Residents of the Churn Valley and Stratton turned out en masse yesterday to hear about the work completed on the safercycle and walkers route.
60 people came to the North Cerney Memorial Hall to hear how a group of volunteers has been working since 2008 to provide a safer route for those on foot, bike and horse to go between Cirencester and North Cerney.
Mike Barton (standing) talks to residents at the North Cerney Memorial Hall
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson set up a team of residents, councillors and GCC/CDC officers three years ago to look at the viability of a safe route along the Churn Valley. Now, the route has been fixed as following the River Churn. Residents at the meeting heard how the volunteers have worked with landowners and the Bridleways officer at GCC, Mike Barton, to bring the existing bridlepath up to the correct standard.
Paul took residents through the ‘story’ of how the group had worked voluntarily and with a very small budget to make the project come to life, “It’s a real story of the Big Society in action. What we’ve achieved here is a safer route for people to use, replacing worn out gates, making the surface more even and clearing undergrowth. There’s still more to do, but residents left the meeting enthused about what has been done. I would like to thank the volunteers for working so well together for the good of the community.”
GCC Officer Mike Barton showed residents ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of the route and maps were on hand for people to view.
Now, the next step is to find a way for the route to be extended to Rendcomb so that villagers there and College students can benefit too.
Following a serious accident on 9 March 2011 which sadly resulted in a person being taken to hospital and another accident the same evening, the Salterley Action Force to Enhance our Road (S.A.F.E.R.), set up to campaign for improved safety on the Leckhampton Hill 3/377 road, is appealing to drivers to take extra care and abide by the advisory ‘Max speed 30’ signs on the dangerous bends near Salterley Grange.
After working closely with the Highways Department and prominent coverage by the Gloucestershire Echo, S.A.F.E.R. was delighted that safety improvements were made in November 2010. These included the installation of ‘Max speed 30’ advisory signs at the north and south approaches to the ‘S’ bend and some patching to damaged areas of the road surface. Highways also relocated and improved the ‘junction ahead’ sign to the south of Hartley Lane junction.
Following this work, and despite the poor weather and road conditions over the winter months, the group has been pleased not to hear of any incidents through that period. However, in addition to the 2 accidents on Salterley bends on Wednesday 9th, it is understood there was also an incident on the previous day, 8 March, at another danger spot, the junction with Hartley Lane.
“It is very saddening that having come through some terrible winter weather without incident, we now have three in a row” commented Coberley Parish Councillor, Duncan McGaw, who lives nearby. “We really need drivers who use this road to remember the message and take great care at these potentially hazardous spots, particularly when the surface is wet – the signs are there to help make this road a safer place for them, as well as other road users.”
The S.A.F.E.R. group continues to talk with Highways for a review of the road surface and camber on the bends. “It’s a narrow carriageway and a very sharp bend, – the surface needs to be as skid-resistant as possible and the camber needs adjustment to help drivers keep to their own side better” said Cotswold District Councillor (Churn Valley Ward) Paul Hodgkinson. “We do appreciate the financial pressures on the Council, but we must work together to find a cost-effective solution that will address this problem.”
In 2008 residents from the Churn Valley parishes and Cirencester Town Council started a discussion about creating a safer and more pleasant route for cyclists and walkers to use from Stratton through the Valley.
L to R; Paul with Jane & Sam Wilkinson and Andy Lichnowski at one of the newly installed gates near North Cerney
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson offered to Chair the group and managed to attract interest from other groups including Glos County Council, Cirencester Town Council, Mid Cotswolds Tracks and Trails Group, the British Horse Society and Sustrans
After extensive consultation and local surveys, the group established that the best approach was to make simple improvements to the existing bridleway/restricted byway route between Cirencester and North Cerney, which, of course, can legally be used by cyclists. This also helps walkers and horse riders and so is of more general benefit to the local community and visitors to the area. Landowners also end up with clearer and well maintained public paths!
Paul says. “We’ve been working with landowners to action some desirable, costed improvements and the County Council is already carrying out works – upgrading gates, improving drainage, clearing vegetation and scraping the surface in parts. The County Council, landowners and our parish councils have all donated some money and we’ve managed to do a lot of this for free by people generously giving their time.”
“We would particularly like to thank landowners for their cooperation and generosity.”
Now, to update residents on what has been happening, a public meeting will be held at the North Cerney Memorial on Saturday 19 March from 1130-1230. There’ll be maps of the route on display, photos of what has been achieved and an opportunity to hear how the group plan to extend the route to Rendcomb.
The Salterley Action Force to Enhance our Road – S.A.F.E.R – has welcomed the prompt actions taken by the Highways Department to improve safety on two of the danger spots of the 3/377 Leckhampton Hill road (formerly B4070).
And, to promote better understanding of S.A.F.E.R.’s aims, the issues with the 3/377 and provide a contact point for information and support, the group has launched a website: http://sites.google.com/site/safercampaign
In a major step towards improving road safety by alerting drivers to the dangerous bends at Salterley, advisory signs stating ‘Max speed 30’ have been placed on the north and south approaches to the ‘S’ bend by GCC Highways Department. “The S.A.F.E.R. group is delighted that GCC Highways has listened to our case and acted so quickly” said Coberley Parish Councillor, Duncan McGaw, “We feel it is vital to get the ‘30’ figure into drivers’ minds. We must now make sure that drivers understand that it makes sense – and respect it! We believe it just isn’t safe to take that sharp bend at anything over 30 mph – and even then, when the weather and road conditions are poor, it needs to be less”.
