Ashwell Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 16 Submission
11.1 Ashwell's ancient origins continue to be reflected in the settlement pattern seen today, with a network of roads that radiate out from the former marketplace. These routes include some much older trackways in and around the village, the most important of which is Ashwell Street which is thought to be Roman and part of Icknield Way. These trackways make an important contribution to the character and appearance of the village.
11.2 The current layout does not, however, easily accommodate modern traffic requirements, especially larger vehicles such as buses and delivery vehicles. This is made worse at peak times by commuters; many residents travelling out of the village for work and parents taking children to school.
11.3 Typical of most rural communities, the majority of residents have their own transport, with many households having two or more cars. The main routes are in regular use. Traffic counts show that 300-500 vehicles can pass though the village on an average day. The narrow nature of most of these roads around the village (4.95m is a typical width) can cause problems, not only when larger vehicles are encountered, but also when cars try to pass each other.
11.4 A range of traffic studies has been carried out over a number of years. Problems identified include:
- Speeding: Particularly in the High Street, Station Road, and West End. This is thought to be mostly by through traffic although the Baldock bypass, which opened in 2006, has had little discernible impact. A 20mph limit was introduced in the village in late 2019 and this too has had only a slight effect on traffic and speed.
- On-street parking: Particularly on narrow roads in the older parts of the village, leading to increased congestion and difficulties for larger vehicles such as those making deliveries. The High Street is frequently reduced to a single carriageway by parked cars; though this does act as an informal traffic calming measure.
- Inadequate road maintenance undertaken by the County Council
11.5 All of the above problems could be exacerbated by further development outside the parish. Proposals for new developments should include sufficient provisions, and where necessary include off-site works, to adequately mitigate any adverse traffic impacts.
11.6 Whilst the ANP cannot prevent people from using their cars for short journeys, improvements to key routes will encourage short, local journeys to be made by foot, bicycle or public transport. Indeed 11% of households in the parish have no access to a car so this will benefit those people too. Not only should this alleviate congestion and associated air pollution (particularly outside the school and at the main junctions), but will provide regular healthy exercise. Linking both existing and new development areas into the network of existing routes is vital to encourage more walking and less use of the car but also to connect these areas and their residents to the key destinations within the area.
11.7 Staying active is important to all in the community. This includes those with mobility issues who need to use wheelchairs, mobility scooters and other walking aids. It is also relevant to those with young children, using pushchairs.
11.8 The built village is served by a network of seven footways (the 'twitchels'). These form well-used linking routes for pedestrians, particularly between the southern part of the village and the centre. However, some of these are not suitable for people with reduced mobility because of steep gradients. Use of the footways reduces vehicular traffic within the village while also providing an opportunity for exercise. They also perform an important social function by providing informal meeting places.
Many of the pavements in the village, however, are not easy to negotiate because of their age, narrowness, and camber. This is often exacerbated by cars parked in the narrow streets. The provision of handrails on paths with steps or uneven surfaces would assist the people with mobility issues. Access to footpaths leading into the open countryside around the village is also an issue for those with mobility problems.
11.9 It is possible to do circular walks to the west, north and east of the village and walking is a popular activity. The footpath network is, therefore, an important recreational and social asset for the village.
11.10 The Parish Council should work with Hertfordshire County Council to enhance the footpath provision in line with appropriate policies set out in its Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2017/18 – 2027/28. This plan recognises that rights of way are important for getting about in a sustainable way and provide an opportunity for healthy recreation.
Where necessary the Parish Council could consider the use of developer contributions to help deliver improvements to popular paths. Any works to upgrade footpaths will need to be carefully balanced with the impact on the natural environment, including the retention of hedgerows adjacent to paths.
Policy ASH20 Accessible paths in the village and rural areas
11.11 The ANP expects existing bridleways and footpaths to be preserved and kept in good condition. All new developments must provide footways that link with the existing network. The ANP will support proposals that improve cycling or walking, separated from vehicles.
- Development proposals to improve cycling and walking will be supported. In particular, provision of additional routes that provide or complete circular walks / rides and are physically separated from vehicular traffic and from one another will be supported. Such routes should also ensure that access by disabled users and users of mobility scooters is secured. Permissive agreements with landowners should be sought as appropriate.
