Road layout poses safety concerns for walkers and cyclists
Cheshire East Council has been urged to intervene in the development of a new roundabout near junction 17 of the M6, amid safety concerns for cyclists and pedestrians.
The roundabout is being built as part of improvements to the northbound slip road of the motorway and to provide access to the Capricorn site, off Old Mill Road.
In 2017 the application, by W&S Sandbach, was approved by Cheshire East Council despite opposition from Sandbach Town Council, which “strongly objected” to plans and supported the objections of the public, Cycling UK and the NFU.
Town councillors opposed the scheme for various reasons, including a “significant safety concern” for pedestrians and cyclists attempting to navigate the proposed scheme.
With work on the scheme well underway, Sandbach resident Patrick Darnes has now raised his own concerns for walkers’ and cyclists' safety and for the safety of other roundabout users - and he said he wanted Cheshire East to do something about it.
But Coun Laura Crane, a Sandbach Labour representative on Cheshire East who is its Cabinet member responsible for highways and waste, has told him that “very little can be done” as planning permission was granted a long time ago.
She added that if the works were being carried out by Cheshire East Council’s highways department “the situation could be different but this is developer works, which follow a very different route”.
When Mr Darnes was told by Sandbach Heath and East Labour Coun Sam Corcoran, also leader of Cheshire East, that the planning approval was made by the previous Conservative administration, Mr Darnes responded that he did not believe “continually referring to decisions made by the previous regime was a valid excuse”, adding that the council had done “nothing in regard to the serious issues that I have raised with you on more than one occasion”.
In his correspondence with Couns Crane and Corcoran, Mr Darnes said he had concerns about the how walkers and cyclists crossed the M6 at J17 from Sandbach.
He said there were other potential concerns with the new road layout in respect of access and exit from the Co-Op mini market and fuel station and he wondered if these issues had been fully considered.
Mr Darnes added: “Looking at this road plan, I have serious concerns about the close proximity of the entrance and exit from the garage to the new roundabout and the possible lack of sight of traffic on the new roundabout to those exiting the garage due to the boundary hedge.
“The other potential issue concerns the changes/removal of the footpath on the south side of Old Mill road leading from the Co-Op garage to the motorway.
“I believe there is a plan to move the footpath to the north side of the road. Currently there is a gap with no footpath onto the bridge at junction 17. There needs to be a continuous footpath from the junction of Congleton Road and Old Mill Road to past the junction of Homes Chapel Road and this is not the case at present.”
Coun Corcoran, who represents Sandbach Heath and East, relayed to Mr Darnes what he had said in June 2017: “In June 2014, W&S Sandbach gained planning permission to build houses on the Capricorn Business Park site by promising to build a large roundabout by junction 17 that would solve the traffic problems on the A534 and junction 17.
“Despite my strong advice about relying on the promises of W&S Sandbach, Conservative-controlled Cheshire East Council approved the housing application (conditional upon the roundabout being built).
“As I had predicted, the developers didn't build the large roundabout. Instead the Government paid for and built a smaller 'pinch point scheme' roundabout.
“In October 2014, the developers applied for a relaxation of the planning condition so that they could build houses first and that was granted.
“On Wednesday, 28th June, 2017, the developers were granted permission to build a different, cheaper roundabout that will not solve the queues on the Old Mill Road.”
Coun Corcoran added: “The projections for 2020 is that queues on the A534 Old Mill Road will be 942m in the morning and 791m in the afternoon (peaking at 1,010m in the morning and 868m in the afternoon).”
He said: “The perfidy of the Conservative councillors was brought home to me as I returned to Sandbach that evening and saw the traffic queues reaching all the way down Old Mill Road. As one local Conservative councillor said at the meeting, such traffic queues are just something we will have to accept.”
In her response last Monday to Mr Darnes' request that Cheshire East intervened in the development, Coun Crane said: “As Sam says, there is very little that can be done now. The planning permission was granted a long time ago and unless the law were to change, we would be unable to take it back now. If it was works being carried out by the Cheshire East Highways department then the situation could be different but this is developer works which follow a very different route.”
Mr Darnes replied: “I challenge the statement that there is nothing than can be done. If there are concerns about the safety of the public relating to changes to the public highway and loss of associated footways then action can and should be taken.
”I do not understand your statement: 'If this were works being carried out by the Cheshire East Highways department then the situation could be different but this is developer works which follow a very different route'.”