Agenda and minutes

Cheshire East Countryside Access Forum
Thursday, 12th June, 2014 10.00 am

Venue: The Silk Room - Town Hall, Macclesfield SK10 1EA. View directions

Contact: Rachel Graves 

Items
No. Item

10.

Welcome, Apologies and Introductions

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Chris Driver, Andy Gildon, John Handley and Dale Langham.

11.

Congleton Relief Road

Dominic Flynn, Jacobs

Minutes:

Dominic Flynn from Jacobs attended the Forum to seek their views on the effects of the scheme on public rights of way and countryside access for the environmental assessment.

 

The preferred route for the Congleton Relief Road had now been announced.  A map showing the preferred route was circulated at the meeting.

 

It was proposed that the National Cycle Route 70 would go under the Relief Road.  The Cycle Route would be affected during the build stage of the road.  Four public rights of way would be affected by the road but it had not yet been decided how users would cross the new road.  A combined cycle/footway would be installed on one side of the road.

 

Forum members asked questions on the pedestrian crossings to be provided for non-motorised users, provisions for non-motorised users at the roundabouts, the stopping up of roads and the connection of the cycle/footway to other roads and paths.

 

As part of the environmental assessment a survey would be carried out to count the number of non-motorised users on the public rights of way. 

 

Pre application consultation would be carried out before a planning application was submitted.

12.

Highways Management Policies

Chris Shields, Maintenance and Localities Manager, Cheshire East Highways

Minutes:

Simon Davies, Cheshire East Highways, briefed the Forum on the highway management policies for Cheshire East.

 

The Highways Act gave the Council powers to carry out maintenance on the highway.  The width of the highway was defined as hedge to hedge and the Council had a duty to keep it clear and free for all users.

 

The Highways Team carried out inspections of all highways, typically every four months, looking for safety defects and hazards to users – these included pot holes and overgrown hedges and trees and took action to make issues safe.  The Team also received reports and enquires from members of the public and responded to these. 

 

Grass cutting on verges was carried out by subcontractors in accordance with the Council’s policy.  For rural areas this was a yearly single swathe cut from the edge of the carriageway or footway.  In urban areas (within 40 mph areas), the aim was to maintain the length of the grass to a height of between 12-75mm and was cut as often as required to comply with this specification – typically once a fortnight.  The collection of grass cuttings in urban areas was only undertaken for safety reasons.  Visibility splays at road junctions and on bends were cut as and when required in order to maintain the necessary sightlines.

 

The Council has invested £25m in high level maintenance on roads to holt their deterioration and reduce the number of potholes. 

 

Forum members asked questions about the grass cutting, use of S106 agreement money from developers and removal of grass cuttings.  Members were concerned about the increasing practice of householders putting bollards, posts and chains and white painted stones on verges as the verges provided a safe haven for walkers and horseriders from traffic.   It was reported that the Council had the powers to remove these but the enforcement process was lengthy and often met with resistance. 

 

Forum members were reminded at that they could report any highways faults and issues via the Council’s website.

13.

A500/M6 Pinch Point Road Scheme pdf icon PDF 697 KB

Rob Welch, Traffic & Road Safety Team Leader, Cheshire East Highways

Minutes:

Major works would soon commence to deliver a multi-million-pound scheme to improve the A500 near Crewe.  A joint scheme between Cheshire East Council and the Highways Agency would see the installation of traffic signals on Junction 16 and the widening of the A500 to two lanes approaching the junction.

 

The A500 scheme would see a 700 metre long widening of the A500 on the approach to the M6 at junction 16 of the M6 on the Crewe side.  This would create an additional full-length lane along that stretch of the A500, which would then taper into a shorter third lane.

 

The widening of the road would affect Public Footpath Nos.15 and 25 Barthomley.  At present pedestrians could walk between the Footpath Nos.15 and 25 by crossing a layby and the carriageway.  The final scheme would result in the removal of the existing laybys, with the existing stiles and steps being reinstated in the same location.

 

Consideration had been given to segregating the Public Footpaths by means of a footbridge but this had been ruled out on cost benefit grounds.  The scheme had been subject to two independent Road Safety Audits.  The safety of pedestrians had been considered as part of those audits and this had resulted in the proposed road widths being reduced in the location of the crossing.

 

It was agreed that Forum members should forward any comments on these proposals to Genni Butler, who would co-ordinate a response to Rob Welch at Cheshire East Highways.

14.

Reports from Members

14a

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 13 March 2014 pdf icon PDF 48 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the minute of the meeting held on 13 March 2014 be agreed as a correct record.

14b

Rural Road Safety Sub-Group

Minutes:

Linda Rose reported that members of the sub group had meet with Chris Shields and Rob Welch of Cheshire East Highways to discuss road maintenance and road safety issues.

 

The Group had asked Cheshire Constabulary for accident data, including details of number of vulnerable users and where the fault lay.  In their research had found that the AA had carried out research and found that 1 in 20 motorists had had near misses with horses and lacked the knowledge on how to drive when meeting a horse.  They had also found out about signs in Belgium that showed the distance drivers should leave between cars and horses and about the policies in Germany where non-motorised users had more protection on the road.