- To ensure that residents can access public transport facilities, the village centre, the school and pre-schools, leisure and other important facilities serving the community, all new developments should ensure safe pedestrian access for all, including those with restricted mobility, to link up with existing footways, see Hertfordshire County Council's Rights of Way map.
- Development proposals which include highway solutions that mitigate the impact of traffic through the village centre will be supported.
- Public bridleways and footpaths should only be removed where the benefits of the development in the location proposed clearly outweigh the loss and where suitable alternatives are provided.
Conformity reference: NP Objectives: 7, 10; Saved Plan 1996: 51; Emerging Local Plan: SP6, SP7; NPPF (2019): 98; 102 - 104,127(e); 127(f)
Bus services and community transport
11.12 On first inspection, and in proportion to its size, Ashwell might be considered to have adequate public transport with its local buses, a nearby railway station and a taxibus service.
11.13 Three bus routes connect Ashwell village with Ashwell and Morden station, Baldock and Royston. Trains that stop at Ashwell and Morden Station provide a service to London, Cambridge and intermediate stations. Most households have access to private transport but with an ageing population it is important that public transport links to neighbouring villages, towns and cities are retained.
11.14 However, while the rail service may be considered reasonable, the local bus services are considered to have deteriorated recently. Because of the difficult access to the station (four kilometres outside the village), travellers have to drive. The existing car park at the station is inadequate and a significant number of cars park on the road verges leading to it.
11.15 The Parish Council is working, and will continue to work, with Hertfordshire County Council to improve services in line with appropriate policies in its Rural Transport Strategy July 2019 – 2031.
11.16 Funding from development that goes towards improving public bus services comes through the developer contributions. As such, the focus of direct provision from development will be on the supporting infrastructure, e.g. bus priority measures, real time passenger information and bus shelters.
11.17 It should also be noted that community transport services are often seen as effective alternatives where there are gaps in public bus services. These could also be provided or contributions used to support these services.
Policy ASH21 Bus services and community transport
11.18 Development proposals that help improve public and community transport will be supported, as will those reducing the impact of traffic and parking. The Parish's share of statutory contributions from developers will be used to enhance facilities.
- New development proposals that contribute towards physical improvements in the quality of public and community transport services and/or supporting infrastructure, including bus shelters, serving the ANP area will be supported. These contributions will be collected through Section 106 Agreements or the Community Infrastructure Levy mechanism, when adopted.
- Proposals that lead to a reduction in the number of private vehicles being used to link to Ashwell and Morden station and other local stations will be supported.
Conformity reference: NP Objectives: 7; Saved Plan 1996: 51; Emerging Local Plan: SP6, SP7, SP10; NPPF (2019): 102 - 104, 108, 110; 111
Public car parking
11.19 Not surprisingly given its rural location, Ashwell is in an area of high car ownership recorded at 1.6 vehicles per household in the 2011 Census compared to 1.4 across the district.
11.20 It will be important to retain, manage and improve the quality of publicly accessible car parking areas in the village. This is important for the continued economic prosperity of the settlements as well as the convenience of residents, workers and visitors.
Policy ASH22 Residential and public car parking
- Proposals that add new dwellings or business space should include the provision of adequate, sensitively-designed off-street parking in accordance with the standards defined in:
- In appropriate cases planning approval for such uses may be subject to conditions preventing change of use, where this could result in inadequate car parking provision being available.
- There will be a presumption against the loss of any publicly accessible off-street car parking in the neighbourhood area.
- Proposals for new development that provides additional public off-road car parking spaces, in particular next to businesses and at transport hubs, will be supported. Alongside any new public car parking provision, appropriate levels of bicycle parking facilities and electric vehicle charging points will be required.
- The design of all new parking should be of sustainable construction to ensure minimal impact on the drainage system, and incorporate native hedging and tree planting where practical.
Conformity reference: NP Objectives: 7; Saved Plan 1996: 55; Emerging Local Plan: SP6; NPPF (2019): 105; 106