Housing development design 'contributed to accident' that injured boy

October 20 2021
Housing development design 'contributed to accident' that injured boy

Residents are calling for road safety improvements at a new housing estate in north Yate where a small child was seriously injured earlier this year.

Police are backing the campaign to improve the safety of Ladden Garden Village, according to town councillors who told a planning meeting there are “absolutely no pavements” in parts of the large, growing development.

Terrified” residents fumble with their keys as cars drive right past their front doors on “shared space” roads that resemble Victorian streets, the South Gloucestershire Council meeting heard on Thursday, October 14.

A young boy was airlifted to hospital after a collision with a car in the garden village on June 21. He sustained a leg injury in the collision on Francis Road and the driver of the car was arrested, according to reports at the time. 

Yate town councillor Chris Willmore told the strategic sites delivery committee that the “small child was seriously injured”.

She said: “The design of the development that we approved contributed to that accident. 

Parts of that road and other parts of the development have no pavement, nowhere that splits cars from people walking, and we have front doors effectively opening straight onto places through-vehicles are allowed to go.

Please would the [council’s] urban design officer come and talk to all of the residents on that estate that are terrified. They can’t even stand, in some cases, at their front door to fiddle for their keys with the buggy beside them without actually being on the carriageway.  

The residents want something done on the existing consents we’ve given.” 

Cllr Willmore said the residents’ campaign was backed by local councillors, Avon and Somerset Police, Neighbourhood Watch, the social landlord at Ladden Garden Village, and Conservative MP for Thornbury and Yate Luke Hall.

She said she accepted the committee could not “undo” planning consents that have already been granted. 

But she told them they could build-in safety measures when granting others, starting with the latest application from Barratt Homes, one of the developers behind the village.

The application before the committee related to a part of the housing estate that was right next to the road where the child was injured, she said. 

Cllr Willmore told the committee: “The residents affected by the current problem are saying: ‘Just please, stop, enough is enough, don’t add to the area that’s got this problem. It’s going to be hard enough to solve what’s been created. Please don’t make it worse’.” 

Roads like ‘Victorian streets’ 

The masterplan for Ladden Garden Village, approved in July 2015, is for up to 2,450 homes, plus a care home, employment land, a local centre and two primary schools.

Several developers are involved in designing and building the new neighbourhood, which is being built in phases.

The primary and secondary roads have pavements, but the smaller streets do not, meaning cars share the space with pedestrians.

All the roads will eventually be adopted by the council and a speed limit of 20mph imposed.

Cllr Mike Drew, who represents Yate North on Yate Town Council and South Gloucestershire Council, said: “[The development] looks like and has the feel of a nice Victorian street, but Victorian streets were not designed for cars.” 

A planning officer said the council monitors vehicle speeds on the shared-surface streets and they are “well below the speed limit”.

He said the council reacted “proactively and swiftly” after the young boy was injured to get an independent road safety audit of the shared-surface street where the collision took place.

The road safety audit didn’t raise any significant road safety concerns regarding the road surface design or layout,” he said.

There’s no evidence that I’m aware of that shared surfaces are unsafe or that encourage speeding in residential areas. Evidence indicates the opposite.”

But Cllr Willmore told the meeting that officers from other council departments had written to the campaigners explaining what they plan to do to “try and undo some of the problems we’ve created”.

Local councillors call for bollards or planters to improve pedestrian safety

In September 2019, nearly two years before the collision took place, Barratt Homes gained permission to build 229 homes on six hectares towards the north eastern end of the garden village.

It has since submitted an application to make minor changes to those plans, including the replacement of double garages with single garages to squeeze in two more homes, the meeting heard.

An officer who recommended the application for approval told the committee the new layout was better, and included “a shorter and more curved road alignment, more areas of block paving, more areas of open green space and tree planting, and also an improved outlook for all of the properties”. 

Block paving tends to slow traffic down in roads shared by pedestrians and vehicles, the meeting heard.

The developer had permission to build the homes whether or not the committee decided to approve or reject the proposed new layout, members heard.

Cllrs Willmore and Drew called for the committee to add a condition requiring the developer to submit plans to improve pedestrian safety in that part of the estate.

Cllr Willmore suggested Barratt Homes could add bollards or planters to create enough separation for pedestrians to be safe at “pinch points” on the shared-space streets.

There are really small things that could be done that would make these areas safe for people coming out of their front doors, for children walking along with or without parents,” she said.

I know one day the speed limit through this development will be 20mph, but that doesn’t stop a child getting hit. It just means they’re less likely to get killed.”

However, a legal officer said it would not be “appropriate” to add any conditions, given the proposal was for plans with pre-existing approval.

And the planning officer said that a condition for pedestrian safety would not be considered “necessary or reasonable” under planning law because the council has already assessed that part of the scheme and “deemed it to be acceptable” from a road safety perspective.

Committee members angry at ‘crazy’ attitude of council officers

The officers’ responses angered some members of the committee, including Cllr Adrian Rush who said the council should be able to require the developer to “put a few bollards in to protect pedestrians”.

If a planning officer says to us he’s not interested in safety, he’s only interested in what the law says about what they can take into appeal or not, it’s crazy,” he said.

It’s obviously dangerous when you’ve got traffic travelling within two feet of the front windows of houses. It’s a mistake. And we ought to try and put it right at this stage, and in every other stage that we approve.”

Cllr Michael Bell said the safety of children should be “paramount”.

The council’s strategic sites manager, Eileen Patterson, said she would discuss members’ concerns with the developer. “I can’t promise what the outcome will be from that discussion, but it is a starting point,” she said.

Proposal voted through without extra safety measures

Eight of the nine-strong committee voted in favour of Barratt Homes’ revised layout plans. One member abstained from the vote.

The consent does not include any new planning conditions, but it gives officers the authority to discuss road safety measures with the developer on plans that are yet to come to the committee.

Cllr June Bamford said it was “tragic” there had been an accident, but “we don’t know what caused it” yet.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted the police for an update on its investigation into the collision.

After the meeting, a spokesperson for Barratt David Wilson Homes told the reporting service: “Safety is our number one priority. The shared surface roads have been designed with a number of safety features to reduce speeds. 

We are aware of residents’ and councillors’ concerns and are actively working with South Gloucestershire Council to deliver additional road safety measures and install advisory speed limit signs. 

The signs will remain in place until the local authority implements a new Traffic Regulation Order to make the whole Ladden Garden Village development a legally enforceable 20mph zone, with permanent speed limit signs at all entry points.”

Cllr Drew told the meeting he hoped the council would learn from Ladden Garden Village and build reviews into its planning consents for future applications. 

He said the local authority would have to pick up the tab for introducing safety measures where they are needed in parts of the estate that have already been built.

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service