LETTER: Traffic would be unacceptable if more houses are built

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Angela Mogridge in her comments in the Mercury of August 10 does not appear to have taken account of the forecast levels of future traffic in Matlock.

The district council’s Local Plan proposes the building of around 1,684 new homes in the Matlock area (that’s an increase of 30 per cent over and above the current housing stock in Matlock).

In my professional capacity it could be predicted from the outset this would inevitably lead to an unacceptable increase in traffic in the town.

A ‘key’ factor is that the Crown Square roundabout reached its defined capacity in 2015. It is therefore no surprise that even at current levels, excessive queues of traffic - causing consequent delays and increased journey times - can already be seen on parts of Matlock’s highways network - and not only at peak times.

Additionally air pollution generated by significant increases in queuing traffic has not been investigated or considered - this is surely an issue of additional concern for residents and visitors alike.

With the publication of the consultant’s report the initial ‘design case’ analysis showed a increase of circa 39 per cent in traffic flows for the Crown Square roundabout when all the proposed housing developments in the Local Plan are complete.

It is also clear that this increase in volumes of traffic is primarily generated by the three proposed ‘major’ development sites in Matlock.

Even with allowed additional factors taken into account it was still clear that major ‘Interventions’ and ‘Mitigation’ measures would be required to prevent the unacceptable consequences of the increased volume of traffic onto the highway network of the town. What are these measures ? How can they be delivered? Will they ‘work’?

The county council, as Highway Authority, stated there is very little that can be practically done to ‘mitigate’ this forecast increase in traffic because of the constraints of the built environment and topography of Matlock. In the case of the Crown Square roundabout and surrounding road I agree. This is clearly obvious.

The district council has often stated ‘It is a paramount need to produce a Local Plan that will be accepted by the planning inspectorate’. By not adequately dealing with these matters at an earlier stage, a state has now been reached where, in order to reduce the traffic levels to acceptable defined limits a developer, in conjunction with the county council and other bodies would have to produce deliverable ‘sustainable transport’ measures.

So just what is ‘sustainable transport’?

Put simply it can be stated as: ‘Transport, such as walking, cycling, and fuel-efficient public transport, that minimizes harmful effects on the environment and the depletion of natural resources,and hence can be sustained in the long term.’

Cars statistically make up 69 per cent of the total form of travel in Matlock.

Undoubtedly the emphasis will need to be to ‘persuade’ car drivers not to use their cars and change to ‘sustainablet transport’ means on a daily basis.

Other ‘well meaning’ initiatives such as personal trip banking, household travel packs, and even area wide travel plans etc - are simply not enforceable.

Choice is the decision of each individual.

For a ‘small’ rural town like Matlock, the relatively small percentage of use of existing modes of travel, such as walking, cycling etc, cannot possibly produce the amount of change necessary to prevent the eventual traffic chaos in the town. There would have to be significant increases in the provision and usage of public bus services to have any degree of success in persuading car drivers not to use their cars. Unfortunately this is also simply not enforceable, even if new bus services and a more frequent bus timetable were to be provided.

Furthermore, data shows the patronage of existing local bus services in Matlock is minimal - some routes only exist because they are subsidised (there is an old axiom in the Cambridge Dictionary that states ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’)

The magnitude of change of mode of transport required is therefore completely ‘aspirational’ and borders on fantasy. It certainly cannot be guaranteed to be achievable..

Such changes of peoples transport choice (‘modal shift’) have only been found to have any degree of success in large city conurbations - where there already is a significant provision and usage of public transport - not in rural areas and towns like Matlock.

Even with possible ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’ contributions and Section 106 undertakings from the developer, I am still of the opinion, that the level of magnitude of the increased housing proposed in Matlock will inevitably result in completely unacceptable and detrimental effects on the town’s highway infrastructure and air quality.

D. Elsworth

B.Sc. C.Eng. M.I.C.E.

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