York Green Party has formally objected to the reserved matters planning application for the design of the new access road for York Central saying that the current proposals will have a disastrous negative impact on traffic levels, congestion and air pollution on the new site, in the areas around the site and in the city centre as a whole.
The Party is calling for key changes to be made to the application including limitations on general traffic through the site.
Party chair Tom Franklin said,
“The applicant’s own modelling shows that the proposals as they stand, will result in a car-dominated development with the new park and square blighted at peak times by long lines of queuing traffic. This will worsen gridlock across the city’s transport network. This is set to be a missed opportunity, which left unchanged will result in a 20th century rather than a 21st century development, dominated by noise and traffic for much of the day.”
He added ‘We support the principle of a new access road to make the site accessible for construction, public transport, deliveries and other priority uses. But in order to make York Central the low carbon development it claims to be, general traffic through the site has to be effectively restricted, particularly at peak times. The potential advantages of doing this – via a bus gate at Marble Arch – are enormous. They include increasing cycling and walking, vastly improving public transport reliability and encouraging existing commuters out of their cars. It is essential that these changes are in place from Day 1, particularly following on from the Covid-19 emergency.’
Micklegate Green Party councillor Rosie Baker (whose ward borders the development) says
“In the face of this recession the competition to attract high quality employers to invest in the site and to get value from the sale of properties is going to be tough: York needs to market the clean air and high quality of life in a low carbon, low traffic development – part of the solution to the Climate Emergency, not part of the problem! Long lines of queuing traffic (whatever fuel they are using) will not attract people or investment.”
She added “It is even more crucial following Covid-19 that we take advantage of Government regulation and support for increased cycling and walking. A 70% increase in cycling during lockdown shows that a new development without vehicle domination would quickly attract high levels of cycling and walking – particularly when it is so near to the city centre on-site employment. Traffic-free roads will also make buses more reliable, encourage existing commuters out of their cars and let current residents to get about more easily.”
The Green Party’s objection highlights the following problems with the current proposals and calls for the following changes:
- Current proposals predict peak congestion levels by 2033 as high as we see now on Gillygate and St Leonard’s Place with traffic queues up to 800m long back through the new Museum Square, and halfway down the new access road – as long as queues currently from Micklegate Bar to the Knavesmire.
- Current modelling suggests a 35 – 55% increase in traffic through Salisbury Terrace from Clifton Green, worsening air quality, noise and safety through this residential neighbourhood.
- Levels of traffic predicted to go through the Leeman Road Tunnel (Marble Arch) and onwards into the city centre will have alarming impacts on congestion around the Lendal Arch gyratory and from there on the whole city transport network. The modelling implies 40 minutes delay outward bound during the peak.
- There is no evidence in the current proposals that general traffic levels will be reduced in keeping with the Climate Emergency and for an improved quality of life.
- The new Museum Square, presented as a show-piece welcome to the city from the railway station will be cut in half by lines of queuing traffic at peak times and will be a car-dominated space.
- The new Park Street will be car dominated with the predicted volume of traffic cutting off new residents from the new park and ‘courtesy’ crossings meaning pedestrians will have to wait for car drivers to let them cross. Noise levels will be an intrusive 70 decibels.
- A dedicated two-way cycle path alongside the access road is welcome, but cyclists will still be travelling alongside lines of standing polluting traffic.
- No air quality assessments of the impact of the queues on Cinder Street and Park Street on pedestrians and cyclists or of air quality in Leeman Road Tunnel have been provided.
- These queues will have a very negative impact on the reliability of public transport through the site. In-bound buses will have to queue for up to 30 minutes to get into the proposed 500 metre in-bound only bus lane, whilst outward bound buses will be caught up in the congestion.
Solutions we are calling for
- Real-world modelling should be carried out for each year of the development from 2022 onwards, aimed at creating a low carbon development, not just projecting current travel patterns.
- Air quality assessments should be carried out on Park Street and the Lendal Road Tunnel and the whole site declared an ultra low emission zone for all vehicles.
- There should be no route through the development and into the city centre for general traffic. This can be achieved by installing a bus gate at the Leeman Road Tunnel (Marble Arch) which would support unrestricted access for walking, cycling and public transport with the potential for controlled access for other specified vehicles. The bus gate could operate during peak times only, at peak times + other times or 24/7 but it needs to be in place from the first day the road opens.
- The multiple advantages of restricting general traffic through Leeman Road Tunnel with a bus gate are clear – low emissions, improved air quality, improved quality of life on the site and in the new square, vastly improved public transport reliability, increased cycling and walking and the potential for all this to reduce traffic levels on Holgate Road and in surrounding areas through increased numbers of people feeling able to choose to leave their cars at home and use other modes of travel (“modal shift”).
- If a bus gate is installed at Marble Arch, there will be much less need to restrict traffic through Salisbury Terrace. However, if the proposals were to go forward as they are there will be a need for a bus gate at Salisbury Terrace in order to control the negative impact of additional traffic on the area.