Urban extension rejected on traffic impact

Highway safety objections have blocked a 700-home mixed-use urban extension to an East Sussex town, despite a significant housing shortfall in the area.

The proposal included affordable housing, 8,600 square metres of employment floorspace, a medical centre, a primary school, a community centre, retail space, playing fields, children's play space, allotments, amenity space and associated landscaping and infrastructure.

The determinative issues were the effect of proposed access arrangements on the safety of all road users and on the operation of the local road network, specifically on planned bus priority measures. Prematurity and the adequacy of affordable housing provision were secondary issues with which the inspector found no policy conflict. She deferred discussion on Habitat Regulations issues as she was dismissing the appeal in any event.

Several problems had been identified through a stage one road safety audit regarding the formation and design of the two proposed access junctions into the site from a busy trunk road. The appellants intended these problems to be ironed out through a stage two audit, but the highways authority was not satisfied that the resultant changes to the submitted designs would be sufficiently minor to fall within the scope of its own section 278 approval process.

The inspector accepted the highways authority’s concerns, finding insufficient information to demonstrate that the multi-user junctions would be safe. In terms of impact on the local road network, she heard that the proposal would directly affect a fully funded sustainable transport corridor due to be implemented along an A road next to the appeal site.

She noted that the site access plans did not include measures to facilitate southbound bus movements through either of the junctions and that one of the junctions would cause significant morning and evening peak time delays. She concluded the scheme would lead to conflict with the purpose of the approved and funded scheme, to the detriment of the local road network. 

The council’s application for an award of costs against the appellants was refused. The inspector found that it could not be said that the appeal had no prospect of meeting the Habitat Regulations. Late submission of the second-stage road safety audit had been unreasonable behaviour but this had not resulted in unnecessary expense for the council, she concluded.

Inspector: Louise Phillips; Inquiry

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