Mampitts Lane ‘Bus Gate’ Divides Councillor Opinion

Pound Lane residents have told Shaftesbury Town Council why they want the controversial Mampitts Lane bus gate installed. They shared their safety concerns at Tuesday’s Planning and Highways Meeting, but not all councillors back blocking this route to through traffic.

Alfred was at the meeting.

“We have in the past supported a bus gate or some kind of traffic measure at the end of Pound Lane. I think that still does need to go ahead,” said Cllr Tim Cook, although Shaftesbury’s Mayor added that he understood and appreciated the position of bus gate opponents, such as Cllr Peter Yeo.

“You are cutting off the whole eastern development from a quick and direct route into Shaftesbury, punishing them to go a hell of a long way around. It will take extra time and cause extra pollution,” Cllr Yeo said.

The bus gate is a roadblock that still allows emergency vehicle access. It was developed on an Ipswich estate, where a low island was formed in the middle of a narrowed road. Buses, ambulances and fire engines can drive over the raised area but most cars that attempt to get through are grounded.

The junction of Mampitts Lane and Pound Lane.

The former Dorset County Council suggested a similar structure on Mampitts Lane, to reduce traffic cutting through from the new estate to Christy’s Lane via Pound Lane. Dorset Council has since amended plans because it’s unclear who would be responsible for removing stranded cars.

“There will be no physical barrier. There will be ‘no left turn’ signs at the end of Pound Lane. Measures will be put in place to monitor anybody going through, possibly ANPR (number plate recognition) cameras. People who ignore that mandatory road traffic sign would be identified, and proceedings could be taken against them, probably a fine or points on their licence,” said Cllr Cook.

Cllr Yeo thinks drivers will just ignore signs and cameras. “I’m totally against that. You’ll be fining and punishing people for using some common sense, using the quickest and most direct route into town.”

Pound Lane locals say they have had enough. “The amount of traffic is absolutely terrible,” resident Bill Chapman told councillors. “The main times are 8am to 10am, then in the evening from 3pm to 6pm. Everybody is using it as a rat run to get through and it is unsafe for anybody,” he said.

Bill told councillors that there had been six car accidents over the last three years. “A child was upset in one accident. My wife had to take him out of the car and console him.” Bill’s wife was also badly shaken-up when a speeding motorist narrowly missed her. “She was kneeling on the pavement looking at the garden. All of a sudden, this car just whizzed past. How he missed her feet I don’t know. He was overtaking on the pavement,” he said. Bill has informed the police about the incidents verbally.

Another Pound Lane local, Louise, gave her full name in the meeting but requested anonymity in her Alfred interview. She has received abuse when monitoring speeds on Pound Lane as part of a community speed watch. “Walking down to this meeting tonight, at 6.50pm, they must have been doing 50mph,” Louise said.

Although Bill described peak-time traffic, Louise said that night-time speeding is ruining her life. “I’ve taken to wearing earplugs, I had to remove myself from my own bedroom and sleep at the back because I wasn’t sleeping at all. I’ve slept with my windows open in that house for thirty years. You can hear them roaring up the road, going up Christy’s Lane and up the A350 bypass towards Warminster,” she said.

Bill and Louise back the bus gate, but Cllr Yeo was heckled by the public in the meeting when he voiced his opposition to the installation. “Most people who live on the new development side do not think having a bus gate that stops cars is a good idea. To get from where I live, near the Spar Shop, will be five times the distance to the Tesco roundabout. In the morning, when one’s trying to go to work in the Warminster direction, it’s going to add five minutes, two traffic lights, one roundabout and a considerable distance,” said Peter.

“We are not talking about a detour around Gillingham. We are talking about a route that is actually within walking distance,” Louise replied. “Last week, I went to visit a friend who lives in Allen Road,” she continued. “I drove back the way these rat-runners come. It was like driving through a chicane of parked cars on either side of the road. I cannot imagine why they find it quicker. I understand why, on the corner before my house, they put their foot down, because it’s the first free bit of road where there aren’t parked cars. They are not parked there because my neighbour had his car hit and now parks elsewhere, rather than outside his own house.”

Peter opposes the bus gate because he believes that plans to link Allen Road, the main route through the new estate, with Wincombe Lane have been dropped. He doubts whether this additional route to town will be created. “The idea was that other roads were going to be joined up to the new development. However, that’s not happening,” Peter says.

Some residents of The Maltings claim to have been unaware of the bus gate and feel that they will be cut off from town. “It will have been on their plans. We were all aware of it. If they didn’t like it, then they shouldn’t have bought there,” said Louise.

The Mayor says that bus gate plans were made public. “I would hope that all the newer residents from the opposite side of that bus gate would have been made aware of the proposals when they came to buy a house,” said Cllr Cook.

He believes that the revised bus gate does need installing. “We owe it to the residents of the western side of that barrier to put measures in to calm traffic, so people don’t end up using a rat run along what had been a quiet residential street. The safety issue is paramount,” he said.

Tim understand that ‘the ball is in Persimmon’s court’ and that the estate developer is expected to offer Dorset Highways different proposals to achieve the bus gate. “We need to keep an eye on the process and if companies are seen to be dragging their heels, we need to make sure that these measures are put in front of us. I wouldn’t like to say that any company is acting more slowly than they could but I’m sure that they could act a little bit more quickly than they are,” said Tim.

He believes that Persimmon would build the agreed barrier. “As I understand it, they are responsible for putting something in there,” said Tim. But any proposals will require consultation, as legal traffic orders need to be applied to change the road layout. And while Cllr Yeo opposes the bus gate, he does prefer an estate-wide solution. “I don’t think the bus gate is going to solve the real problem, which is people who live on both sides of the proposed bus gate location speeding. We need the planning people to do something serious about traffic calming measures with speed bumps and chicanes throughout the new development and on the Pound Lane side to slow down traffic.”