11 Emson Close | Saffron Walden | Essex | CB10 1HL
10.1.1 The NPPF requires development plan makers to consider transport infrastructure:
NPPF Paragraph 102. “Transport issues should be considered from the earliest stages of plan-making and development proposals, so that:
a) the potential impacts of development on transport networks can be addressed;
b) opportunities from existing or proposed transport infrastructure, and changing transport technology and usage, are realised – for example in relation to the scale, location or density of development that can be accommodated;
c) opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport use are identified and pursued;
d) the environmental impacts of traffic and transport infrastructure can be identified, assessed and taken into account – including appropriate opportunities for avoiding and mitigating any adverse effects, and for net environmental gains; and
e) patterns of movement, streets, parking and other transport considerations are integral to the design of schemes, and contribute to making high quality places.”
NPPF Paragraph 103: “The planning system should actively manage patterns of growth in support of these objectives. Significant development should be focused on locations which are or can be made sustainable, through limiting the need to travel and offering a genuine choice of transport modes. This can help to reduce congestion and emissions, and improve air quality and public health. However, opportunities to maximise sustainable transport solutions will vary between urban and rural areas, and this should be taken into account in both plan-making and decision-making.”
10.1.2 Traffic congestion in Saffron Walden is of great concern, particularly in relation to transport in the east of the town, as businesses find it less appealing to use sites in the east because access is difficult. Employment sites in the east of the town are important for the economy and surrounding congestion must not become a factor which causes their loss.
10.1.3 The high level of congestion has meant that the key junctions in the centre of the town operate over capacity and as a result much of Saffron Walden is designated as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) . The District Council has a statutory obligation to monitor the air quality, to seek ways to improve the air quality, and to report to DEFRA on progress.
 Appendix 2 provides further information on the AQMA.
Map showing the AQMA, which corresponds with the busiest streets for traffic as illustrated above.
10.1.4 In practice, the ambitions of planners to plan positively to reduce traffic congestion and to improve air quality in Saffron Walden are limited by the following cascade of constraints:
10.1.5 The images below illustrate these constraints:
Map highlighting the main through roads through the town (the High Street) and the small side streets by which vehicles of all sizes access the east of the town. Note that the grey shaded areas show sites either developed but not mapped, or with consented development not yet built. The numbers 1-4 reference the streets through which most traffic travelling to or from key destinations must pass.
Photographs of the roads marked 1-4 on previous map.
1. Castle St – has parking on the right and single file / one-way traffic on the left with narrow pavements
2. Church St/High St – is single lane but widens to two lanes at the junction. However, the junction is narrow so it is difficult for two larger sized cars (or a car plus a van) to exit at the end simultaneously. The pavements are narrow.
3. George St/High St has space for single file / one-way traffic and very narrow pavements. Whilst the space accommodates cars, lorries must cross the kerb and they regularly strike the buildings either side of the junction as they turn.
4. Audley Road is single lane and one way but widens to two lanes at the end
Map showing the location of the listed buildings, which are predominantly in the busiest streets for traffic.
OS PSMA LICENSE NUMBER: 0100057521
10.1.6 The ECC Saffron Walden Traffic Study Update of May 2017 shows that committed development and allocated sites will leave the core junctions in Saffron Walden over capacity by 2031. The conclusion of the update states: “Following a very simplistic assessment of further major infrastructure and development it is also concluded that, should any further development sites be promoted to the south and east of the town more sophisticated traffic modelling would be required in order to identify the traffic impacts and infrastructure required to mitigate those impacts. This could form part of a Local Plan review of the town, at which time modal shift opportunities would be explored.”. Rather than waiting for a Local Plan review to explore ways of encouraging people to walk or cycle rather than drive, the SWNP makes its own proposals.
10.1.7 The various transport assessments carried out by Essex Highways conclude that encouraging more people to walk or cycle as often as possible for journeys made within the town would be the only way to improve air quality and congestion. The 2013 Impact Assessment says: “In addition to the identified mitigation measures, it is recommended that demand management methods are investigated in order to reduce overall traffic flows in the town. Activities such as travel planning […] would help to improve awareness of alternative travel modes and encourage a shift towards non-car modes of travel and reduce traffic congestion in town”. This is a logical conclusion which would apply to any market town.
10.1.8 As required by DEFRA, the district council has in place an Air Quality Action Plan 2017-2022 (AQAP), with seven measures identified as key to success.
10.1.9 Of the seven measures, three involve encouraging public and private fleet operators to switch to low emission technology. Naturally the SWNP is supportive of these.
10.1.10 One of the measures involves improvements around infrastructure for vehicles:
The SWNP is supportive of this, provided that the improvement to junction capacity does not have unintended consequences, for example:
10.1.11 The remaining three measures involve aspirations around sustainable transport. They are:
The SWNP fully supports these aspirations and makes proposals in practical detail which can convert them from aspiration to reality.
10.1.12 The detailed actions of the SWNP on transport are:
IMPROVING SAFETY FOR PEDESTRIANS AND CYCLISTS
1. To campaign for improved pavements and crossings;
2. To campaign for cycling infrastructure;
3. To campaign for all streets to have 20mph speed limits; and
4. To campaign for time limiting restrictions on movements of HGVs through the town.
As a measurable goal, the town should be safe enough for most children in Year 6 (the final year of primary school) and above to walk to school independently. This will reduce the number of cars doing the school run which will significantly cut congestion and pollution in the town. Anything that improves safety for children should improve safety for all.
IMPROVING PROVISION OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT
5. To campaign for improved local and national public transport connections; and
6. To insist on developments (past and present) making best use of contributions towards public transport provision
As a measurable goal, public transport should be better timetabled, more frequent, run later in the evenings and operate seven days a week.
RESTRICTIONS THROUGH THE PLANNING PROCESS
7. To resist further significant development in the east of the town; and
8. To restrict the movement of HGVs through both the historic core and residential outer areas of the town
As a measurable goal, traffic and air quality will not be worse at the end of the SWNP period than at the start, and ideally will be better.
10.1.13 Other aspects of the SWNP also aim to address traffic congestion and associated pollution issues including:
Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.
Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.
Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.
Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.
Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.