The Cookham Plan
Reply from the Traffic and Transport Group
Friday 25 January 2008
As co-chair of the Traffic and Transport Working Group in the Cookham Plan process, I would like to make some general comments in response to the messages posted on the website, following the publication of the plan.
I feel it may be helpful if I first provide a brief personal CV, relevant to my life in Cookham, in order that people may see the particular personal interests that I may have in the overall planning process.
My name is Michael Clark. Bernadette and I have lived in the High Street for 20 years. Neither of the houses in which we have lived have had off-road parking.
Both our sons have lived all their lives in the village and both went to Holy Trinity Primary School. I served for 8 years as a diocesan governor of the school. We are family members of Cookham Dean Cricket Club and of Maidenhead Rugby Club, although our younger son is now the only active player. We are members of the Cookham Society.
We are regular attendees at Holy Trinity Church. Both sons are members of the choir and my wife is actively involved in church affairs, having previously run the Sunday school and been secretary of the PCC.
We are very regular users of the local shops at Cookham Rise, as well as of the shops and restaurants in the High Street. We use both the Medical Centre and the St Anne’s dental practice. I am an allotment holder in Sutton Road.
Both my wife and I are in full time employment. Bernadette works in the High Street and whilst I have an office in Maidenhead, my job involves frequent travel abroad. I am a regular user of the local rail network, of Eurostar and of Heathrow airport.
We agreed to work on the preparation of the village plan for a number of reasons. Firstly, we were invited. Secondly, we had seen very significant change in the Cookhams over the past 20 years. Many of the more traditional retail outlets and pubs have gone out of business, to be replaced by specialist, service based businesses and shops, hairdressers, beauty parlours etc., and restaurants. There has been a very measurable increase in traffic, both private cars and commercial vehicles, and in the demand for parking spaces at virtually all key locations in the village.
Thirdly, reflecting the above and the underlying national social and demographic trends, the village infrastructure is clearly unable to meet even present demands, let alone the additional needs that will inevitably be placed on it over the next 10-20 years.
We share, absolutely, the wish to preserve the essential character and charm of Cookham. However, that character has deteriorated over the past several years and we felt very strongly that it could not be preserved by simply refusing to make changes, albeit as sympathetically as possible. Indeed, many of the things that make the Cookhams such a good place to live result from changes that were made in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, with the benefit of hindsight we can now see how those changes may impact negatively on our modern day life. The Victorians bought us the railway and a large increase in housing stock, but did not anticipate the cars that these now generate. They did not plan for Cookham to be a tourist centre. We have to manage the consequences.
Village Planning Process.
The plan is not an approved development plan for the future. It is, however, the product of many hundreds of hours of study, research and debate, spread over many months, even years, involving a very broad cross section of the village community, representing very different interests and competencies. Guidance and advice has been provided by professional experts, both on a paid and voluntary basis.
My understanding is that the committee does not claim to have any monopoly of wisdom, but it has looked at issues from a wide variety of angles and has had to recognise that not every idea will meet with universal approval. The sector working groups themselves have had to accept that not all their proposals were acceptable to the majority of other groups.
The output is a consensus based draft plan.
On a personal note, I have to deplore the highly offensive criticisms made, publicly on the website, concerning the integrity of named individuals on the committee. In my opinion these are not fact based and are, very simply, wrong. The committee was run with great professionalism and the chairman went to extreme lengths to ensure that no single member’s personal interests were allowed in any way to influence the decision making process.
However, anyone who lives in Cookham will have particular interests in one or other village issue, even if it is not a directly financial one. It is for this reason that I set out my CV at the beginning of this message. The reflection of people’s interests played an invaluable part in helping the committee understand underlying issues and we benefited greatly from the knowledge and experience of all the committee members, not least those unfairly singled out for specific criticism.
The T&T Working Group had 6 members. We also co-opted, on a volunteer basis, a professional planning consultant, to guide and advise us on planning issues.
We held regular meetings, carried out detailed surveys, sought information, help and advice from the Royal Borough and submitted reports and proposals to the main committee. At the outset we identified 4 key criteria, which acted as a focus for our work:
4. Public transport.
More than one criterion often applied to any particular proposal we considered. However, in simple terms:
The proposals included in the published plan reflect a distillation of the major items we originally considered in the working group.
Some good ideas, for example a one way system in School Lane, were excluded because it was felt the issues they attempted to address could be better achieved by alternative ideas.
Some, for example a southern bypass, were rejected, after professional consultation, because they were felt to miss key financial, planning or environmental targets.
Some, for example a public transport hub at the railway station or the protection of the causeway over the Moor as a viable flood relief road, were handed over to other working groups, to be included in more broadly based proposals.
This proposal has, not unexpectedly, raised considerable concerns. However, it is a proposal which actually brings together the resolution of a number of separate issues and needs, firstly, to be reviewed in an holistic light, and, secondly, to be properly understood. It may, therefore, be helpful if I go through the thinking behind the proposal.
The current two way traffic system through the Pound is:
The working group started by looking at the single issue of safety and considered a proposal to provide a footpath around the Pound, behind the houses on the north side. The group saw a number of problems in this proposal:
At the same time, the group was responding to residents’ concerns about the safety of young children accessing Cookham Nursery School. There are four times a day when children have to go to or from the school across, or near to a busy road junction. The field next to and behind the nursery school does not lie within the Green Belt. The working group felt that it could be used to provide a safe drop-off/temporary parking area for the school, at the same time providing space for, and access to a small community housing development.
The group therefore developed a draft proposal for a single project which would embrace as many as possible of these goals.
The proposal is to run a single carriageway, one way road from the existing roundabout at the junction of the Pound and Maidenhead Road, taking traffic approaching Cookham village up part of Poundfield Lane and then around the northern side of the Pound. The road would follow the line of the existing unmade part of Poundfield Lane, past all the houses on the right, before cutting through the fields to Terry’s Lane. It would provide the access to the nursery school drop-off zone and community housing. Traffic leaving the school would have to turn left, around the single carriageway one-way system.
The existing road through the Pound would become a single carriageway, carrying traffic in the opposite west bound direction, providing space for a much wider, high kerbed footpath. Both ends of the single track Pound bypass would have a roundabout, to maximise safety.
The group put forward this draft to the main committee with the following comments:
· Expert advice was that a road does not have to in any way compromise the status of designated green belt land.
· By using a single carriageway system, the scheme would ensure maximum safety. The proposal was silent on the retention, or extension, of the current speed bumps.
· Advice was that there was no reason to assume that a modest improvement of this scale would appreciably increase traffic flows.
· The plan would provide significantly safer access to the nursery school.
· The plan resolved the issues of vehicle congestion and vehicle and pedestrian safety through the Pound.
· The proposal would preserve the existing pedestrian route from Cookham Rise up to the golf course.
· The proposal was combined with one to implement a 7.5 tonne vehicle weight limit through the village, thus protecting the one-way ring from heavy duty vehicles. (As is normally the case, emergency vehicles would be exempt from the weight restriction).
· Pedestrians would gain a safe “shortest route” between the Rise and the Village and the safety interests of the Pound residents addressed.
With Cookham bridge already subject to a 7.5t weight limit, the working group was concerned that commercial vehicle routing planners are currently actually being encouraged to route large lorries through the Pound, as part of a delivery circuit along the south bank of the Thames. A blanket 7.5t limit would help prevent this.
The working group believe that the proposal has merit, if judged in its proper scale and context.