The Clock Roundabout and the A1(M) experiment – gridlock

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) continues to take the lead in trying to bring the authorities’ attention to the shambles they have created on the Clock roundabout. The DRA has been demanding action since August 2015.

The Welwyn Hatfeld Times, almost one year ago, quoted County Councillor Richard Smith and reported that the traffic light control that the DRA had called for, was at long last going to be installed.

But nothing happened, and following surveys of traffic flow and possible ANPR sites in the summer of 2016, (see The Clock Traffic Light Survey of July 2016) the DRA has been told that even more survey work would be needed before the scheme could proceed.

What scheme?

A recent exchange of emails between the DRA and County Councillor Richard Smith has revealed that, following the appointment of a new Development Manager by Hertfordshire County Council, the plan now is to upgrade the A1(M) between Junction 6 (Welwyn) and Junction 8 (Hitchin) to “Smart Motorway” status and to widen the carriageway from 2 to 3 lanes by using the hard shoulder.

Worse – the design phase of the scheme to upgrade the A1(M) is said to be ‘on schedule’, but work on the ground will not begin until 2019/20 for completion in 2021/22.

Has that news got anything to do with easing local Welwyn traffic problems with an interim measure to install a single ‘temporary’ traffic light?

Hardly.

It would therefore appear that Highways England’s highest priority is to keep the traffic flowing on the motorway and they are not in the least concerned about Welwyn village.

With no prospect of traffic light control at the roundabout, the DRA has decided to ask for  hatched ‘keep clear’ areas to be painted on the roundabout between the north end of the Welwyn bypass and the entry to the northbound A1(M) slip road. That should be a quick and relatively cheap project that should not distract the A1(M) planners too much from higher matters? If at least some drivers respect the hatched area, as some indeed do, then perhaps this will help to avoid the grid-lock which is occurring too frequently at both ends of the working day.

The DRA is pressing hard for a meeting of Senior Officers from both the Borough Council and the County Council, to meet DRA representatives at the roundabout during typical morning and evening rush hour periods to assess the problems at first hand.

But what should be done with drivers who exit the roundabout without signalling, and in so doing deny other car users the opportunity to make use of the gap that should have been created?

 

 

Sherrardspark Wood Warden Society – 50th Anniversary Year 2016

Who we are.

Sherrardspark Wood sits within the green belt that separates Welwyn Garden City and Welwyn village, to the West.

Sherrardspark Wood Wardens’ Society is an independent voluntary group helping to care for the woods in accordance with the management plan of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC), which has been agreed with Natural England and the Forestry Commission with a view to keeping this Site of Special Scientific Interest in favourable condition.

Volunteer Work Parties – Home and Away

Work parties take place on both Thursday and SSPWWW Group Six Ways Dec 2010 web_1unday and more than 20 members regularly attend. The Society puts much time and effort into the work it undertakes not only in Sherrardspark Wood but also when helping volunteers at other sites in the district.

A group of Wood Wardens regulary attends the work parties organised on the third Thursday each month by the Friends of Danesbury Local Nature Reserve in Welwyn, where they are currently much involved in the work on the Danesbury Park Fernery Restoration Project. The Wood Wardens also provide regular support to the Friends of Mardley Heath who meet on the third Sunday every month..

Celebrations

The year 2006 saw the Wood Wardens 40th year anniversary. This was celebrated with an excellent picnic in Sherrardspark Wood and a Wood Wardens’ commemorative bench was erected at Six Ways, a meeting of 6 paths within the wood.

The wood wardens enjoy the social camaraderie that has been generated within its membership, and in 2011 a Wood Wardens’ Walking Group was formed which offers a monthly walk rounded off by a pub lunch.

2016 will be the Wood Wardens 50th anniversary and a busy Programme has been arranged.

Calendar of Events

The 2016 Programme can be found on the WPAG Events Calendar. But for full details of the Wood Wardens Society and all their many activities, go to the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens website.

 

The Clock Roundabout – Traffic Light Survey

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) has been at the forefront trying to resolve concerns about traffic congestion issues, and specifically grid-locking which was predicted would, and has arisen, as a result of two main events:

  1. The A1(M) EXIT 6 (N) slip road changes which encouraqes traffic to make a rat-run from the A1(M) Exit slip road, along the Welwyn  By-pass and back on to the 20160222_160825Motorway at the A1(M) entry slip by the Clock,
  2. The opening of the new Clock Gardens development of 50 apartments with the potential for residents’ cars to access and egress directly onto the roundabout at rush hour in the morning and evenings

The DRA have been actively pressing for a single traffic light to be installed on the south side of the roundabout, to break up the traffic flow, which would discourage the A1(M) rat-runners and allow local traffic access to the roundabout from all directions. (For the background story – see The Clock – the seconds are ticking away)

In their quest for ‘ANSWERS’ and ”ACTION’ County Councillor Richard Smith has been actively supporting the DRA. But, until recently, the DRA has been advised that there was no way that Highways England would consider placing traffic lights at the Clock. But, it seems that things might be changing!

