At the Cheshire East Council Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 13 March I set out my solution to Junction 17 and queues on A534 Old Mill Road bypass in Sandbach.
LONG TERM - double bridge roundabout (similar to Junction 18)
MEDIUM TERM - for the developers of the Capricorn site to build the enhanced roundabout at Junction 17 that was a condition of being allowed to build houses on the Capricorn business park site.
SHORT TERM - change the phasing of the lights. I have repeatedly raised this point with Highways England, but I have received little support from Conservative councillors or from Fiona Bruce MP.
The Conservative response was to ask for a report ….
I set out below my full speech:
The ‘pinch point’ scheme at Junction 17 of the M6 has undoubtedly made it easier to exit the motorway and has made the junction safer. Unfortunately, the scheme was NOT built according to the agreed design. Highways England (who are a government agency responsible for motorways) amended the design to cut costs and reduced the length of both filter lanes to join the M6 from the A534. This reduction in the length of the filter lanes has resulted in increased queues along the A534.
In addition, Highways England have set-up the phasing of the lights so that the motorway slip roads are kept clear at the expense of queues on the A534. What is inexcusable is that the phasing of the lights has been rigged to such an extent that at times the lights are green to let cars off the southbound slip road even when the slip road is completely clear. It is frustrating to know that there is this ‘wasted green time’ on the lights when there are long queues along Old Mill Road. I have repeatedly raised this point with Highways England, but I have received little support from other local councillors or from Fiona Bruce MP.
A medium term solution to the queues on Old Mill Road would be for the developers of the Capricorn site to build the enhanced roundabout at Junction 17 that was a condition of being allowed to build houses on the Capricorn site. That enhanced roundabout would have reduced maximum queue lengths on the A534 to 200m in the morning rush hour and 42m in the evening rush hour.
However, Cheshire East Council relaxed the planning conditions and has now given permission for a different roundabout to be built. The maximum queue lengths under the new roundabout are 1010m in the morning rush hour and 868m in the evening rush hour. I appealed to other local councillors and Fiona Bruce MP to join me in opposing this ‘inferior’ roundabout, but no support was forthcoming. Indeed Cllr Gill Merry said at the planning committee “traffic is bad in Sandbach but that is just something we will have to accept in today's climate”; I beg to differ.
Instead the Barry Moran & Fiona Bruce are now calling for additional government funding to ‘improve capacity at Junction 17’. In short the developers have been let off the hook and it is now proposed to seek government funding to do what the developers were originally obliged to do!
If the proposals were for a double bridge roundabout at Junction 17 (similar to Junction 18), then I would support this as a long-term solution. But there are no actual solutions suggested in this motion – it’s just a party political attempt to give a pretence of doing something and to cover-up for the avoidable traffic problems caused in Sandbach by failure to enforce planning conditions.
Sadly the future looks bleak with speculative developers making millions out of building houses on greenfield sites and local residents having to suffer traffic jams, air quality problems and overloaded infrastructure.