S.A.F.E.R. will monitor the outcome from these improvements but will continue its campaign for other safety improvement reviews. This small country road is a major commuter route from Swindon/Cirencester and Gloucester directions. Latest Police surveys on traffic volume on this road show the total two-way flow is over 48,000 vehicles per week.
Commenting on progress to date but with an eye to future needs, Cotswold District Councillor (Churn Valley) Paul Hodgkinson said “I’m delighted that we’re already seeing some encouraging movement from Gloucestershire Highways as a result of our campaign. The advisory speed limit signs are a good reminder to drivers how dangerous this stretch of road can be if not negotiated at lower speeds. However, as the latest fatal accident nearby shows, we can’t let up on our desire to make the road safer. There may well be more fundamental issues to do with the camber of the road at the bends, and we will be pushing to make sure Highways investigate this thoroughly and take appropriate action if it’s needed. We’re equally concerned to have the 3/377 junction with the A436 reviewed and made safer.”
Summarising the achievements to date, Paul concluded, “What this campaign has already shown is that where a group of people feel strongly about something they can actually make a difference. Local residents and commuters who use the road have combined to send a powerful message which we all hope will save lives and prevent accidents.”
Churn Valley residents beathed a sigh of relief when their black bins and recycling was collected for the first time in 4 weeks.
Despite the main roads being clear for traffic and all services getting through in the snow, the SITA crews did not collect from households in the week before Christmas.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is backing the many residents who have complained about a lack of service, “No-one expects bin men to go out if the roads are impassable, but by the time Christmas approached all other deliveries were getting through. The post was being collected, the presents delivered but no rubbish collected! I’m very pleased that at last we have had a collection but it isn’t good enough for people to wait a whole month. Where is the service mentality? I will be asking a question at the next Council meeting to understand how this could have happened for the third year in a row – something has got to change for the future.”
A survey last year of 15 councils covering Gloucestershire and surrounding areas revealed that CDC is top of the league when it comes to the cost of collecting your rubbish per household.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson says, “Once you unwrap this scheme you find the incredible costs that have lumbered us in the Cotswolds with the highest charges in Gloucestershire.” “We pay £73 per household while just a few miles away in Cheltenham they are paying £38 – the public has a right to feel short changed and to be asking just what CDC’s administration is doing with our money.”
Eight inches of snow fell in the Churn Valley yesterday, leaving the area carpeted in a Christmas scene.
Despite the wonderful wintry views, the snow has caused problems for many residents. The A435 was impassable for most vehicles and snowploughs tried their best to clear the road – a sight rarely seen in the area since 1990, but the last three years have witnessed a ‘snow comeback’.
Some elderly residents have been running out of heating oil, others need food as they can’t get to the shops.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson said, “The bad weather makes it difficult for all of us, but elderly people need to be remembered. From my own temperature records, which I keep every day, this month will be a record breaker. Let’s make sure Christmas is a warm enough one for everyone locally.”
Churn Valley residents have welcomed a Coalition government pledge that will ensure the future of all post offices in the district until at least the next general election.
At the Lib Dem Conference in Liverpool, Business Secretary Vince Cable promised Government support for the country’s network of post offices, ruling out a repeat of the mass closure of branches that tore the heart out of rural communities under the previous administration.The Business Secretary vowed to retain the Post Office network in its current state as he outlined details of plans to privatise Royal Mail. Mr Cable received warm support at the conference when he insisted that Royal Mail’s Post Office business is “not for sale”. He went on: “There will be no programme of closures as there were under Labour.”
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson who heard the announcement said: “We fought hard two years ago to keep our post offices open in the Cotswolds and were bitterly disappointed to lose so many. Those losses mustn’t be repeated and so this news is a great relief to our rural communities for whom the post office is a hub and focal point.”
Cllr Hodgkinson was at the forefront of a local battle in 2008 to successfully save two post offices in his ward – at Colesbourne and Rendcomb. He added: “The Churn Valley is very fortunate to have two really good post office stores – in Colesbourne where we also have a garage and in Rendcomb. Both are vitally important for us to keep.”
Residents of Salterley Grange and Ullenwood, together with Coberley Parish Council and Cotswold District Councillor Paul Hodgkinson, have formed an action group to pressurize the Highways Department. They want measures actioned urgently to combat the unacceptable number of road traffic accidents which regularly occur on the sharp bends of the road from the Air Balloon to Leckhampton in the Salterley Grange area.
The action group, to be called the Salterley Action Force to Enhance our Roads (SAFER) will provide a focus and co-ordinated approach to the authorities. Despite having been de-classified, this road is a major thoroughfare for commuter traffic from Swindon, Cirencester and Gloucester directions. Even though sign-posting directs traffic for Cheltenham via the A436 and A435 into Charlton Kings, it is believed that over 20,000 vehicles per week use this small country road as a short-cut.
“There is a history of serious accidents on these bends” said Councillor Hodgkinson, “In the last 12 months alone, residents have counted 10, including one fatality. Most of these are in the autumn and winter months when the road surface is often wet and has the extra hazard of fallen leaves and ice. But we firmly believe that the main cause of accidents is excessive speed.” “Although there is a 40 mph limit in place, it is impossible to negotiate these bends safely at anything over 30 mph.”
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has recently made a short film in the Churn Valley, courtesy of FurryFeet TV, highlighting the big issues he’s been campaigning on in the ward.