Social distancing 'even more Challenging' on Lodge Road
Concerns are growing about the restricted access on Lodge Road in Alsager introduced in response to Cheshire East's active travel measures.
Aimed at encouraging people to walk and cycle more after the lockdown was eased, Alsager School has already said congestion has made social distancing "even more challenging", while there are also road safety fears as vehicles have been ignoring the no entry sign at the junction of Lodge Road and Sandbach Road North.
There are also fears about the impact of increased traffic heading down Pikemere Road, past the primary school and also on Hassall Road, as drivers that would normally use Lodge Road seek alternative routes.
When Cheshire East announced its plans, described as "experimental", at the beginning of August, it said Lodge Raod was going to be closed to all vehicles and accessible only by cyclists and pedestrians.
However only one lane has been blocked off near its junction with Sandbach Road North from where traffic is prohibited from entering Lodge Road, which is now only accessible via Church Road.
Cheshire East has said the restrictions will be reviewed after two weeks and has urged people to respond to a consultation about the active travel measures.
The partial closure has meant buses, which would normally carry students through the rear entrance to Alsager School via Sandbach Road North now have to park on Lodge Road.
In a message to students, parents and carers on Tuesday, Andrea O'Neill, Head of School at Alsager School, said: "Many of you will have been affected by the changes that have been made on Lodge Road. This has significantly affected pupils who catch the bus. Buses are now located on Lodge Road which is not an ideal place. The pavement is narrow, it causes a lot of congestion and it makes social distancing even more challenging.
"We have voiced our concerns and I know that many members of Alsager have also done so. Can I please remind all parents and carers who bring their child to school by car, to use neighbouring roads as a drop off and pick up point. This will ease congestion around the site and make it safer for our students who walk or cycle to and from school."
The Chronicle previously reported how Alsager's Cheshire East councillors said they only discovered what was planned on Lodge Road when the measures were publically announced at the beginning of last month.
Lodge Road had not been mentioned by the town council in its suggestions for active travel measures in Alsager when consulted by Cheshire East in May and instead had proposed 20mph speed limits, which have now been implemented in much of Sandbach, along with improved walking and cycling links to the town centre.
Alsager Labour town councillor Labour Jo Dale, who last week said there was the potential for "chaos" on Lodge Road, accused the town's Cheshire East Lib Dem councillors of "pinning the blame" on their authority, claiming they knew about the plans for Lodge Road before an official announcement was made.
She said that councillors in other towns in the borough, including Crewe and Macclesfield, had consulted with Cheshire East to have active travel plans there changed.
Coun Dale is concerned for the safety of her daughter who has just started in year seven at Alsager School.
"People living on Lodge Road have seen vans going down the wrong way. Forget the politics, I'm concerned as a parent," said Coun Dale.
One of Alsager's Cheshire East councillors, June Buckley, said the Lodge Road plan came about from the Safer Routes To School scheme, before she was on the council.
She said: "On paper it works, but now the school buses are unable to turn into the back entrance if they come up from Church Road. Previously they came up Sandbach Rod North and could sweep in.
"When I spoke to senior highways officer he said it would be re-evaluated after two weeks which I think is reasonable, these things need a little time to bed in."
She added: "What I am appalled at is that people are driving the wrong way down there. There are signs at the top end of Lodge Road, at the Sandbach Road North junction, saying no entry. Why people ignore that I don't know."
She said the town council's suggestions in May, such as 20mph speed limits and improved cycling and walking links, were all included in Alsager's now adopted neighbourhood plan, adding there was only a short period of time to put suggestions to Cheshire East.
Coun Buckley said she was not told before the pubic announcement that Lodge Road was to have restricted access.
"To the best of my recollection I was not informed in advance," she added.
She believed that Alsager School felt there needed to be a footpath on both sides of Lodge Road.
"The school wants a limited number of vehicles on the premises, which I am in favour of."
Coun Buckley said she visited a resident on Lodge Road on bank holiday Monday who was "very alarmed" that so many cars were turning down Lodge Road through the no entry junction at Sandbach Road North.
She added: "I knew there were things in the pipeline to do with emergency measures, I knew things were going to happen, but that was not in ward councillors' plans.
After visiting Lodge Road she emailed Coun Laura Crane, Cheshire East's Cabinet member responsible for highways and waste. "I told her the route was causing concern and that drivers were ignoring the no entry sign."
Coun Rod Fletcher, the chairman of Alsager Town Council who also sits on Cheshire East, said: "I welcome the fact that they did consult Alsager School but am appalled at the way the Alsager councillors were ignored by Cheshire East.
"I have been given an assurance that any future proposals will be subject to local consultations before implementation."
He added: "There are a lot of very unhappy people in Alsager, Cheshire East have promised to listen to the people and act accordingly. I hope they do."
Coun Phil Williams, said he only found out about the plans for Lodge Road at the beginning of August when he was given the news by the Chronicle.
His response at the time was that the restrictions on Lodge Road would be "bonkers" as it would drive more vehicles to the already busy traffic light junction at Bank Corner in the town centre.
He said this week: "One or two people have said it is better than it has been for a few years but I think that's a minority. The principle of it is ok but the way it's been implemented isn't. The intention is sound and I do have some sympathy with Cheshire East as they had to react quickly during the covid crisis."
Coun Williams added: I've ridden though it is a bit awkward. It's had a knock-on effect on Pikemere Road and Hassall Road and extra traffic is now tangling with traffic already there, especially as there are two schools on those routes."
Of the active travel measure on Lodge Road he said: "It's like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut."
He thought "what's all this about" when the Chronicle informed him of the Lodge Road plans as other measures had been suggested by the town council.
"If they had considered that and then said it wasn't feasible it would have been fine, but they did not mention Lodge Road to us."
A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said: "Following engagement with Alsager School about how to improve the safety of pupils walking to school, it was identified that the crossing point of Lodge Road, near the junction with Sandbach Road North, needed improving due to lack of clear visibility for people crossing. The scheme gives pedestrians better visibility and thus a safer crossing point."
In response to concerns that the town council had not mentioned restricted access on Lodge Road, but had suggested other measures such as 20mph speed limits in Alsager, the spokesperson said: "We have not received feedback on traffic speeds being an issue at this location. However, if local people and stakeholders believe this is an issue then we would invite them to provide us with their views via our webpages at www.cheshireeastactivetravel.commonplace.is/
"Continued feedback and engagement will enable us to monitor and refine these active travel measures before anything is considered to be made permanent - so we get schemes that are right for each community.
"These innovative projects are part of steps taken by this council to encourage more people to get active and cycle and walk more. But they have to be right for each specific location."