Those who attended the coffee morning meeting with Highways England at Easthorpe Church on 23rd July may recall that there wasn't enough time to answer all of the questions that Easthorpe PEACE had submitted.
This week we have received written responses to them, which are below.
How many negative consultation responses do they need to receive before they revisit their current proposals?
Consultation responses are not votes, so it’s not a case that you need a certain number of responses to consider whether to change something. All responses are looked at with an open mind, and as part of the process, they
are all independently analysed. We’ll then produce a Report On Consultation which will show how we have considered the responses we received, and it will be for the Planning Inspector to ultimately determine whether we’ve done this correctly or not.
Has closure of Easthorpe Road been considered in this a12 widening proposal? If not, why?
There is a general principle that if an access is removed, it should be replaced. There are several factors that we will need to consider when it comes to the access to Easthorpe Road. Of course, this includes feedback from the community, but as mentioned at the coffee morning, this also includes the view of Essex County Council (ECC) and the emergency services on this issue. In addition, it’s important to consider where the vehicles that would use this access would go instead if the access were removed.
If closure of Easthorpe Road was agreed as being the safest and best option in previous A12 widening proposals, why has a significantly different proposal ie flyover and roundabout been included now?
This is not and has never been the position of the A12 project.
Are HE aware that Easthorpe Road is a single track country lane with no footpaths that is prone to serious flooding even in July? If so, why do HE consider a roundabout and flyover safe, suitable and justified on such a road?
We are aware of the operational issues of Easthorpe Road, and understand that the vicinity of the Easthorpe Road crossing is within Flood Zone 3. The proposed bridge over the realigned A12 has been included to allow residents and visitors to access the existing A12 without the need to re-route through junction 25 (Marks Tey Interchange) to access the A12. We’re aware of residents’ concerns regarding rat-running along Easthorpe road, but as this proposed connection is to be on the existing A12 rather than the proposed bypass, the attractiveness of using Easthorpe to circumvent junction 25 is reduced compared to the existing situation.
What steps do Highways England propose be put in place to safeguard local residents from the dangerous speeding traffic travelling along Easthorpe Road?
We don’t currently have any proposals for Easthorpe including speed limit alterations/speed management. Existing issues should be directed to ECC, however, we will continue to work with them throughout the development of the scheme.
Do Highways England agree that other local roads, for example school road through Copford, are better equipped to accommodate local and other traffic in that such roads are 2 lane, not likely to flood and have footpaths with safer places to cross?
As mentioned, if the Easthorpe Road access were removed, we’d have to make an assessment of where the alternative traffic would go. It’s worth mentioning that our traffic model shows relatively few people use Easthorpe Road. However, we appreciate that the community disputes the figures and we appreciated the further information that was provided to our traffic expert at the Marks Tey event. We will consider this information as part of our review of the traffic model following the current statutory consultation.
In previous consultations HE have derived from responses that their proposals “could improve traffic through local villages”. Can HE please explain in detail, with relevant statistical information and modelling, how the current proposed scheme will improve traffic through Easthorpe?
As covered at the coffee morning, the A12 currently suffers from congestion, as well as a lack of resilience in the event of incidents. By bringing the road up to modern standards we would expect to see a reduction in incidents. By widening the road as we’re proposing to do, we expect the road to be in a better position to handle incidents without the need for motorists to find alternative routes through local villages.
HE have asserted one of their objectives as “helping cyclists, walkers and other vulnerable users of the network”. Can HE please provide details as to how the current proposals will meet this objective effectively in Easthorpe?
Easthorpe resides outside of the current A12 remit for consideration. We’re addressing historic severance and severance created by the new bypass sections, as well as realising opportunities for new connections to our routes. Public Rights of Way (PRoW) 128_22 & 23 will have connections to improved provision for such users. We’re working in collaboration with ECC, exploring the use of Highways England designated funds, from which opportunities may be realised, but as these are not dependent upon the A12 scheme we cannot guarantee they will materialise.
Do HE plan to monitor the traffic through Easthorpe again as the numbers they are quoting are clearly not representative of traffic volumes today? Why were out of date figures used?
The traffic numbers provided in the consultation material are based on the traffic model developed for the proposed scheme. This predicts the traffic on roads in the area for a morning peak hour and an evening peak hour.
Real-life observed traffic counts were used when developing the traffic model. Such traffic counts must conform to strict guidance set by the Department for Transport. For example, they should monitor traffic continuously for a period of at least two weeks where possible, take care to avoid periods with unusual traffic such as school holidays, and be undertaken at the same time as other traffic counts used elsewhere in the traffic model. Strict quality assurance and consistency checks are also done on the traffic count data.
On Easthorpe Road, two separate traffic surveys were used to inform the traffic model. These automatically counted the number of vehicles passing the survey site for every hour of the day while they were installed. The surveys undertaken were:
A one-week traffic count between 7 April 2016 and 13 April 2016
A two-week traffic count between 20 June 2016 and 7 July 2016
Taking an average of these surveys, they counted an average of 45 vehicles per hour on weekdays between 7am and 8am, and 29 vehicles per hour on weekdays between 5pm and 6pm. These were the morning and evening peak hours used within our traffic model for modelling the proposed scheme.
The surveys described above were undertaken in 2016. More recent traffic surveys had been planned for March 2020. However, these were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. As noted, in July 2021 the current traffic conditions are still not considered to be representative of likely long-term future traffic patterns. It has therefore not been possible to collect a full set of new traffic counts across the model area since March 2020.
In the 2017 consultation they agreed to close direct access from Easthorpe Road to the A12, but didn’t specify that this was to the new A12 only. What is preventing them from closing off Easthorpe Road totally?
As mentioned above, the project has never formally agreed to close access.
At a recent event, HE stated that traffic would improve along the residential area of Easthorpe Road but increase at the section towards the A12. The residential section of Easthorpe Road is the only access to the A12; is there an intention to build another road that diverts traffic away from the village in order to achieve the figures given?
Please note that the traffic numbers quoted for Easthorpe Road in the consultation material are those predicted in the year 2027, rather than current traffic figures. Increasing congestion at the junction with the A12 is predicted to make using Easthorpe Road as a way to access the A12 less attractive than it is currently. As part of the A12 scheme there are no plans to create a diversion route to bypass either Easthorpe Road or Easthorpe Village.
Previous consultations have not included access to Easthorpe Village via the A12. Since the introduction of Sat Nav and the development of many housing developments in the Stanway area, Easthorpe Road has become a ‘rat-run’ and regularly gets blocked with traffic either trying to escape accidents on the current A12 or people using it as a cut-through. It is a narrow country lane (that allows just one car to pass in many places) with no footpaths, cycle lanes and many blind corners (as well as having a large equestrian presence); how does the new access proposal, whereby Easthorpe Road would allow access through the village both ways from the A12, fit in with HE’s objectives to stop ‘rat-runs’, make improvements for walkers etc and not impacting villages and communities?
Our previous consultations have been route option consultations. However, it’s worth noting that the 2019 consultation explicitly showed an increase in traffic on Easthorpe Road due to the fact that accessing the existing (but detrunked) A12 would be more appealing to motorists than it is currently.