Recently we have noticed that County Highways have been installing temporary ANPR cameras at various points on the A1(M) Exit 6 entry and exit points, and also attached to posts on all sides of the Clock Roundabout. The use of ANPR cameras enables a subsequent analysis to match rat-running vehicles as they enter and leave the system – and thereby produce the evidence we all seek.

So, what is actually happening?

County Councillor Richard Smith has come to our rescue once again, and he extracted the following note from somebody who, by the length of his Job Title, must surely know what is going on – and judging by his response to  Richard Smith – he does!

The following extract is from a helpful email dated 6th July 2016 from County Highways Group Manager Sanjay Patel. to County Cllr. Richard Smith, and relates to ‘a Survey being carried out ‘next week’... Unfortunately we have been unable to include the ‘attached plan‘ referred to, but the explanations are nevertheless very helpful.

Re: Traffic lights/ANPR Camera Survey by J6 A1

The attached plan indicates the locations of the where the surveys will be carried out and this will provide the following information that we will use for the signals design:

*       2 day Manual classified turning counts at all 3 junctions (the Clock, A1m SB off slip / A100 junction and the A1m NB off slip / B197 junction) as shown in yellow on the attached plan.
*       2 day Queue lengths at all 3 junctions
*       2 day ANPR surveys at the locations shown as open red circles on the attached plan
*       7 day ATC or video based MCC counts at the ANPR locations.

Sanjay Patel
Group Manager – Highways Operations & Strategies Intelligent Transport Systems & Development Management & Standards
Hertfordshire County Council

 

We have all seen the orange boxes and the temporary cameras and other equipment at all sides of the roundabout, and observant residents have noticed that a visual survey of traffic entering and leaving Clock Gardens and the roundabout, has indeed started. So we know that, at last, somebody has listened to us all, and at last it appears that something is happening.

But, don’t hold your breath, this is only a Survey. As soon as we hear of further actions, we will try to keep you informed.

 

The Answer Lies in the Soil – Geology Expert comes to Welwyn

Welwyn Natural History Society and the Hertfordshire Natural History Society

Joint Annual Invited Lecture

Dr Haydon Bailey will be speaking at this year’s Annual Invited Lecture at the Civic Centre on Wednesday 25th November at 8 p.m in place of Professor John Catt, who is unfortunately unwell.

The original talk subject ‘Aspects of Hertfordshire Geology & Landscape‘, has now been sub-titled ‘Living in Hertfordshire – for the last 100 million years‘.

Dr Bailey is founder and director of Network Stratigraphic Consulting Ltd, in Potters Bar, and is a micropalaentologist specialising in the cretaceous period, and chalk field studies for the oil and related industries in the UK, Europe, and North Africa.

Dr Bailey co-authored ‘Hertfordshire Geology and landscape’ with Professor John Catt, which was published in 2010 to national acclaim. He contributed the chapters on ‘The Upper Cretaceous period’ and ‘Mineral Resources and Building Stones’.

This book is intended to explain the geology of the county to natural historians and others working in the county, who have little knowledge of geology. In the book, Prof. John Catt describes Hertfordshire, ‘in many respects an undistinguished county’, but one that has amazingly interesting geology.

For more information about the Invited Talk go to the Hertfordshire Natural History website .

The Dr Haydon Bailey talk will be held in the Civic Centre Large Hall at 8 p.m. on Wednesday 25th November.

Everyone welcome – entrance £3 – pay at the door, includes a glass of wine or soft drink.

The Clock – the seconds are ticking away.

(For the background to the following critique, see the earlier post A1(M) Improvement).

Those who live in and around Welwyn, and those who regularly pass through Welwyn via the Welwyn By-pass or the B656 Link Road, await anxiously for the builders dust to settle; for the landscaping to finish;2015-09-06 13.07.44-1 and then nervously for the Clock to strike ‘Won’.

But who will be the winners?

We are glad that the eye-sore of the burned-out, derelict, former Hotel site has been cleared, and we are glad that more housing will be made available, and we will welcome the new residents into the Welwyn Community.

But we do not have to be glad about the existing rush-hour traffic chaos on the Clock Roundabout, that can only get worse, nor should we be glad that local residents will feel the effect of over-flow car parking that will inevitably follow once the new flats are completed and occupied.

