Traffic plans for huge Chelmsford housing development ‘nuts’ says opposition leader

The leader of the opposition group at Chelmsford City Council says he cannot support a controversial bus link being removed from plans for an 800-home housing development, calling the alternative option “nuts”.

Chelmsford City Council meets next week to decide what traffic proposals should be adopted for the Warren Farm development in the west of the city.

Both options have come under stinging criticisms from people living nearby the planned 800-home development.

A bus link between Avon Road, which has come under fire from residents, seems unlikely to be adopted, after developer Crest indicated it would scrap it even though it is the recommendation offered by Essex County Council Highways officers.

The alternative, to move all traffic down Roxwell Road, which is vehemently opposed by Writtle Parish Council, has also been criticised by the Tory group led by Cllr Roy Whitehead.

The bus gate, which is no longer being proposed by the developer, would have cut through the existing park, woodland and children’s play area, and included a new two-way road bridge over Chignal Brook, campaigners argued.

Residents who have been using the masterplan consultation, which will set the broad outline of the development, say they are delighted that the bus gate will no longer be part of the plans.

Instead in its place will be two footpath/cycleway connections between the site and the Chignal Estate to the north and south of the allotments.

A proposed bus route to the site would run along Roxwell Road, Chignal Road and Melbourne Avenue to connect to the city centre.

Chris Hibbit, chairman of Writtle Parish Council, is worried that if an exit point from the 800-home development is not created either to the north or east of the development, then it will be a “disaster” for traffic on Roxwell Road.

He said that since the proposed site was made public in October 2015, Writtle Parish Council has consistently objected to the development due to worries about increased traffic on Roxwell Road, Lordship Road and through the village.

That position has been taken up by Cllr Whitehead.

He said: “The traffic comes off the Roxwell Road, goes around the estate and then goes back on to the Roxwell Road, which seems nuts really.

“Whereas previously it would come off Avon Road and then go up to Broomfield, which would have been a way of avoiding the junction at Chignal Road and Roxwell Road.

“We clearly want to see a bus link but it needs to be carefully sculptured and soundproofed and the number of buses is restricted because there is nothing else there – no cars will be going across it.”

He added: “The members have been offered two choices – the original one which is the one recommended by Essex Highways and the other one which a few residents don’t want – and the administration are moving toward agreeing with them.

“We seem to be flying against what highway officers and planning officers are all saying is an essential part, which is the Avon Road.

“We will support the original bus link and that is how we as a group will vote on the evening.”

Essex County Council has said that the provision of a bus link between the site and Avon Road – for use by buses, pedestrians, cyclists and council maintenance vehicles – is still considered to be necessary to mitigate the impact of the development, because it would enable provision of a bus route which would be a genuine alternative to travel for residents rather than using the private car.

A Chelmsford Council report says: “In the alternative option to a bus link proposed by Crest, in order to achieve similar bus priority measures and to provide permeability into the Chignal Estate, the proposed bus route enters and exits the site from the A1060 Roxwell Road.

“Although the bus routes are indicative at this point, it is likely this would be a longer route to the city centre than the one facilitated by the bus link.

“The alternative option would also require the buses to be added to the traffic along Roxwell Road. These disbenefits of the alternative proposal highlight the benefits of the bus link – reduced travel times to the city centre, less traffic on Roxwell Road and greater options for future strategic bus routing.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter