Category Archives: Faversham Plan

Rush (of blood to the head) hour in #Faversham

Spot check at the A2/A251 junctions. All flowing freely. 

The biggest stand-out? Cars being driven too quickly through the junction. Stamping of accelerators. Stamping of brakes. 1 in 50 driving much too dangerously. 

The situation isn’t helped by the super-wide junction “splays” that allow cars to drive quickly around corners. Often much too quickly to be able to avoid someone who might have been crossing at the time. It beggars belief. 

The junction of Athelstan Road and Forbes Road is a prime example. Here, the splay is so generous that cars barely need to slow down when turning left from Forbes Road into Athelstan Road. 

Likewise, the junction of Briton Road and Forbes Road. 

Instead of spending close to half a million pounds on a roundabout that isn’t needed, Kent County Council could allocate a fraction of this sum to junction improvements that reinforce a 20mph speed limit and encourage walking and cycling in Faversham. 
  

Like trying to boil the ocean, the A2/A251 roundabout is the wrong solution to the wrong need

Another morning spent observing traffic at the junction of The Mall and the A2.

Several characteristics are consistent:

1. schoolchildren were crossing the road by running between gaps in the freely flowing traffic

2. at times there were more people walking than driving along The Mall, mostly schoolchildren

3. traffic was flowing freely through the junction with only one very short period when traffic built up down The Mall, between 0844 and 0846.

Once again, these appear to be normal conditions.

This is not to say that the junction doesn’t have problems. It can indeed be badly congested when there is an abnormal incident such as an accident on the M2 or a temporary closure elsewhere.

If indeed it is the case that the junction generally flows freely – and comments from others support my observations – then the proposed designs are not serving the transport need. They are not helping schoolchildren and other vulnerable road users cross the road.

There is no general traffic congestion need that can be solved by enhancing the capacity of the junction. Nor, given the extreme congestion that can iccur when a local road is blocked, are the proposals going to address abnormal conditions.

Instead the proposals will harm everyday traffic movement by banning turns and sending frustrated drivers on longer journeys down local streets. And they will do nothing for pedestrians or cyclists.

Not unlike trying to boil the ocean, the A2/A251 proposals are the wrong solution to the wrong need.

The reality is that the proposals are not what Faversham needs. Instead, what is needed is support for walking and cycling throughout the town.

Why? Because the future growth of Faversham means that there must be a significant “modal shift” towards walking and cycling rather than more of the same car-focused thinking. Otherwise it is jam today and jam tomorrow.

Air quality and carbon emissions targets should also be pushing policymakers and transport planners in this direction.

Finally, budget constraints mean that lower prices and better value projects need to be pursued.

Walking and cycling projects fit the bill, whether the priority is congestion relief, air quality enhancement, carbon emissions reduction or cost control. A move to a 20mph speed limit will also help more traffic through the junction.

Kent County Council should be responding to the pressing, long-term needs of the town rather than pursuing an impossible quest to solve an intractable problem.

The answers are there but Kent County Council won’t see them until it shifts its mindset away from car-centric thinking.

By writing to oppose the current plans for the A2/A251 junction we can also encourage the change of perspective that is needed:

tro@kent.gov.uk

Reject the inadequate proposals for the Junction of The Mall and the A2

Proposals for the junctions of The Mall with the A2 and the A2 with the Ashford Road have been published by Kent County Council. 

Overall summary
The proposals are unacceptable. They will send more traffic through the congested A2/A251 junction than at present. They will push traffic down local roads. They do nothing to promote pedestrian or cycling movement. Faversham Town Council and Swale Borough Council should oppose them in the strongest terms.

Junction of the Mall and the A2
The proposals have two significant failings.

First, the proposals ban traffic from turning right out of The Mall into the A2. This turning is made by perhaps 10% of all vehicles moving out of The Mall onto the A2. The consequence of the ban is that vehicles wanting to make the right turn will either need to find an alternative route through nearby back streets, thus putting more traffic down these residential streets or, more likely, they will turn left out of The Mall and then make a U-turn at the roundabout. The effect of this will be to put even more traffic through the junction with the A2 and the Ashford Road than is currently the case.

The proposals therefore risk exacerbating the situation rather than reducing it. 

Second, the proposals take westbound traffic turning right from the A2 into The Mall into the same single lane that is used by eastbound traffic turning left from the A2 into The Mall. At present, eastbound traffic and westbound traffic turning into The Mall do so in two separate lanes either side of the central island. The way it works today is that if westbound right-turning traffic sees eastbound traffic that is indicating to make the left turn then this is a signal that the right-turning traffic can also make the turn since the left-turning traffic will be slowing down and creating a gap for the right-turning traffic. As a result, westbound traffic turning right into The Mall today only has to wait for a gap in the traffic that is heading east along the A2.

