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Plantergate – the saga continues

by Richard Samuel on 12 April, 2018

The proposed removal of the some of the planters on London Road has created a lot of discontent in Walcot ward not least from the many residents who worked on the original scheme. I have been trying to establish why the Council thinks it is necessary to remove the planters at this time.

It seems when the original works were under design some form of assessment was carried out to ensure that the planters were sited in suitable locations. I have not yet managed to obtain a copy of this assessment despite many requests. What I have been given is a copy of a post-construction highway safety audit carried out in 2015. This says the following:-

2.1 Problem 001
Location: General; tree planters.
Summary: Risk of vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to cyclist emerging collisions.
Tree planters have been provided either side of most accesses. The planters restrict visibility for drivers emerging onto London Road and there is a risk that drivers may not see approaching vehicles or cyclists, potentially leading to drivers emerging into the path of users on London Road and collisions occurring.
351437/TPN/ITD/054/A 05 October 2015
It is recommended that the planters are relocated outside of visibility splays.
Figure 2.1: Planters restrict visibility

So this providers the main justification for the uprooting of the trees and proposed removal of the planters.

I have also been provided with accident data for 2015 to 2017 a period of three years for the same stretch of road.

In that period there were 6 accidents – none related to alleged visibility issues at the Weymouth St, Bedford St, and Snow Hill junctions.

This would seem to undermine the argument that the planters should be removed on safety grounds.

At the Cabinet meeting yesterday I asked Cllr Mark Shelford the following question.

Can the Cabinet member confirm what options, other than the removal of the planters own London Road, have been considered?

His reply was

“The option of building out the southern footway of the London Road over a 140 metre length to provide the requisite visibility in front of the planters at Bedford Street, Weymouth Street, and two unnamed roads was considered. The build outs could have been replaced by hatched road markings as a less costly alternative, however these are judged to be less effective at preventing inappropriate parking. However, the building out of the footway would have limited available road space for future maintenance to the central reserve or tree, with the likelihood that the cycle lane would require closure when maintenance works were being carried out.”

I then asked if he was aware that the accident data did not justify any action in relation to the planters.

His answer ducked that question and made reference to possible relocation to the city centre.

No-one has been consulted on the possibility of footway bailouts and as this saga continues it is clear to me that it is based on inconclusive evidence and unimaginative option generation.

At the  public meeting on Monday I hope we will have a good discussion and hear what local people have to say.


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