Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Lights Out!

We won! We got rid of the terrible lights! People said it couldn't be done but we did. Yesterday I spoke again at the Council Planning Board. Council at last voted to remove them! We had some mightily damning evidence (see speech and appendix below) and the Head of Transport and Planning didn't know where to put himself. I wonder if he will keep his job?

Can't wait to see the landscape back to its old self.

This is a victory for the environment. Thanks to all those who helped in whatever way - you know who you are. Here is the speech and eveidence in an appendix (not sure how to link to this, so it is here in full).

We, in common with others who love Sheffield’s unique situation next to the Peak Park, are concerned about the urbanisation of the city’s rural fringes within the green belt. These street lights erected in countryside, near open SSSI moorland on Totley Moss and Blacka Moor are huge, closely spaced, marching along the beautiful Baslow Road out towards Owler Bar for about ½ mile. By day they scar this road and by night they pollute the night skies and can be seen from high ground all around, including from within the Peak Park itself. Reducing the wattage and painting the standards grey is not enough.

The lights have been erected in connection with a new 30mph zone out of the city, in turn connected with understandable safety concerns about the new 97 bus terminus and the emergence of buses onto the main road. Many people believe this to be entirely the wrong solution - not only visually, but in terms of road safety. It has made the road more dangerous there is tailgating and overtaking as never before. This situation has resulted from an appalling catalogue of errors from start to finish and this continues to be the case, even with this latest report.

Firstly, with sensible discussion with the landlord, Enterprise Inns, First buses and SYPTE, it should not have been necessary to move the bus terminus from its site outside the Cross Scythes pub in the first place. The present and indeed past landlord had no objection to the buses turning there providing drivers turn off engines. Enterprise Inns were also open to negotiation. The present terminus is extremely costly and wasteful of energy.

Having decided to move the terminus out of the city to the end of Gillfield Wood and having erected the new lighting, Officers did not consult the Peak Park - as they should have under Section 62 of the Environment Act. Only when SPACE pointed this out and under pressure from the Peak Park Authority, did they meet – a meeting likened by one of the senior planners at the Peak Park Authority to an episode of Fawlty Towers.

The lights and speed limits were put in place after informal advice only – and very unclear advice at that – from Road Safety Officers. A proper Road Safety Audit was not completed until after the lights were erected and this merely tinkered with the existing new scheme. The lights were erected before the plans for the turning circle were passed by this Board. Similarly, the new 40mph buffer zone was instituted before it was passed by this Board. When SPACE pointed this out, 40mph signs had to be covered up! There were yet more minor errors – too numerous to mention here.

Now, to today’s report by John Bann, Director of Transport and Highways. Nearly every calculation and statistic justifying a speed limit of 30mph and the lighting after the event is wrong. And not only wrong, but shockingly and outrageously wrong. The sightline towards Totley is actually 3 times as long as their calculations - at 350 metres. The 30 mph zone is 4 times as long - 800 metres, not 200 metres. 7 of the 8 reportable accidents referred to happened in 2000 and 2001 before safety measures - chevrons and crash barriers - were put in place in November 2001. The sole reportable accident since that date was not due to losing control on bends. (Please see more about all these factual details in the Appendix). This 30 mph limit has resulted in frustrated drivers, tailgating and attempted overtaking as well as the terrible visual intrusion of the light standards and the lights themselves.

Although errors have been made at the lowest technical level, to our minds, the greater blame should be attached to those who took their eyes off the wider picture, particularly the need to consider visual and light pollution in the green belt of a city renowned for its marvellous countryside and its proximity to the Peak National Park.

We believe that this board should:

1. Question the competence of its officers throughout – for lack of proper procedure, for misleading the public, and for lack of basic ability in technical matters.

2. Reprimand these officers for using incorrect, misleading or unclear information and reports to justify the speed limit and lights after the event. Old accident statistics have also been used to justify these when road safety has since been vastly improved by other measures.

3. Reprimand Officers for lack of proper consultation. Many were shocked because it was unclear from public consultation that the lights would be a consequence of the new terminus. No consultation was carried out with the Peak Park Authority as it should have been according to the Environment Act.

4. Remove these appalling lights, apart from immediately around the terminus itself.

5. Institute a speed limit of 40mph all the way from Owler Bar (at present it is still 60 mph there) down to the junction with Lane Head Road and the first Totley houses. This is well within recommended safety guidelines for such a situation and actually safer than the present mix of 60, 40 and 30mph from Owler Bar and into Totley.

6. Enforce and encourage the 30 mph speed limit more effectively in Totley itself.

We have support for our campaign against the lights from many individuals, from CPRE, the Campaign for Dark Skies, local residents’ and wildlife organisations and officers from the Peak District National Park. They are creeping urbanisation at their worst and destroy the progression from country to city and back again - such a special thing in this wonderful green city of ours.