This possibility is done away with in the proposals since any westbound traffic wanting to make the right turn into The Mall will have to wait until any eastbound traffic making the left turn has done so. This will reduce the efficiency of the junction for right-turning traffic. This is especially significant because westbound right-turning traffic creates much of the congestion in the current situation.

The proposals therefore risk exacerbating the situation rather than reducing it. 

Pedestrian crossings
The proposals make inadequate provision for pedestrian crossings. The only crossing provided is an informal one that connects a small number of destinations to the south east of the roundabout with the town centre. While helpful for those few destinations, the crossing is of limited use otherwise and certainly not an adequate response for the junction as a whole.

The proposals therefore fail to encourage active travel on foot.

Cycle provision
When the lack of cycle provision was raised in the 2014 public consultation, the Joint Transportation Board was told:

“18. Observations were made that the outline designs did not show any specific cycling facilities, this can be dealt with at the detailed design stage and take cognisance of the emerging Swale Cycling Strategy.”

The proposals therefore fail to encourage active travel by cycle.

So what could be done to improve the junction? 

My proposal for the junction is simply to SLOW IT DOWN. I’ve set out my thinking before in this post from October 2015, 20s plenty at the Ashford Road/A2/Mall junction

img_7793

  

A bench for Faversham

The Mayor’s call for more benches in Faversham presents designers with a wonderful opportunity to create a bench that is fit for purpose at the heart of an ancient and forward-looking town.

What might the brief for this bench include? I suggest the bench needs to be:

  • beautiful – an object that is a pleasure to look at and that fits harmoniously within the historic fabric of the town centre
  • robust – able to stand up to wear and tear, not only from occasional anti-social abuse but also from frequent pro-social use, and of course from the weather
  • useful – certainly a place to sit on but perhaps also an object to lean on while pausing to catch your breath; a bench that can be moved easily to accommodate the needs of the market and special occasions such as the Hop Festival.

Such demands are not unusual. Fortunately for Faversham the world is full of good examples that we can learn from.

These benches in London include planters and can be moved around to suit needs:

furnitubes_seating_special___brown_hart_gardens_london_2

In Central Square, Cambridge MA this bench incorporates technology that captures the power of the sun and provides a charging point for mobile phones:

Next steps for technology will be to use solar power to create a local wifi network and to power LED lighting.

In Harvard Yard, Cambridge MA, colourful seats (first seen in the Jardin de Luxembourg in Paris) have been placed in a historic public setting. The seats can be moved around by people to suit personal preferences – a quiet read or a public conversation:

These are just a few examples of what is possible. What does it mean for the future of Faversham’s benches?

Off your backsides, everyone! There’s work to be done. 

Yesterday evening Faversham Town Council threw down the gauntlet/avoided its responsibilities (take your pick) to the people of Faversham: “Tell us where you want us to put benches.”

Cllr Wilcox claimed the “problem” (there’s always a “problem”) is that whenever a bench is proposed, the shop it’s outside of complains about the anti-social impact it will have.

Cllr Simmons cleverly suggested the solution might be to propose 6 benches, thereby spreading the pain. Not a bad idea – but how about 60? Or 160?

Cllr Martin offered an imaginative proposal to avoid painting Yellow Lines around the Guildhall: encircle it with benches instead! I think this is an idea worthy of further investigation.

Perhaps only one or two judiciously placed benches could solve the “problem” of people parking on the west side of the Guildhall. These might be heavy, moveable benches that can be wheeled away on market days and in an emergency. Other towns do this so why can’t Faversham?

Council votes against the future

Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, Faversham Town Council has voted this evening against the creation of a Strategic Planning Committee. Such a group would have helped the town plan for its future.

The idea of the Strategic Planning Committee was not to replace any existing function of the Town Council’s Planning Committee – a fact lost on Cllr Mulhern, who gave a bizarre speech claiming just the opposite. He must not have read or perhaps understood Cllr Martin’s briefing note, which could not have been clearer.

This vote marks another sad day in the life of a council that is looking increasingly out of its depth.

Getting rid of yellow lines – if Horsham did it then why can’t Faversham?

Look at this beautiful image of Horsham in West Sussex…

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The street is paved in high quality materials. There are no yellow lines. There’s planting. It looks like a place you’d like to be in.

What more could any place want?

Look at the trees in planters – they’re moveable. They can be placed anywhere according to the needs of the day. They can be moved by the emergency services if they’re ever in the way.

This is the benefit of careful design: thinking the problem through and finding a solution that works under many different scenarios. The elegant hand of beauty.

