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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 14/11/2001
A3 THURSLEY JUNCTION SLIP ROADS AND SIDE ROADS ORDERS



The Highways Agency on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions has published proposals to improve the junction at Thursley on the A3 with Dye House Road and French Lane.
Draft orders were published on 27th September 2001 and an Environmental Statement was published in October. Observations have to be submitted to the Highways Agency by 23rd November 2001.
The purpose of this report is to suggest comments to be forwarded to the Highways Agency.
Copies of the relevant documents including detailed drawings and the full Environmental Statement, will be on display in the Council Chamber prior to the meeting.
There are no direct resource, “Opportunities for All” or human rights implications. The environmental and community safety implications are set out in the report.
APPENDIX J
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

ENVIRONMENT OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
14TH NOVEMBER 2001
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Title:

A3 THURSLEY JUNCTION SLIP ROADS AND SIDE ROADS ORDERS
[Wards Affected: Elstead, Peperharow
and Thursley, Witley]
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Summary and Purpose

The Highways Agency on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions has published proposals to improve the junction at Thursley on the A3 with Dye House Road and French Lane.
Draft orders were published on 27th September 2001 and an Environmental Statement was published in October. Observations have to be submitted to the Highways Agency by 23rd November 2001.
The purpose of this report is to suggest comments to be forwarded to the Highways Agency.
Copies of the relevant documents including detailed drawings and the full Environmental Statement, will be on display in the Council Chamber prior to the meeting.
There are no direct resource, “Opportunities for All” or human rights implications. The environmental and community safety implications are set out in the report.
________________________________________________________________________
Background

1. The former Department of Transport first published proposals in March 1993 to improve safety on the A3 between Thursley and Milford by closing all six central reserve gaps and constructing a new two-level junction at Thursley. Three options were put forward for the design of the Thursley junction. In addition, the Department also sought views on the provision of a second two-level junction at either Lea Coach Road or Webb Road on Witley Common.

2. This Council’s former Planning and Development Committee supported a modification to one of the options originally put forward, involving an overbridge in the existing cutting adjacent to Dye House Road incorporating a short link to French Lane to provide access to Bowlhead Green. That modified proposal, which was also suggested by Surrey County Council, was selected by the Secretary of State in December 1994 as the preferred solution for the Thursley junction.

3. The proposed junction at Webb Road was almost unanimously opposed by all consultees, including Waverley. Waverley supported in principle the concept of a junction between Lea Coach Road and the A3, subject to this being a south-facing junction only and an underpass rather than an overbridge. However, the Secretary of State decided not to proceed with a new junction at either Webb Road or Lea Coach Road because an acceptable solution could not be found. The environmental impact of a junction at either location was considered to outweigh the advantages to the road user in terms of journey distances and convenience. The Secretary of State’s decision did indicate that consideration would be given during the development of the scheme to whether a bridleway crossing of the A3 should be provided near Lea Coach Road.
4. In July 1996, the Highways Agency advised this Council that the scheme had been put ‘on hold’ because of reductions in the allocation for capital roads projects. Since that time public concern about the dangers on this section of the A3 have increased as traffic volumes continue to grow. Thursley Parish Council has been active in urging early action and Borough Council Members have consistently expressed their desire to see the planned improvements implemented at the earliest opportunity.

Need for the Scheme

5. The existing layout of the A3 at Thursley includes priority junctions at French Lane, Dye House Road and Lea Coach Road with deceleration lanes and waiting gaps in the central reserve. There is also a gap in the central reserve providing a crossing point of the A3 for Bridleway 115.

6. These junctions have a poor safety record. Between 1995 and 2000 there were 32 personal injury accidents, including two fatalities, at these junctions involving vehicles turning or crossing the A3. The accident risk is likely to rise as traffic flows increase. The average daily traffic flow on the A3 at Thursley is about 30,000 vehicles per day and there are about 2,000 vehicles per day turning across the high speed northbound traffic.

Description of the Scheme

7. The proposed scheme is illustrated at Annexe 1 to this report. It would provide a grade separated junction of the A3 at Dye House Road. This would include a new bridge over the A3, located approximately 150 m to the south of the existing Dye House Road junction; a one-way slip road to the bridge from the A3 southbound carriageway; a two-way link road connecting the bridge to Cosford Road and French Lane; and a two-way link road providing access to Mill Farm Cottages and the properties located off Bridleway 115 to the south of the A3. This latter link then becomes a dedicated one-way slip road providing access to the A3 southbound carriageway.

8. The existing junctions with the A3 at Dye House Road, French Lane and Bridleway 115, together with the associated central reserve gaps and the access to Milhanger, would all be closed. In addition, the right turn movement from Lea Coach Road to the A3 northbound would be banned. Any vehicles wishing to make this movement would have to turn left, cross the A3 via the new bridge and join the northbound carriageway via an improved link from Dye House Road.

9. The proposed scheme would benefit walkers, cyclists and equestrians using the public rights of way network by providing a safe crossing point of the A3.

Statutory Procedures

10. The Highways Agency, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, has published two Draft Statutory Orders under the Highways Act 1980 to enable the scheme to be built. The draft Slip Roads Order would, if made, authorise the Secretary of State to provide new slip roads to and from the southbound carriageway of the A3 and to extend the existing slip road from Dye House Road to the A3 northbound. The draft Side Roads Order would, if made, authorise the Secretary of State to stop up highways, improve a highway and provide new highways. The new highways, which would connect Dye House Road and French Lane with a separate link to Bridleway 115, would be public highways maintained by Surrey County Council.


11. The publication of the draft Orders marks the beginning of the statutory procedures for the A3 Thursley junction improvement. The closing date for comments to be received on the draft Orders or the Environmental Statement is 23rd November 2001. The views of Surrey County Council and Thursley Parish Council have been sought directly by the Highways Agency, and the proposals have been advertised to give the public an opportunity to comment.

12. After the consultation period has closed the Secretary of State will decide whether, in the light of the nature and weight of objections received, an opportunity should be given for objectors to state their views at a public inquiry before an independent Inspector appointed by the Lord Chancellor. The decision on whether or not to proceed with the scheme as proposed will be taken by the Secretary of State after he has considered all objections not subsequently withdrawn and, if there is a public inquiry, the report and recommendations of the Inspector.

13. A draft Compulsory Purchase Order will be published at a later date. This will provide the land and rights necessary to construct the new proposals and associated works.

14. Following detailed design, construction should take some 12 months to complete, although this period may be extended to accommodate seasonal constraints associated with working in the vicinity of protected fauna.

Environmental Implications

15. The proposed scheme would be within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and on the edge of the Thursley, Hankley and Frensham Commons Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The SSSI north of the A3 is designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), parts of which are also covered by other international designations.

16. The potential environmental impacts of the scheme have been fully evaluated and a detailed Environmental Statement has been published. This describes the proposals, their main effects on the environment and the measures developed to mitigate any adverse environmental effects. A summary of the main findings of the Environmental Statement is set out below:-

i) Landscape and Visual Impact

Introducing a new bridge crossing, associated slip roads and side road diversions would have an adverse impact on local landscape quality. However, the new bridge would be located in the existing deep cutting, which would minimise its intrusion beyond the road corridor. Vehicles using the bridge and associated slip roads would be more prominent in winter, affecting some views from the NNR to the north. Impacts would be mitigated through sensitive planting of native trees and shrubs and retaining areas of regenerating heathland where possible. No highway lighting is proposed.

ii) Noise and Air Quality

Noise levels at all houses within the study area are below the relevant trigger for statutory protection, which should not change as a result of the scheme. There would be no impact on local air quality, which is anticipated to improve as a result of advancements in vehicle emissions technology.


iii) Ecology

0.29 hectares (0.7 acres) would be lost from the edge of the SSSI, but this is claimed not to include habitat of national or international importance. Some other areas of habitat of local importance for nature conservation would also be lost. Valuable topsoil would be stripped, stored and re-used on new embankments and cuttings, where planting would be sympathetic to the regeneration of an open heathland habitat. Important areas to be retained would be fenced off and protected during construction. Detailed surveys have determined that mammal and reptile species would be affected. However, mitigation measures in advance of, and during scheme construction, would ensure that they would only suffer a slight adverse impact.

iv) Impact on Trees

The scheme passes through a heavily wooded area and consequently many trees would be affected by the scheme; as many as 200 may need to be felled. However, extensive planting of new trees and shrubs should, in time, mitigate this impact. Where possible, any view of the road that are opened up would be mitigated through careful planting. Care would be taken to minimise impacts to wildlife resulting from the loss of trees.

v) Heritage

No features listed on the County Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) would be physically affected by the scheme. However, the Archaeological Desk Study concluded that a series of “hollows” on either side of the A3 could be the remains of post-medieval ironstone quarries. Consequently their features would be recorded through a detailed site survey prior to construction, which would be presented to the County SMR.

vi) Water Quality and Drainage

The additional area of carriageway would result in a slightly higher volume of surface water being discharged from the road, with a corresponding slight increase in quantities of contaminants. The slight increase would be fully accommodated by the drainage design, without increased risk of flooding. Reducing the risk of accidents, and therefore spillage, and introducing pollution control measures at drainage outfalls (where none exist at present) should result in an improvement to water quality.

Community Safety Implications

17. One of the strategic aims of the Community Safety Strategy for Waverley is ‘to reduce traffic congestion and improve road safety’ within the Borough. Since this scheme is designed to reduce accidents at a recognised dangerous junction, it should have positive implications for community safety.

Officer Comments

18. In the interests of road safety, the Borough Council has previously expressed full support for the closure of the existing central reserve crossings and the construction of a two-level junction at Thursley. As mentioned earlier in this report, the design of the proposed junction improvement reflects the views of the former Planning and Development Committee, and is considered to make the best practicable arrangements for access to existing properties and local traffic movements. The Council has always recognised that the proposals would have some environmental impact in a sensitive area, but this impact has not been considered to be of such severity as to outweigh the road safety benefits.

19. Set out below are a number of comments which form a suggested response from the Borough Council. Members are invited to make comments and to suggest any additional points and/or amendments.

The Borough Council supports the proposals contained in the A3 Trunk Road (Thursley Junction Slip Roads) Order 200 and the A3 Trunk Road (Thursley Junction Side Roads) Order 200. In the interests of achieving improved road safety, the Borough Council looks forward to the implementation of these proposals as soon as possible.

It is noted that the proposed junction layout is a refinement of the 1994 preferred scheme. It is considered that the proposed layout is an improvement in terms of safety because it would require motorists on the A3 slip road to slow down to give way to traffic on the French Road link.

The Borough Council has always considered that the link to French Lane should be of a rural character compatible with French Lane itself in order to minimise landscape impact within the SSSI and to reduce the likelihood of southbound A3 traffic travelling via Bowlhead Green to access the A286 Haslemere Road. The Side Roads Order does not show widths or construction details, but it is understood that this link road will not be a full width two-lane highway. The Borough Council would wish to see the link road no wider than 5.5 metres and designed in a low-key way, for example by avoiding the use of concrete kerbs.

The Borough Council is disappointed to note that the proposed bridge would be a pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete beam structure. Having regard to the fact that the site lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that long distance vistas of the bridge would be available from the straight section of road to the north-east, it is considered that the proposed bridge design is unsatisfactory. It will be an important visual feature and should make a positive contribution to the landscape.

The Borough Council welcomes the fact that the scheme would provide a safe crossing point for walkers, cyclists and equestrians, thereby providing a valuable link between rights of way networks on either side of the A3. The new slip roads and bridge will accommodate a significant number of traffic movements, and it is therefore important that the detailed design provides proper segregation for vulnerable road users between Bridleway 115 and Dye House Road e.g. through footpaths, cycle lanes and/or horse margins. It is particularly important to minimise the potential for conflict with vehicular traffic at the junction of the new link roads.

The Borough Council notes the contents of the Environmental Statement and recognises that the scheme will have some adverse effects within this environmentally sensitive area, particularly in relation to landscape impact, loss of trees and effect on wildlife. The following comments address those issues.

The Statement places emphasis on the mitigation measures to be carried out. The Council agrees that mitigation and landscape restoration are important issues in respect of this scheme and urges the Highways Agency to ensure that areas of ecological importance to be retained are properly protected during construction work, in consultation with appropriate organisations such as English Nature. It is recommended that the Herpetological Conservation Trust should be consulted over the proposed mitigation measures for reptiles, such as the design and location of artificial hibernation sites. The timing of construction works and the supervision of contractors should be sensitive to the needs of wildlife, particularly the reptile and invertebrate species which would suffer significant local impact.

In the context of the above comments, the Council welcomes the commitment to engage an ecological clerk of works, but expresses some concern at the comment in paragraph 3.5.3 of the Statement that “due to the lack of construction room there is a large risk of accidental damage to trees bordering the construction zone”. Every effort should be made to ensure the adequate protection of worthwhile trees which are not directly in the way of the proposed works.

The proposals for habitat creation, particularly of heathland, are welcomed. However, no mention is made of long-term management and maintenance. Without such long-term management the new heaths will simply revert to scrub within five years. It should also be recognised that bare ground is an important habitat for invertebrates. The works will create a lot of bare ground and provision should be made for maintaining some of this on a long-term basis.

There is no mention in the Environmental Statement of Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP’s). Several of the species mentioned are in fact species for which there are action plans under the UK BAP. Two invertebrate species in particular, the robberfly Asilus crabroniformis and the beefly Thyridanthrax fenestralis, fall into this category. Both occur in areas impacted upon by the proposals. However, the proposed mitigation should actually result in improved habitat for these species, so no long-term damage is likely to occur providing the improved habitat is maintained.

20. This report is also being considered by the Executive Committee at its meeting on 13th November, and members of this Committee will be advised at the meeting about any additional comments and/or amendments made by the Executive Committee.

Recommendation

The Committee is invited to comment on and/or amend the comments set out in Paragraph 19 of this report.
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Background Papers (DPD)

Letter dated 10th October 2001 from the Highways Agency and accompanying draft Orders and plans, public notice and statement explaining the proposals.
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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Adrian Roche Telephone: 01483 523472
E-mail: aroche@waverley.gov.uk