Appendix : The damning evidence

Much of the evidence in this is due to the expertise of 2 ex engineers in our group - thanks to Peter Stubbs and Duncan Froggatt.

APPENDIX: SPACE response to the Report by Director of Transport and Highways

30mph and lighting?

There is no need for the road between Totley and the new terminus to be subjected to a 30mph speed limit or to be lit. In his informal advice, the Road Safety Officer merely advised that the road should “ideally” be lit. We agree that there should be some lighting of an appropriate kind adjacent to the terminus itself.

However, having decided to install lighting right along the road in the open country to just beyond the terminus, Mr Bann’s officers are claiming that this is necessary together with the associated 30mph speed limit because of restricted sight lines. Their calculations relating to the need to have a 30mph limit and associated lighting are utterly and shockingly wrong. Here is paragraph 3.1 from his report (our bold type):

  • The bus terminus scheme proposals required the provision of a 30mph speed limit in the vicinity of the access/egress to the bus turning area. This was required to comply with safe visibility conditions. The maximum sight line out of the bus turning area is 111 metres. The design criteria guidance used by the Council (and endorsed by the Department for Transport) states that sight lines under 120 metres require a 30 mph speed limit. In order to slow down traffic approaching the site from Derbyshire, a 40 mph buffer zone was proposed and approved by Board in February 2009.

The maximum sightlines (as measured by 3 members, 2 of whom are retired engineers) are:

  • approximately 350 metres from bus turning area North East towards Totley and the severe bends.
  • approximately 180 – 200 metres from bus turning area South West towards Derbyshire and the bend before Dyson’s Brickworks

So Mr Bann’s department have measured the maximum sightline towards Totley at approximately a third the length of its actual measurement and used this to justify the 30 mph limit. The correct sightline length actually complies with a design speed of 50 mph (DfT and Council design criteria). 30 mph is unsafe hardly anyone sticks to it, it feels unnatural and there is now a lot of tailgating and attempts to overtake. Many Totley people feel that, erring on the safe side, considering the gradient, the emerging buses and the severity of the bends, the limit should be 40mph. This is an achievable, enforceable, sensible speed, well within the guidelines, considerably reduced from the previous national limit of 60mph.

Even the sightline towards the bend before the Brickworks is almost twice as long as Mr Bann’s “maximum sightline.” This is mostly within the new 40mph “buffer Zone” - an appropriate limit we feel (although wrongly measured).

There are yet more outrageous errors in calculation and logic in the next paragraph (again – our bold text):

    • There is no Speed Limit Order (SLO) for the 30mph restriction on the newly lit length of road. Under national legislation, if street lighting is introduced on a previously unlit road, then that road is automatically subject to a 30mph restriction. A SLO need only be made if the Highway Authority wishes to introduce a speed limit in excess of 30mph. The minimum length of road covered by a speed limit is 600 metres. The length of road between the recently introduced 30 mph speed limit at the bus turning area entrance/egress and the existing 30 mph limit at Lane Head Road is approx 200 metres. This means that there is insufficient road length to change the speed limit to 40mph between the bus turning area and the existing 30mph speed limit at Lane Head Road.

The length of road between the existing 30 mph at Lane Head Road and the bus turning area is approximately 800 metres – 4 times Mr Bann’s calculation and 200 metres longer than the minimum length needed. Even so, this is nonsense - we would have thought that this length of road could just be added to the new 40mph zone as it is contiguous with it?

Surely the most basic qualities of an engineer should be the ability to measure correctly? Maybe the errors have occurred because the distances were not measured on site but scaled from a map and the wrong scale used?

Para 3.3 of the report refers to the reportable accident record on this stretch of road. Of these 8 accidents, all apart from one, occurred in 2000 and 2001 and occurred because drivers lost control on the bends. In November 2001, chevrons and crash barriers were erected probably the reason why accidents were reduced. The only one since this date – in 2006 – occurred because “the driver took his eyes off road for a split second and crashed into a wall.” So, accidents have been much reduced and it is doubtful whether lighting will now make much difference. Indeed, section of DfT Road Safety Research Report No 100 (Nov 2008) points out that “improving lighting has been shown to result in higher vehicle speed”, so the situation could actually be worsened.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Craig: The Story of a Dog

This lovely colour film about the training of a sheepdog in 1946 in nearby Ryecroft Glen in Dore. It is in 3 parts. Look at Mr Farnsworth (the narrator) aged 4 with the lamb! They were certainly proud of that wonderful gentle dog....