And isn’t this exactly what Faversham needs too?

What is especially remarkable and relevant for Faversham is that East Street in Horsham didn’t always look this pretty:

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 21.25.42

Look at the double yellow lines, the tarmac, the dull municipal road signage. The single tree. The heavy hand of plodding transport planning.

If Horsham can get rid of its yellow lines then why can’t Faversham?

The answer is: we can. We just need to choose to do so.

We need to accept that there are other, and better, ways to control parking that respect the historic fabric of the town, that celebrate life and that seek the best solution for the place – not the dull, municipal average.

The future of Faversham Creek

Address to the Faversham Creek Trust event on board SB Repertor – speaking notes

Tim Stonor
2nd September 2015

Good evening. It is an honour to have been asked to speak this evening and I’m grateful to Lady Sondes, Sir David Melville and Chris Wright for their invitation. As I prepared for this evening I wondered if I had ever given a talk on the water. I thought I hadn’t and then I remembered I once spoke at a conference on board a cruise ship between Genoa and Marseille. I’m pleased to say I’d trade the crystal waters of the Côte D’Azur for the muds of the Côte de North Kent any day. 

We are lucky to be here and lucky to be part of Faversham. Simon Foster mentioned the work I’m involved in that’s looking at the UK 50 years from now. This may seem like a long time but it’s a drop in the ocean/Creek for Faversham. Here we have at least 9,000 years of continuous human habitation. There aren’t many other places in the UK that can claim this. In fact we don’t yet know of any that can.

And why did people first come here and then stick around for so long? It’s the Creek. First for the hunting: its game, its fish and its fowl. Then for its waterborne trade. We are one tide from London, where merchants could poise offshore, like greyhounds in the trap, waiting for fire signals from London to tell them their stock prices were high enough to catch the next tide in.

This place is important. This water is important. Many of us feel this viscerally. Others still need persuading. How can we do that?

I have seven thoughts. Continue reading The future of Faversham Creek

How should Faversham think strategically about its future?

Draft in progress…

First of all, ask the question:

“What is the problem that needs solving?”

What are Faversham’s needs? Schools? Healthcare? Affordable housing? Establish a list of requirements. Be prepared to negotiate. The spirit of civic engagement.

Follow a set of design principles that history suggests deliver positive outcomes…

Location
If not here then where else?

If here then what else is on or near the site that can benefit from the new development eg the sports hall of a local school or a nearby shop or business that can see better trade to help support the local economy?

What is missing in the local neighbourhood that could be provided by the new development eg educational, healthcare or employment uses?

Principle: explot adjacencies and inter-dependencies…

Linkage
How can new road connections and road junctions benefit the existing situation eg by providing additional cross-town routes to add capacity to the existing infrastructure. 

Analysis: most streets in towns are through streets, not cul de sacs. As a result, most streets have a combination of a) movement heading to or from them as well as b) movement passing through. For most streets in towns, this blend is normal. Problems occur when some residential streets have to carry too large a burden of through movement while others carry too little. The through streets can feel hostile, especially when the design of the street allows vehicles to speed eg South Road. In contrast, through streets increase the overall accessibility of developments, which can benefit house prices and reduce property crime. 

Principle: most new streets should be designed as through streets. Through movement should be controlled at low speeds so that it does not speed through areas.  

Layout
How can new development be designed to reduce the need to drive eg good walking and cycling paths, including pedestrian crossings at the edges of the development so that people can walk and cycle into the town centre and into other residential areas of the town?

Principle: the connected grid…

Landscape
How can the streets and open spaces of the development be designed to support biodiversity eg to create an attractive and convivial environment where people choose to walk and cycle rather than to drive?

Principle: 20mph streets…

Land use
How can uses be mixed so that we don’t just get houses?

Principle: mixed use development…

A Planning Committee for Faversham Town Council

In public contributions at this evening’s Faversham Town Council meeting, Gulliver Immink suggested the Council forms a Planning Committee to better inform itself on development applications across the town before they come to the Council for decision. At present the Council considers complex applications one by one, in short order and without the opportunity to digest the multitude of issues they raise, not least the way that one application impacts on others and on the existing town. A Planning Committee would help to prepare the ground for Council meetings, analysing applications alongside each other so that a picture of Faversham could be formed in the round.

In response, Councillor Simmons said that he didn’t think such a committee would save anyone any time in making a decision. But surely this isn’t just about saving time – it’s about getting it right.

And perhaps a Planning Committee might indeed save time. Time spent at the early stages of the planning process can pay dividends through more effective public consultation, a stronger influence on planning proposals and, as a result, a better long term outcome for the town.