Borough Councillors have expressed their concerns, and there have been suggestions, including creation of a box to prevent grid-locking on the roundabout, and at the entrance to The Clock too. But we have no news of progress on that front.

And the Danesbury Residents Association’s proposal to place a single traffic-light control on the southern entry to the roundabout as a simple, and relatively cheap solution to reduce the build-up of long queues on both the B656 and the B197, received discouraging sounds from County Highways. “We don’t plan to do that sort of thing”…

Perhaps we are jumping the gun?

Perhaps The Clock will stop?

Unlikely, to say the least.

CPRE – ‘Our Green Belt’ Campaign

WPAG are subscribers to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). You can go to their Hertfordshire branch website for local news and information, or otherwise go to the National website. But since the summer issue of the national ‘Fieldwork Newsletter‘ was published, details of a new CPRE ‘Our Green Belt’ campaign have just been launched.

CPRE are marking the 60th Anniversary of the launch of official government Green Belt policy to protect the countryside by preventing urban sprawl. While CPRE’s recent poll showed there is still widespread public support for the Green Belt, it also highlighted that more needs to be done to continue to spread the word about its benefits.

The CPRE therefore wrote a letter to The Times recently, supported by famous luminaries, which called on the Government to strengthen the protection of the Green Belt, and to highlight its importance.

The CPRE has also launched the ‘Our Green Belt’ campaign, and is calling on the public to share Green Belt stories and case studies with the CPRE.

If you support the CPRE as a tool for good planning and share your support for the Green Belt, you are asked to go to the appropriate place on their website to submit your story.

 

Panshanger Park – Newsletter No.5 August 2015

The latest Newsletter from the Friends of Panshanger Park is now freely available online to members and friends. To subscribe, go to the Panshanger Park website.

The latest Newsletter details the many activities that can be enjoyed, including:

  • Heritage Walks – last Sunday each month
  • Panshanger Park Runs –  between 250-300 runners regularly
  • Work Parties – see the website for details
  • Photography Competitiion – entries needed by 30th September 2015

The Newsletter also details current Planning Applications which are causing concern to The Friends.

If you want to learn about the background to the creation of this fine Country Park, right on our doorstep, then the Panshanger Park website provides masses of information about the history of the S52 Legal Agreement to deliver a Country Park at Panshanger for the people of Hertfordshire, which dates back to May 1980, when following a Public Inquiry, the Secretary of State for Environment granted planning permission for mineral extraction at Panshanger Park, in return for the delivery of a Country Park across the 1000 acre estate.

The A1(M) Junction 6 – Improvement or otherwise?

The Improvement.

Late in 2014 the Highways Agency (now called Highways England) announced that as part of its ‘Pinch Point Programme’, it would be ‘improving’ the northbound carriageway and slip roads at Junction 6 in order to ‘improve’ traffic flow between Junctions 6 and 7. This stretch of motorway carries 39,000 vehicles per day, and the ‘pinch’ is caused where the road going North at Junction 6 reduces from three lanes to two.

The Improvement work was completed in two phases at a cost of around £2.2million. and overhead gantries have now been installed. The Motorway layout has indeed been ‘changed’:-

a) to provide a ‘lane drop’ at Junction 6, leaving just two running lanes continuing to Junction 7, and

b) to lengthen and ‘amend’ the layout of the Junction 6 ‘on-slip’ at The Clock, with the purpose of reducing the traffic feed entering the A1(M) to a single lane, so as to ease the merging of traffic on the main carriageway further along.

The Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) view.

The Spring/Summer 2015 Edition of the WHBC Newsletter ‘On The Move’, (which regularly documents progress on projects/actions), reported that ‘Early indications are that the scheme has not lived up to expectations. Queues are longer, and anecdotally there appears to be more rat-running along the A1000.  Highways England is currently evaluating the situation and considering further measures to improve performance of this congested junction’. 

The Welwyn village view.

As reported above, evidence is mounting that the changes to the Motorway have made what was a serious local traffic issue, infinitely worse:-

a) the lane-drop has provided north-bound rat-running traffic with a one mile clearway to Junction 6, and

b)  the narrower ‘on-slip’ road at The Clock, regardless of its new length, causes rat-running traffic to back up to the already congested Clock roundabout, regularly causing a gridlock at rush hour.

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) solution.

The DRA has been voluble over many months, and active in raising concerns to local Borough Councillors, and to local resident County Cllr. Richard Smith.

