10:51AM, Thursday 03 October 2019
The controversial proposal to ban the right-hand turn from Queen Street on to the A308 is set to be made permanent – but the decision has been challenged by opposition councillors.
Since the start of the summer, the right-hand turn near Maidenhead Railway Station has been closed as part of a pilot scheme aimed at improving pedestrian access to the station.
Its closure has prompted widespread debate about its impact on the town centre.
Councillors unanimously agreed to ban the right-hand turn on a permanent basis at a cabinet meeting at the town hall on Thursday, September 25.
But the move faces a further challenge after the decision was called in by three Lib Dem councillors – Mandy Brar, Catherine del Campo and John Baldwin.
An infrastructure overview and scrutiny panel will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to consider what steps should be taken next.
This could include upholding the original decision or referring the matter back to full council.
At Thursday’s meeting, new council leader Cllr Andrew Johnson said the pilot had proved to be ‘broadly successful’ and that the emergency services had confirmed there would be ‘no significant impact upon their operational ability’.
He added the council had seen ‘significant improvements’ despite the area being a ‘semi-construction site in pedestrian access’ while work takes place.
Outlining the call-in, Cllr del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) said the party knows the topic is important to residents who are ‘concerned about their journeys through Maidenhead’.
She added: “What we want is for all the evidence to be put forward to the panel and for them to come up with the answer.”
A permanent decision on the ban was postponed in July after Maidenhead Town Forum concluded broader consultation and engagement was needed to inform a final decision.
In response, a consultation was carried out in the form of 645 face-to-face interviews and 437 online surveys.
The results of the survey were included in the report considered by councillors.
At the meeting, Cllr David Hilton (Con, Ascot & Sunninghill) said priority should be given to pedestrians because people who drive through in cars ‘just think about getting from A to B as quickly as they can’.
He said: “It is the people who live and work in this area we need to give priority to.”
He added: “This is an excellent scheme that starts to show that.
“It may take a moment longer to get through Maidenhead but for those thousands of people who walk to and from the station and vibrate around Maidenhead it is going to be very beneficial.”
After the decision was announced, users on the Advertiser’s Facebook page were less impressed.
Keith Ashton called the ongoing works ‘an absolute shambles’ and Phil Adkins said it was ‘one of the worst decisions ever made by RBWM’.
Celina Quinn called the move an ‘absolute joke’, while Ed Marsh accused the council of ‘ignoring everyone’s wishes’.
But Richard Davies said he agreed with the decision and cautioned against confusing ‘the shambles of roadworks around the station with the permanent change of road layout’.
Discussing construction issues at the meeting, Cllr Johnson said the phasing of the traffic lights has been a problem due to the fact the temporary lights cannot be synced to the permanent lights, particularly at the end of Shoppenhangers Road.
“Going forward the new revised signalling will be fully integrated, it will be smarter and it will enable traffic flows to be improved,” he said.
The total cost of the enhancements around the station is £4.5m – the majority of which is funded by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Resident voices concern online responses to consultation survey were ignored
One of the 437 residents who completed the online sur-vey has raised concerns that their responses ‘were treated as biased and largely ignored’.
In a letter to the Advertiser (see page 35), Andrew Hill, a former The Borough First candidate, criticised the final consultation report, produced by MEL Research on behalf of the borough, for focusing on face-to-face surveys and putting the online results in a separate appendix.
The report states that there were higher levels of disagreement found in surveys completed online.
The report reads: “This may be due to the online sample being skewed towards those that drive cars and would be most impacted.”
Of the online respond-ents, 15 per cent walked through the junction and 82 per cent travelled by car. In the face-to-face interviews 38 per cent travelled by car, 35 per cent walked and 10 per cent travelled by bus.
In the face-to face responses 60 per cent agreed or strongly agreed to the statement that closing the right-turn would improve the junction.
Online, only 22 per cent agreed or strongly agreed.
Asked face-to-face whether the closure would improve traffic flow through the town, 46 per cent agreed or strongly agreed.
This number was 19 per cent for the online survey.
Mr Hill said the report ‘effectively threw all 437 [online] responses in the bin’.
A Royal Borough spokeswoman said: “All responses to both surveys including face-to- face and online responses around the proposed changes to the Queen Street junction were taken into account by the officer team and shared with cabinet who made the final decision.”
She added ‘data from the trial, future forecasts for rail commuters numbers and responses from the emergency services were also considered’.
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