 

It was suggested that the Forum contact the Cheshire Police Commissioner, John Dwyer, and local MPs to raise the issue of safety on rural roads.  In order for this to happen a formal strategy needed to be agreed by the Forum for taking this issue forward.  It was also suggested that the sub group contact other Local Access Forums via Huddle to see if any were discussing rural road safety.

 

It was agreed that a draft strategy be brought to the next meeting for the Forum’s endorsement.

 

 

14c

Forum Publicity

Minutes:

Carole Bentley reported on the articles about the work of the Forum which had been successfully published in the local press.

 

These included articles in the Crewe and Nantwich Chronicle on countryside access for disabled people and the Forum’s Annual Report.  The Knutsford Guardian had run articles on the Forum’s letter to the Highway Agency on the A556.

 

Carole emphasised that, given the fragmented nature of the local press, there was a better chance of press publicity if there was an identifiable local angle to a story and members were asked to look for opportunities to place items locally.

14d

Access for All Sub-Group

Minutes:

The Sub Group had not met since the last meeting.

14e

Public Rights of Way Future Management: Motion to Cabinet

Minutes:

The Notice of Motion had been considered by Cheshire East Council’s Cabinet on 29 April 2014, which had resolved that the Executive Director of Strategic Commissioning be asked to undertake an options appraisal for the future delivery of the Public Rights of Way functions.

 

The study was being undertaken at present and staff from the Rights of Way team had had input into it.  The outcomes would be reported back to Cabinet in due course and any changes to service delivery would come into effect from April 2015.

14f

A556 Correspondence with Highways Agency

Minutes:

Following the last Forum meeting, correspondence had taken place with the Highways Agency on the A556 proposals.  Copies of the letters had been circulated to all members. 

 

The Highways Agency had confirmed that the headroom on the underpass would be 3 metres and that uncontrolled crossings would be provided on the Cherry Tree Lane slip road. 

14g

Response to Canal & River Trust Consultation on Sharing Towpaths

Minutes:

The Chairman had responded to the Canal and River Trust’s consultation on Sharing Towpaths.   The responses would be used to shape a new National Towpath Use Policy.   A copy of the response had been circulated to all members for information. 

 

15.

Natural England and LAFs

Davie Jeffreys, Natural England

Minutes:

David Jeffreys, Access and Engagement Lead Adviser for Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside area, gave a presentation on how the work of Natural England related to that of Local Access Forums.

 

David outlined the purpose of and priorities for Natural England and how their work was delivered via regional 14 area teams in England. 

 

Natural England had a statutory role to receive copies of all Local Access Forums annual reports and where required to be notified of changes made to Forum arrangements and changes in Secretary.  As a section 94 body Natural England received advice from Forums on the operation of open access restrictions, management and mapping as well as the condition of National Trails.  It was working to establish access to the coast and a national coastal path.

 

Natural England also provided support to Forums through maintaining Huddle to allow local Forum members to communicate with each other, Natural England and Defra, and also produced LAF News which highlighted the work being carried out by the Local Access Forums.

 

A paper was handed out which detailed a Plan of Engagement between Natural England, Defra and Local Access Forums.

16.

Update on Brereton Bridleway No.31 - River Erosion Issue pdf icon PDF 805 KB

Mike Taylor

Minutes:

Mike Taylor reported on the river erosion issues on Brereton Bridleway No.31.

 

The bridleway was a strategic linking route in the public rights of way network in Cheshire East and was situated in the River Dane valley between Congleton and Holmes Chapel. 

 

There were a number of issues on Bridleway No.31 including river erosion by the fast flowing River Dane, obstructions caused by fences and a plantation, and steep ground.  The route had been eroded by the river in two places.

 

The bridleway was not subject to a temporary closure at present as the route was currently passable with care on foot.  An alternative informal pedestrian route bypassed the fence and plantation obstructions.  

 

Options were being explored to move the line of the bridleway in conjunction with the Environment Agency and landowners; these included moving the path southwards or across the river.  These options had different impacts on adjacent landowners, capital investment and future maintenance implications and were being discussed with the Council’s legal department.

 

 

17.

Rights of Way Improvement Plan Update pdf icon PDF 53 KB

Genni Butler

Minutes:

Genni Butler reported on the progress with the current projects in the Cheshire East Rights of Way Improvement Plan.  These included:

 

  • Dane Meadow, Holmes Chapel
  • The Carrs, Wilmslow
  • Crewe Footpath Nos. 3 and 36 upgrade to Cycle Track status
  • Cranage to Holmes Chapel off-road link
  • CAMS Web Portal
  • Middlewood Way and station access path
  • High Legh – off road link to school form housing area
  • Congleton Bridleway No.1

 

18.

New Matters Arising

All

Minutes:

There were no new matters arising.

19.

Date of Next Meeting

Thursday 11 September 2014 in the East Committee Room, Municipal Buildings, Earle Street, Crewe, CW1 2BJ

Minutes:

The next meeting will be on Thursday 11 September 2014 in Crewe.