Planning for Walkley Primary School needs to make local streets safe

This is a slightly amended version of our response to the planning application to rebuild Walkley Primary School.


CycleSheffield campaigns for a cycle friendly Sheffield where anyone can choose to make their journey by bike. We want cycling to be inclusive and easy, not limited to the quick and the brave.

We object to the application (19/02841/FUL) because of the lack of active transport access which is misrepresented by the travel plan. Relying on the council’s ‘recommended cycle routes’ map, and KSI data, does not show how traffic volumes make local roads unwelcoming or unsafe for children to use, either on foot (especially unaccompanied) or by cycle. 

Access to the site from the west and south is bounded by Walkley Road/Whitehouse Lane. This is a very busy road which is threatening and unsafe to either cycle along or to cross by scooter, cycle or foot. This applies for everyone, but especially children. An informal traffic count on a term time weekday morning shows a peak-hour flow rate of around 560 motor vehicles per hour. This is a vehicle every 6 seconds.

Walkley Road at peak time – is this a safe place for children?

This road is not suitable for cycling due to the level of motor traffic, according to SCC’s transport strategy. It would also fail to meet the status of a Healthy Street by the Sheffield City Region Walking and Cycling Commissioner.

Walkley Road – a hostile environment for people

Cycling

Almost no adults are willing to tolerate cycling when mixed with this amount of motor traffic, and it makes it entirely unsuitable for children.

Since access from much of the catchment area relies on using or crossing this unsuitable road, it is inaccurate to make the claim in the travel plan: “there are opportunities for surrounding residents to travel to the site by bicycle or scooter as a parent/guardian/pupil, or as a teacher/employee.” 

This reality is demonstrated by the tiny proportion of pupils who currently cycle: 0.6%. While adding cycle parking is welcome, there is no evidence that it is the lack of parking which is currently deterring children from cycling.

Walking

Walking access is also possible only under often threatening and unsafe conditions, making unaccompanied travel to school often unviable. Another key road for accessing the site is South Road, which a recent community survey showed 62% of people with children feel is not safe for children walking. 

A solution

Reducing the volume of motor traffic in the catchment area, especially Walkley Road/Whitehouse Lane, needs to be part of the planning for a school at this site. Making these streets feel safe for children is key to increasing walking and cycling rates. It would help to satisfy the requirement described in the travel plan introduction of “ensuring new developments are located in areas where alternative modes of travel are available.” It would also align with the council’s Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy which aims that: “Everyone can safely walk or cycle in their local area regardless of age or ability”

The excessive amount of motor traffic is largely drivers taking short cuts on neighbourhood streets rather than using major roads to access the city centre. This means the solution can be simple. A system of modal filtering, including bus gates where needed, should be included as a condition for approval of this development, or pursued with urgency in its travel plan. This would create a Low Traffic Neighbourhood following Waltham Forest in London, who have filtered traffic out of streets across their area. They have seen dramatic reductions in traffic, increases in walking and cycling, and an increase in life expectancy.

A modal filter in Waltham Forest making streets safe for children to cycle – photo Roz Collier

By deterring driving this approach will also contribute to reducing CO2 emissions, needed as part of SCC’s carbon budget plans to reduce CO2 by at least 14% each year between now and 2030.

Parking

On-site car parking should not be increased, as this will continue to encourage car use. Intentions in the travel plan to reduce car use (even by only 6%!) at the site are contradicted by the expansion of on-site car parking by 28% from 18 to 23 spaces.

If the carbon budget is to be met only minimal car use will continue in the medium to long term. Therefore parking capacity should not be invested in which cannot be used. 

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