Resident Asks Councillors To Hold Public Meeting On Bus Gate

Proposals to block Mampitts Lane to through traffic continue to polarise opinion. Shaftesbury Town Council has been asked for a public meeting with one resident claiming that the restriction would be environmentally unsound and would make the east of town ‘a ghetto’.

Tony Reeve addressed the Town Council on Tuesday evening. Alfred’s Keri Jones met with him on Mampitts Lane on Thursday morning, at the site of the proposed traffic restriction.

Tony, dislikes the term ‘bus gate’. “I see this as a car barricade to prevent vehicular use, rather than to allow public transport access,” he said, as we surveyed the single lane portion of Mampitts Lane where it might be placed.

Originally, a physical barrier to traffic was proposed here. The surface of the centre of the lane would have been raised. Any car that tried to cut through illegally would risk becoming grounded. A larger emergency vehicle or a bus would be able to pass through. Those proposals have since been amended to little more than signage prohibiting access to cars. That’s because Dorset Council was concerned about their liability for retrieving unauthorised vehicles that became stuck.

Some Pound Lane residents back a through-traffic restriction, believing that it will stop speeding drivers taking the shortcut to Christy’s Lane. Alfred interviewed Bill Chapman and Louise (who didn’t want her last name used) in August after they addressed the Town Council. You can read or report here.

Tony Reeve at the site of the proposed bus gate.

On Tuesday, Tony argued the case on behalf of residents who oppose the proposed restriction. He told the meeting that the journey from Spar to the Tesco Roundabout using Pound Lane is 482 metres. If Mampitts Lane is closed to cars the journey along Allen Road would be 1,600 metres. Tony believes that the restriction would result in significant extra mileage each year because people would have to drive further to reach Christy’s Lane. “One car journey towards the Tesco roundabout per day from 500, rather than the full 700 (estate) households, would add up to a staggering total of 401,500 extra kilometres (annually). I can’t judge myself what effect that would have on Shaftesbury’s carbon footprint, but I would suggest that it is huge,” said Tony. That distance is greater than to reach the moon.

Tony suggests that the proposed restriction is flawed because the decision to block Mampitts Lane was made when an additional estate entrance was planned. “When the estate was designed, it was scheduled to have two access points, a northern one at the top of Maple Road and a southern one onto the A30 at Allen Road. The northern access point is in abeyance because Persimmon, or whoever, couldn’t get permission to carry the road through towards Wincombe Lane. Therefore the installation of a car barricade would reduce the vehicle access to this 700 household estate to one access point at the far end, which is totally inadequate,” he explained.

Tony believes that the barrier would isolate residents of The Maltings from the rest of town. “I don’t like to use emotive language but serious concern should be given to the fact that restricting access to this very large estate to one single access point is ostracising the eastern community from the rest of Shaftesbury and, in the terms of most accepted use, is creating a ghetto.”

Tony is also concerned that not all residents know of the ‘bus gate’ plans. “This is a very new estate. The majority of people are young, hard-working families. I think that their level of awareness, and this is purely gained from my chatting to people, is extremely low,” he said.

Shaftesbury Mayor, Tim Cook, chaired Tuesday’s Council meeting which Tony addressed. Tim says that homeowners should have been aware of the bus gate. “There should be no reason why anybody who has bought a house in that side of the new development within the last two years should be unaware of any proposals. Any information that has not been passed to new house buyers is the responsibility of the solicitors of those people. Residents need to go back to their solicitors and ask, ‘why haven’t we been told this information?’” said Tim.

Mayor Tim Cook

Tony, who moved to Imber Road 18 months ago, says it’s not that straightforward. “I would suggest Cllr Cook hasn’t purchased a house in a very long time. When you do so there is a plethora of paperwork. Tucked away in it I did find a reference to initial access from Mampitts Lane. On one of the searches, the little car barricade proposal was highlighted. There were no warnings,” he said.

Mr Reeve is aware of Pound Lane residents’ concerns over speeding and traffic volumes but he believes the bus gate would just move the issue elsewhere. “Pound Lane is a wide and well-used urban thoroughfare. If the barricade was installed, the traffic that formerly used Pound Lane would be diverted onto the only remaining access point of Allen Road,” said Tony. “It would necessitate a heavier burden of traffic in Allen Road than is currently experienced in Pound Lane. I would like to know from the Mayor and the Council, what is the difference between Pound Lane and Allen Road?”

On Tuesday, Tony asked the Full Council meeting for a public debate on the bus gate. “Unfortunately, Cllr Cook declined and said that he thought that it should be left to elected representatives,” said Tony.

Cllr Cook explained his position to after the meeting. “We didn’t resolve to call a public meeting. I would suggest that that would be just as divisive. The issue does hinge on the fact that a decision has been taken a while ago by North Dorset Council, as it was then, to install this bus gate. The only reason that we haven’t got it in place is that the plans for the original infrastructure were found to be unworkable by Dorset Council. As we currently stand, Persimmon are in the process of drawing up a new proposal. The original decision to put some kind of barrier or structure there to stop cars going through still stands,” said Tim.

“I appreciate the feelings on both sides,” the Mayor continued. “I would suggest that a public meeting would be going back on decisions that have already been taken. What we need to do is speed up the progress of some kind of infrastructure being put in, and then look at those plans and see whether it serves the whole of the community of Shaftesbury,” said Tim.

Nevertheless, most people living in the area who are interested in the bus gate have a view on the issue. I asked Tim to make his position clear. “If pushed, I would say I am on the side of the fact that a decision has been taken. As Shaftesbury Town Council we do not have any decision-making powers as to whether that restriction occurs or not. Unless it specifically is sent to us by Dorset Council for consultation, we have no powers to make a decision, because a decision has already been taken.”

I asked Cllr Cook whether he felt that residents were expecting the Town Council to do something and take a lead on the bus gate issue. Members of the public have been attending council meetings to passionately share their concerns, whichever side of the argument they represent. “We’re all human beings. We can’t always satisfy everybody. That’s the dilemma and I don’t think any organisation can take a view that one group has more right to their opinion being heard than another,” Tim said.

Tony was hoping for a more decisive response. “You can’t run a council or any other organisation like that. In every debate there are going to be pros and cons on both sides. It’s the job of our elected representative to weigh those pros and cons and make a decision. That’s what they’re there for,” said Tony.

But Tim said he will investigate whether the decision to restrict access to The Maltings along Mampitts Lane with a bus gate was made on the understanding that there would be another estate entrance. “I would have to check whether the northern exit to the estate was used as part of that decision-making process. Once we can establish that, we can then see whether there are grounds to revisit the whole scheme,” he said.

As we stood chatting alongside the narrowed part of Mampitts Lane, some cars drove past at greater speed than you might expect for a residential street. Tony accepts that there is an issue both here and on Pound Lane. “Both I, and Cllr Yeo, would really press for speed limiting to twenty miles an hour and the installation of traffic calming measures, presumably speed cushions.”

Tony says his next step is to make sure residents are aware of what is being planned. “We need to raise awareness amongst residents on the estate. And if the Council aren’t prepared to take responsibility, then I think we should go to the MP,” said Tony. He has already contacted Simon Hoare some months ago and says he will write to the North Dorset MP again. “Now that I know that there’s not likely to be a way forward with regards to a public meeting then I think we must involve our MP,” he said.