The Committee received the following questions from Members of the Public prior to the meeting;
Question from Simon Ogden
“Stocksbridge Town Deal Trails Project
Stocksbridge Town Deal Board has recently announced a decision to abandon a £2.75m project to construct the remaining missing links in the Upper Don Trail between Langsett and Wharncliffe, providing most of a safe, off-road active travel route linking Stocksbridge and Oughtibridge including the over 1,000 new homes being built in the valley. The project would also put Stocksbridge at the centre of a network of walking, cycling and horse-riding trails, helping to deliver its ambition to be the Outdoor Town in the Outdoor City.
The Trails project has now apparently been replaced by a vague proposal to improve existing paths around the south side of Underbank Reservoir which does little for the wider connectivity or active travel. Although not explicit it appears that much of the funding is likely to be diverted to other projects. Yorkshire Water PLC is named as the only partner although their financial commitment is unclear and not secured.
The only published explanation given for this major change is a single reference to ‘cost increases and other issues’ with the original project. However, no Board papers have been posted showing any evidence of these, comparative business cases or cost benefit justification for the decision as would be the case for any Council project. Board meeting agendas and reports are not published in advance of meetings but several months after they take place, the most recent being May. Minutes are sparse on fact or detail. Alternate monthly meetings are classed as ‘workshops’ and not recorded at all. No dialogue has taken place with the Town Council or any other stakeholders other than Yorkshire Water PLC on the axing of the Trails project or the alternative. There has been no discussion of how to reduce costs or overcome other problems of the original approved Trails project.
Although the Town Deal is an independent entity it is entirely serviced by City Council Officers, the Council is the Accountable Body for its funding and has two representatives on the Board. STD’s own Terms of Reference commit it to following City Council procedures and standards of decision making.
Will local members and the Council therefore as a matter of urgency take responsibility to ensure that
a) All papers or reports justifying the decisions of the STD Board are immediately made available for public scrutiny as required by their own terms of reference.
b) Genuine public and stakeholder consultation is carried out by the Board prior to confirmation of any final decision on the Trails Project, as was promised in the Board’s own minutes and their recent public statements.
c) Agendas, Minutes and supporting Reports for all Board Meetings, past and future, are published in full and in a timely and transparent manner in line with City Council practice and Nolan principles.”
In response Councillor Williams advised that following Mr Ogden’s previous communication with him, he had referred the matter to the relevant Officer, and Kate Martin was looking into it. Councillor Chichen stated that the had also previously spoken to Mr Ogden and agreed that further clarity was needed.
Members raised concerns that this section of the trail was not progressing when other sections were, they were keen that the matter be followed up through the appropriate channels at the Council, who were the lead partner on the project.
Question from Christopher and Elizabeth Birkby
“We live at Laurel Cottage. Whilst the postal address is Woodside Lane, our vehicular access is along a long drive which runs parallel with Woodside Lane, about twenty yards apart, and exits into Norfolk Hill.
There is no public footpath on our side of the road and so the exit is straight into the highway. As with Woodside Lane, the sight lines to the right and left are partially blocked, and we have to edge into Norfolk Hill in order to have a full view. The drive is shared with two other properties, Inglewood and Woodlands.
For many years we have had a sign at the end of the drive requesting motorists not to park opposite the drive. This has only been partially successful, and we are noticing that an increasing number of drivers are ignoring the sign and parking immediately opposite the entrance. Norfolk Hill is not a particularly wide carriageway and when vehicles are parked opposite the drive, it reduces the available carriageway to a little over one vehicle’s width. This creates a potential hazard. Whilst over the years we have had some near misses, we have, fortunately, managed to avoid a collision with the traffic on Norfolk Hill.
We are bringing this to your attention because of:
* The increasing number of vehicles parked opposite the drive. Whilst this makes it difficult for us to get in and out of the drive, there is a real danger of a serious collision;
* The increasing number of electric vehicles which we cannot hear.
Given the partial visibility as we drive into Norfolk Hill, we have to rely on the sound of approaching vehicles. We can usually hear petrol and diesel engines but not, of course, electrically powered engines;
* The number of vehicles driving down Norfolk Hill, often at speed, no more than two or three feet away from our exit. This is often prompted by the narrowed carriageway caused by vehicles parked opposite, but it causes a potential danger as we are obliged to ease out slowly in order to have full visibility up and down the road.
Matters would be eased significantly if vehicles were prevented, in some way, from parking opposite the drive.
We should be grateful if you would bring this to the attention of the appropriate authority.”
Members agreed that it would be appropriate to look at alternative measures, including signage for concealed driveways, and traffic calming. The matter would be raised with Highways by the LAC Manager and Mr and Mrs Birkby would be advised of the response.
The Committee received the following questions from Members of the Public at the meeting:
Question from Rachel Dyson
Ms Dyson expressed concerns about road safety on the A57 at Hollow Meadows following a recent accident.
Ward Councillors advised they would discuss this further with her after the meeting.