield Road and four new crossing point locations are being considered – near Wilson’s Corner, next to Sawyers Hall Lane, next to Middleton Hall Lane, and next to Crescent Drive.

Cllr Chris Hossack said: “This council is not pushing this scheme. It’s me who has been flagging almost as a lone voice on these steering group meetings the results of the Shenfield Road element, the width reduction, the loss of filter lanes the loss of island reservations in the flying face of overwhelming objections. We need to talk about this.

“What is quite clear from the traffic modelling, is the modelling shows increased time from north, south, east and west into Wilsons Corner.

“They know that is happening and it is pretty much deliberate.

“And let’s be plain about this. It is to make car journeys so unpleasant they think car drivers in Brentwood will abandon their cars.

“It’s a nice theory and I would love it to be true but it is high risk theory.

“My fear is that we will have increased congestion in the town centre – we’ve seen the modelling and it proves it will do that – in the vain hope people will get out of their cars.

“There are elements I like but the overwhelming problem is the Shenfield Road proposals.

“Do I like the utopian idea of getting everyone out of cars and onto bikes? Of course. But it is not as straight forward as county is making out and that is why we need to discuss it.

“Because to make journeys unpalatable doesn’t mean people will abandon their car, it just means they sit in them for longer and generate more fumes.”

The overall plans includes making Sawyers Hall Lane and Middleton Hall Lane school streets, Potential Park & Stride locations, with ‘walking buses’, segregated on-road cycleway between Crescent Drive and Wilson’s Corner, a 20mph speed limit reduction to promote a Liveable Neighbourhood and installation of cycle parking near Wilson’s Corner and Shenfield Rail Station.

An on-road cycleway is proposed to be signed towards Hutton Road and Shenfield railway station.

In the proposals it explains that as a well-used route, the aim would be to create a cycle corridor from Crescent Drive along Worrin Road and York Road, “complemented” by a 20mph speed limit.

Due to the schools located along the road, Sawyers Hall Lane is proposed to be designated as a School Street zone.

According to the county council, this would see measures being put in place to help reduce emissions around the school gates, as well as to support pupils and parents to walk and cycle more.

Another school route, Middleton Hall Lane is also proposed to be designated as a School Streets zone, with similar measures to those proposed for Sawyers Hall Lane.

A number of built-up roads are proposed to have the speed limit changed to 20mph, to try and create a safer environment for walking and cycling.

The roads proposed for the change include broadly the area between Shenfield Road and the railway line, as well as between Hutton Road and Ingrave Road, and will also be considered for the proposed School Streets areas.

A motion calling for a further meeting with stakeholders including Essex County Council was passed unanimously on July 27

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter