FOOPA deputation to T&T on Old Portsmouth Area Traffic Study 4 Nov ’21

November 8, 2021 / Comments (0)


From Mike Dobson

Good afternoon, Madame Chair, councillors and officers.

I am here representing the Friends Of Old Portsmouth Association to support this item.

My purpose is to welcome the issue of this report and to thank all those who have worked so hard to complete it despite the multiple challenges of shortage of staff, lack of resources and delays caused by Covid.  FOOPA notes that successive Cabinet Members for Traffic & Transportation of different parties have commendably maintained the political impetus, and we appreciate the efforts behind the scenes of our ward councillors.  In particular, I wish to highlight the sterling efforts of Mr Steven Flynn in pulling together this report.

There are several benefits:

  • It shows the merits of taking a holistic approach to traffic problems instead of applying short term piecemeal measures that create problems elsewhere.
  • It engages the local community in working with the Council to identify solutions.
  • It encourages outside scrutiny of the approaches, assumptions and assessment tools used by the Council.

When Councillor Ellcombe was the Cabinet Member, he suggested that if the Working Group was successful, it could be a suitable approach to use in other wards in the city.  Councillor Fleming continued this policy.  The delivery of the OPATS report shows that community engagement is key to success in other parts of the city where residents feel equally strongly that their communities are blighted by the dominance of congestion-creating and air polluting motor traffic. 

It is worth recording the context of how this came about. 

The first meeting of the working group was over 6 years ago in the Duke of Buckingham public house where attendees could hear and see speeding traffic roaring up and down the High Street and view for themselves the difficulties and dangers for pedestrians to cross the road. 

Initial work included several traffic surveys of varying reliability, and these were the catalyst for consideration of the methods and tools used by PCC.

What became apparent were the inconsistencies between how the Council assessed the demand for extra capacity for motor traffic, and how it assessed the need for infrastructure to encourage active travel and protect Vulnerable Road Users.  Two brief examples:

  • When PCC Planners consider major developments, they automatically assume growth in demand for driving and so state a case for building more roads. This induces demand – if you build more roads, you don’t reduce congestion, you simply encourage more people to drive!        But when the Council considered requests for pedestrian crossings, the assessment method omitted consideration of potential growth in walking and has merely counted the number of actual pedestrians – thus building the well-known principle of suppressed demand into the model.
  • Similarly for traffic speeds, the meaningful criterion used by the Dept for Transport and the Highways Agency is free-flow speed on the nation’s roads, where periods of traffic congestion are excluded from the calculations.  However, the method used by PCC has included periods of congestion where traffic is crawling or even stationary, so lowering the average speed and undermining the case for traffic calming.

Both these models had built in bias against pedestrians.  Noting that Local Transport Plan 4 aims to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport, it is evident that for decades PCC has been undermining its own policy of encouraging active travel!

I sense this is changing.  I applaud the frankness of officers in recognising that the purely quantitative methods need to be improved and to look at best practice in other local authorities.

Besides welcoming the report, it is important to note that much of the information was collected a long time ago.  Things are not static. 

  • A recent improvement is the welcome School Streets Initiative for St. Jude’s primary school
  • and we also look forward to the completion of the Shipwrights’ Way long distance path, something that should have been done in 2013.

However, besides the long-standing problems of

  • speeding,
  • shortage of safe pedestrian crossing points,
  • parking demand greater than on-street parking capacity,
  • infrequent bus services,
  • sub-standard cycle lanes,
  • Road Traffic Incident hotspots,
  • congestion and risk of gridlock caused by queuing traffic for the Isle of Wight ferry,
  • illegal parking (often on pavements) and
  • unnecessary and illegal engine idling,

new problems have arisen.

  • We fear increased rat-running by highly polluting vehicles whose drivers seek to avoid the Clean Air Zone charges
  • HGV deliveries to the Portsmouth Grammar School cause significant disturbance and hazards to Penny Street and Peacock Lane residents
  • Planning applications assume that the streets in Old Portsmouth have ample capacity to absorb extra parking demand.  However, we have noted several flaws in the assessment method recommended by the Planning Department.  We look forward to technical discussions with officers ….

To conclude, FOOPA recognises that the delivery is simply one stage and there is a lot more to come including design and public consultation.  Please be assured that FOOPA will continue to work with PCC to achieving the LTP4 vision that by “reducing private car journeys where possible, and prioritising everyday walking, cycling and public transport usage, Portsmouth will become a more pleasant, fairer and prosperous place to live, work and visit.”

Thank you very much for your time.

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