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  • Writer's picturePhil North

Smannell Road Pathway Update

Apologies for this rather long update but it is important I set it in context.

To remind you of the history:

- As long ago as 2014, a County Council officer (who has now left the organisation) gave a presentation at Smannell Parish Council stating that there were ‘developer contributions’ funding for an informal pathway on the Smannell Road.

- It was suggested that the project would provide a section of pathway to navigate the sharp bend from the Augusta Park end and a similar section of pathway from Smannell village with some road walking in between (on the straight section of road).

- The Parish Council were concerned that this would urbanise the village but Augusta Park residents at the original meeting were wholeheartedly in favour.

- Following commitments that there would be no street lighting – and on the proviso that the path was gravel – conversations were undertaken with the Parish Council to progress the scheme.

- Delays then ensued whilst the County Council undertook some investigatory work.

- The County Council then said that the project couldn’t go ahead as planned because 1) They wouldn’t approve a scheme in which a pathway then led people out into the road. 2) They wouldn’t countenance gravel because of ongoing maintenance costs.

- The County Council then confirmed that the project was in jeopardy due the cost of providing a solution that was  acceptable to them.  They suggested we would get a different project for Smannell.

- Both County Councillor North and I set up a petition to demonstrate the strength of feeling in the community that the pathway should go ahead.

- The pathway proposal was then put back on the table with a commitment from TVBC and HCC to come up with a scheme that ran the whole length of the Smannell road and fund it with help from developer contributions and an allocation of funds from the Borough Council to make up the difference

- This wasn’t universally accepted in Smannell who raised understandable objections about the urbanisation of their village and that the pathway would no longer be gravel.

- We then undertook a formal public consultation last summer to gauge the views of Augusta Park residents and understand the true feelings of the residents of Smannell.

The outcome of the consultation was as follows:

99% of Augusta Park residents backed the pathway (256 in favour and 5 against).

81% of Smannell residents voted against the pathway (70 against and 16 in favour).

Following the consultation, Hampshire County Council then carried out an aboricultural assessment. They advised that as the footway is within the root protection zone of the adjacent trees that a no dig construction would be needed. This effectively meant constructing the footway on top of the ground where there are tree roots. While this is possible at some locations, it is not possible in all, so the pathway, as planned, could not go ahead - and still fit within County Council policy.

Since then I have been following up with Hampshire County Council officers to understand if we could deliver another scheme along the whole road. This included:

-  A zoned area for walking on the carriageway – effectively reducing the size of the existing carriageway, whilst naturally slowing traffic.

- Reducing the speed limit of the road to 30 or 40 mph along the whole stretch of the road making it safer for walking.

Unfortunately, and after some considerable pressure from myself and senior officers at TVBC, Hampshire County Council Highways have refused these measures.

Instead, they have suggested the following:

- To provide a village gateway feature to slow traffic speeds.

- Improve signage to local right of way routes.

- Investigate opportunities for additional rights of way.

- Construct a short section of footway from Smannell House to connect to the existing right of way in the village.

It is my view that although helpful, these alternative measures do not compare with the advantages of having a pathway adjacent to the road. However, it may now be possible that we can link both communities by a series of more formalised footpaths away from the road. We need to do this whilst doing what we can to reduce traffic speeds on the Smannell Road.

I, therefore, propose we get a small group of Augusta Park residents together, facilitated by the Community Association to meet with me, my highways officers and the Parish Council to discuss the way ahead.

This has been an incredibly frustrating saga but if at the end of this, we can come back with a scheme that BOTH communities can support then it will have been worth the effort.

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