Bury A29 Road Improvement Committee and Bury Parish Council
Mini-Conference, March 30, 2023
Attendees: Andrew Griffith, MP; Katy Bourne, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner; Simon Dobinson, Assistant Chief Constable Sussex Police; Kendal Wells, Chief Inspector, Sussex Police; Tim Slaney, Director of Planning, SDNPA; Tim Burr, Board Member, SDNPA; Diana Van der Klugt. Board Member, SDNPA; Alastair Deighton, Estate Manager, Norfolk Estate; Tom Richardson, County Councillor, WSCC; Alan Sutton, District Councillor, CDC; Joy Dennis, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, WSCC; Mike Thomas, Highways Manager, WSCC; John Sunderland, Chair Bury A29 RIC; Graham Morrison, Bury Parish Councillor and member of Bury A29 RIC; Paul Whyles, Bury Parish Councillor and member of Bury A29 RIC; Richard Champness, Chair Bury Parish Council
John Sunderland welcomed delegates. Outlined history of how the RIC was formed following meeting in Bury Green in 2021. Pointed out that the problem of anti-social road behaviour on the A29 in the parish was long-standing. The hope of this conference was to find common ground by which this problem could be tackled collectively, guided by the RIC’s 12-point plan which was the result of much work and liaison with agencies such as Sussex Police and WSCC highways officers.
BA29RIC video was shown and welcomed as a very clear description of the issues the community wishes to address. Graham Morrison gave a presentation accompanied by a series of slides. With reference to Ben Hamilton Baille’s Roads In The South Downs (about character) and Pieter Booghaart’s Ode To The A27 (about settlement), the A29 is one of around 10 to 12 roads that run directly north-south and introduce the South Downs to the visitor. These roads are about landscape. At the heart of this group is the A29, and as it runs through Bury it is in danger of becoming an unlovely arterial road, a convenience for getting from A to B, with little to reflect its role as the Gateway to the Downs and little to deflect the impression it is just a convenient bypass whereas in fact it passes through the heart of the community.
Andrew Griffith said that whist safety should be our No 1 priority, we were all lucky to live in an enormously beautiful part of the world and the emphasis with which GM had described the landscape considerations and the ambition of reclaiming spaces alongside the A29 for the community was tremendous. He said it was helpful that the plans represented a series of discreet elements and said the proposals had his support, and he praised the professional quality of the work done. He said it would be great to hear from around the room as to how we should take that forward. He said he knows that the community cares very much about the issue of anti-social behaviour on the A29 not just within Bury but the wider community.
Diana van de Clugt said the landscape-led proposals were a very good idea. She admired GM’s comparison with the New Forest as to how roads should reflect the national park they are contained by. There was a lot of force in that concept. Making the A29 less of a ‘speed trap’ was a sound idea and would appeal too to the SDNPA.
Tim Slaney said the package presented was really interesting and it was key was to find a balance. Currently the A29 is clearly seen as just a road as it passes through Bury and we need to look at the mechanics of this and play with the balance and get some landscaping in there while at all times respecting the need for safety. He was fascinated with GM’s idea of reducing the hard engineering, almost hiding the curbs etc, so that you genuinely have to go slower anyway.
He said the SDNPA would be partners in a landscape study rather than leading it. And he said when it came to funding, subject to getting a good study, the interventions proposed would be suited to Community Infrastructure Levy contributions. He said he would be full square behind putting the Bury project forward for CIL funding.
Tim Burr said in time the proposals could be extended beyond Bury to some of the other North-South routes. What made the difference here was the community commitment and he felt the SDNPA could get behind a local initiative.
Graham Morrison replied that while clearly this is our patch and we are passionate about it, we are are keen to dispel the idea that this is in any way Nimbyism. We are very proud that we live in the national park and an initiative for the A29 could provide a blueprint for the other North-South routes.
Simon Dobinson said community confidence was the police’s share price and the words of praise for police enforcement activity were testament to Ch Insp kendal Wells and his team. But he added that the police could not enforce their way through the Bury problem. He said that self-regulating behaviour would be the best solution. The police would support a raft of measures and being part of the solution. That could include education in the form of engagement with bikers.
He also warned of the risk of adverse behaviour, more signage and SIDs might result it some drivers deliberately trying to outdo the advice.
Kendal Wells said the work done on this was really impressive and he was pleased to see the recognition that you cannot just enforce your way out of a problem. He thought perhaps that average speed cameras would not be necessary if all the self-regulatory measures were successful.
ACC Dobinson said he worked closely with the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership and would be looking to work with them in introducing the proposed changes.
John Sunderland said if you look at Bury’s 12-point plan, the key measures, ie delaying the start of the overtaking lane on Bury Hill, introducing additional pinchpoint crossings and reducing the speed limit on the A29 to 40mph would go a long way to reducing the need for enforcement through cameras.
Paul Whyles said that over two years the RIC had come to the conclusion that there is no instant fix for the antisocial behaviour and that instead a cumulative approach would be best, with a series of measures in combination serving to reduce the problem. There is no magic wand solution.
Katy Bourne said she thought the proposals were very intelligent and as someone who lives on the A272 ‘I share your pain’. She said funding was needed for a start and suggested that organisers write to the Roads Trust, which gets funding from the ENDOR scheme and gives out grants. She also referred to the SSRP and wondered if all the necessary decision makers were assembled around the table.
SD said that he has been chairing the SSRP since September. The SSRP takes an evidence-based approach and best use of data. Membership comprised of police, fire service and others. Strategic objective of reducing killed or seriously injured on the roads.
