14 Jun 2009

Cashes Green Hospital site gets go-ahead

I have a number of disappointments about this exciting project - it is great that last Tuesday it has got to this point after so very long - indeed I must have attended 6 or 7 consultation events and submitted views many times on the design and layout and more.

Photo: Entrance to Cashes Green Hospital site

However you will see my two main comments re allotments and traffic below - sadly it seems they were overruled - this is despite a last-minute petition that failed to sway councillors who voted in favour of the development of 78 homes at the former Cashes Green Hospital site in Stroud. For me the allotment issue is crucial - however the project remains exciting as it has 50% affordable and will become the country's largest Land Trust.]

Another comment is that once again councillors are having to determine an outline planning permission on such a large site - the argument being that we were awaiting a developer to come on the scene. However I have seen too often where the illustrative plan bears no resemblance to the final development. Let us hope this really is the showcase plan it has been billed.

Stroud Life report Cllr John Marjoram (Green Trinity) saying at the meeting that to grant permission would be a tragedy. He said Cainscross, where the hospital has lain derelict for 15 years, had taken enough development. "I don't think it will enhance the Cainscross community."

Cainscross Parish Council had also objected that the dense social housing suggested at the old hospital was a lost chance to upgrade the area's facilities.

Two key comments re outline planning permission

1. Opposition to the proposed reduction of allotments at the Cashes Green Hospital site.

I would like to note my concerns about the reduction of size in the area of allotments compared to the original site. Cainscross Parish has the highest density of housing in Stroud District and according to research by the Stroud Valleys Project the least number of green spaces. While I welcome the move to 50% affordable housing I consider we should be seeking to protect the whole allotment site from development.

I understand the community and the Parish Council have sought to protect these allotments and indeed provided support for Policy RL9 in the Local Plan which ensures these allotments are again available to people.

2. Concerns about the increase of traffic relating to the development of the Cashes Green Hospital site.

As you will know the community have been involved in a very lengthy consultation process with various bodies. However one consistent concern relating to this development has been the additional traffic it will generate. There are several key concerns:
- the speed of traffic at certain times of day on Cashes Green road up through to Randwick which includes the school
- concerns that the additional traffic will exacerbate the divide between communities on one side of the road and the other
- concerns that the additional volumes of traffic will reduce the level of cycling and walking

I have in the past argued strongly for a Shared Spaces approach to this development and am disappointed this has not been developed more. I hope nevertheless that this significant development is an opportunity to develop a plan that will reduce dangers from vehicles and encourage a more pleasant neighbourhood that supports more walking and cycling. I note at present the Highways report is not available so hope that you will consider these points when making your recommendations.

One key factor in creating 'living streets' is a 20 mph - as you will know this is the speed at which drivers can have eye contact with other users of the street. It is the speed at which pedestrians feel more confident about crossing the road, children play outside their homes and it is quiet enough to hold a conversation. Research shows that 20mph limits are a critical success factor in promoting walking, cycling and public transport as alternatives to the private car. This means less CO2 emissions and healthier residents.

We should also note again the well reported fact that when a pedestrian is hit by a car at 40 mph they only have a 15% chance of surviving, at 30mph, 55%, but at 20mph the chance of survival increases to 95%. This is more than sufficient justification for a default 20 mph in urban areas. Amazingly even a 1 mph drop in average speed is estimated to reduce accidents by 6% in urban areas.

All good reasons to seek a mandatory 20 mph, however I note that just putting up signs does not go far enough. Further measures would be needed. I hope that Highways will be able to consider what those measures might be. They could include on-street parking areas, possible narrowing of the road, changes to road surfaces for safer crossing areas and more.

I do not consider that it is satisfactory to increase the level of traffic on this road without taking some significant measures. Any increase in traffic will impact negatively on residents living on that road and using it to walk and cycle. Too often it is neighbourhoods that are poorer that end up with measures that do not go far enough. It is a shocking fact that four times as many poor children as rich children are killed on Britain's roads.

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