PW said Bury had previously dealings with the SSRP and had been disappointed to have an application for average speed cameras on Bury Hill turned down. He said the decision appeared to be based on KSI figures and that this was too narrow and did not take into account the impact on the community of antisocial road behaviour. He said Bury had felt there was insufficient dialogue with the SSRP and there did not seem to be any appeal path.
SD said he has yet to understand how community concerns feed through the the SSRP. The SSRP started as a camera enforcement operation and to take it to the next level requires a fundamental rethink about how you take those concerns on board. He said he was really keen to explore that.
Alan Sutton said there were wins for everybody round the table here. Bearing in mind it had taken two years of work to get to this point, he really liked the idea of not having enforcement at the centre of the strategy. There were several strands here and the national park and the landscape led scheme were really important. Behavioural change is key and the landscape proposals would really help that. The stretch of road is currently a place to pass through and a place to race. Around the table we have consensus and we can build on that and achieve something really good and innovative for the community.
In response to a question from AG regarding whether the district council could help fund it, he said yes and mentioned the Sustainable Communities Fund. While the officers were not there to give their views, he would feed this back and he thought there was definitely room to work together.
Joy Dennis said she loved the landscape and place perspective. She could see involvement for WSCC, the SSRP, the CDC and the SDNPA. She would like to see it split into priorities. There is a lot here that really does resonate. She can see it as a Community Highways Scheme. The cost might prove horrifying but perhaps we could all do our bit. Ultimately she would be making the decision.
As a Community Highways Scheme it would probably be quite complex and would take time to develop. It would then go out to consultation and if it passed the criteria, it would get prioritised. Funding for it does help. Having external funds, such as CIL money, would definitely push it up the list. With regard to speed limits, a single Traffic Regulation Order would cost roughly about £3,000. If it was locally funded it would go up the order.
KB said you have to have the engineering as well as the other aspects to achieve results. Otherwise you are raising expectations too much.
TB pointed out the SDNPA does not do road engineering and landscaping but would be receptive to SIL applications from other authorities seeking funding.
TS said we can make a commitment to working in partnership with other authorities on a project that is landscape led. And he had a member of staff in mind who would be just right for that liaison. And he asked how does the SDNPA help the Bury RIC change the criteria as necessary to ensure that landscape considerations are taken into account and not just things such as KSI figures.
Mike Thomas said that you needed a combination of hard landscaping and soft landscaping to persuade road users that speeding was not appropriate. We will work with you, he said.
Alastair Deighton said he though this was an excellent set of proposals. He said Norfolk estate could facilitate changes at the South Downs Way crossing as they own the land at the sides. Could also provide educative boards at White Ways. Regarding the speed limit he said better to drop it first so you have something to enforce. With regard to hard engineering, surely creating a kind of beneficial ambiguity in drivers’ minds can be done by getting rid of some of the hard engineering, like white lines and curbs, so that people don’t feel they have the perfect scenario for speeding.
He said he thought the overtaking lane was perhaps needed 40 years ago when HGVs were far less powerful but not needed today and he doubted whether it was needed for capacity reasons either. He suggested that it could be removed from the equation altogether through coloured markings quite cheaply. In the town of Blindfold in Dorset they have managed to reduce hard curbs etc with the result that people have slowed down. Use colour to mark where people should and shouldn’t drive. And with educative signage that could contribute to the landscape targets and also involve much lower costs.
Asked if they could do anything to make White Ways less attractive to bikers, he explained that the estate had had to take over the operational costs of the site and had to defray the costs. He explained how so far the bikers have evaded parking charges there and they are still talking to parking operators about alternative systems. But the cafe’s business model is based upon biker trade.
MT asked how it was to be decided who did what. PW said in the past individual agencies had sought to tackle the issue but this exercise was about finding a collaborate and collegiate way forward to helping to resolve the problem together.
TS argued that if all the recommendations were implemented there would be an awful lot of ‘kit’. John S replied that the 12 points were really a wish list and for example it was entirely possible that if the landscaping and engineering works were successful, combined with a lower speed limit, then there would be less necessity for cameras and speed indication devices.
JD said that the next step would be to apply for.a Community Highways Scheme and decide which section to tackle first. CHS would comprise drawings, TROs, engineering works etc.
AG said then JD would hold the pen on that, TS’s new landscape officer could look at that aspect, together with MT from a highways perspective and AD.
IN addition SD said he wanted to better understand how the SSRP assesses community concerns and thought that resubmitting the earlier application would be a means to examine that area again.
AS said the district council could look at what funding sources are available once you start developing the plan.
KB expressed doubts about the current viability of acoustic cameras. And said she would put the average speed cameras further down the list. Tom Richardson agreed, saying if you get everything else right, there is no need for the further camera measures. He said dealing with the two lanes going up the hill was crucial as that was part of the attraction for bikers.
Richard Champness said getting rid of the double lanes going up the hill would be fantastic. He pointed out the southbound carriageway at Box Hill in Surrey had been reduced to one lane and that had made a huge difference. AD said he understood that was mainly signage and road markings. KB suggested reaching out to Surrey County Council and asking them how they did it.
GM addressed the SDNPA representatives and asked how BPC could work with them to undertake a landscape study. What was needed was a scheme that covered the length of the A29 from White Ways to Bury Gate.
AG said that the landscape study was emerging as part of the agreed way forward.
MT said what was needed was a compelling evidence-based solution.
It was generally agreed the scheme could be taken forward initially by the SDNPA’s Alex Pringle, Mike Thomas and Alastair Deighton, working with Bury Parish Council and the BA29RIC.
AG said that for those present not directly involved in the early stages, their job would be to start thinking about how it can be best financed and achieved.