The DRA Chairman Peter Branchflower, has put forward a remedial short-term solution. The suggestion is to install a single traffic light control at the southern entry point to the Clock Roundabout. This would regulate (i.e. halt/discourage) Motorway rat-running traffic, with the important side benefit of making it easier, and safer for local traffic to enter the roundabout at all times from the B656 Link Road (Codicote Road), and the B197 Great North Road (Oaklands/Woolmer Green/Knebworth).

The DRA suggestion has the active support of County Councillor Richard Smith, and the support of the local Borough Councillors too. County Cllr. Richard Smith raised concerns on 28th June with the County Executive Member for Highways and warned of worsening problems as The Clock development nears completion and current congestion problems worsen. (The Clock will soon open its 50 doors to new residents, with a projected 50-100 extra car movements directly onto the Roundabout).

The Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (HACC).

One of the local Borough Councillors, Cllr Mandy Perkins, sits on the Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (To learn of the purpose and membership structure of HACC please go to the Hertfordshire A1 Consortium.)

One of the HACC’s aims (apart from the Junctions 6 – 7 Improvement Scheme itself) is to deliver a strategy for the A1 corridor which will be available late Autumn 2015. It will be a fairly high-level document that will highlight problem areas and suggest interventions at junctions along the A1 and the adjacent local road network.

But this is clearly long term planning that will not help anybody in the short term, and in the short term, things do not look good.

Nevertheless, through the HACC there is an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on Highways England (HE) to bring about further works to improve the operation of their scheme. And indeed, at the 6th July 2015 meeting, local Consortium representatives vigorously urged Highways England to re-think on the current local rush-hour problems caused at The Clock Roundabout.

Where do we go from here?

On 7th August 2015, the DRA were advised by County Highways, (Andrew Morris – Highways Major Project Group) that ‘signalising the Clock Roundabout is not a proposal being considered in detail as part of the A1 Strategy. Even if the Strategy were to recommend this type of scheme, there would still be a need for further analysis, design development and funding obtained. To my knowledge HCC does not have any current proposals for signalising that junction’.

And then on 26th August 2015, County Cllr. Richard Smith again discussed these matters  with the County Executive Member for Highways and pressed for short term measures to reduce the daily congestion.

For the moment, we must remain hopeful that somebody in authority has the capacity to apply ‘The Churchill Factor’ and “Action This Day”.

Walking the dog in and around Welwyn

Dog owners are very lucky to be living in this area, as there are so many different places where you can take your beloved pet for a walk. We all know how dog walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. So lets take a look at some of the best amenity places around Welwyn where you can walk your dog, or dogs, and get the most out of this exercise.

Mardley Heath

Located in the Oaklands area, Mardley Heath is a Local Nature Reserve with some very interesting walks, some in wooded areas and some open space areas where your dog can run around free. Mardley Heath is owned by the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and is managed by the council and Friends of Mardley Heath. There is a car park on Heath Road, which serves Mardley Heath very well. Mardley Heath can be accessed in numerous places including Hangmans Lane, Heath Road, Canonsfield Road, Dolesbury Drive, and others.

Danesbury Park

This is a beautiful 24.5 hectare public park and Local Nature Reserve, also owned and managed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The site was formerly the park of Danesbury House, and it still has some large mature trees which are important to wildlife. On occasions the park hosts Long Horn Cattle so take note of the notices that are posted on the entrances to the park which will provide information about the cattle and their occupancy of the park. When the cattle are present in the park, make sure your pets are kept under control. There is access from a number of roads including Codicote Road, North Ride and Danesbury Park Road.

Singlers Marsh

On the other side of Codicote Road from Danesbury Park is Singlers Marsh, a 6.3 hectare Local Nature Reserve owned and managed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The site is bordered by the River Mimram. It has grassland, which is sometimes managed by cattle grazing and cutting, and areas of willow scrub with some more mature trees. As with Danesbury Park, be careful with your pets when the cattle are grazing and make sure they are under control. Singlers Marsh provides a habitat for a wide range of insects and birds. There is access by a kissing gate at the corner of Codicote Road and Fulling Mill Lane.

Harmergreen Wood

This is a 44-acre ancient woodland site which is ideal for dog-walking. It is a ‘back to basics’ woodland which is very appealing to those who like to witness nature in its natural form. The woods are located within walking distance of Welwyn North train station and can be accessed from Robbery Bottom Lane, Turpins Rise, and Harmergreen Lane.

All the sites mentioned that are owned and managed by the council, dog waste bins have been provided and are used by all responsible dog owners. This helps to ensure our community areas are kept clean.

These are just some of the best places in our beautiful area for dog-walking. So it would be nice to make the most of them and enjoy keeping healthy.

Sherrardspark Wood – Summer Activities

The Sherrardspark Wood Wardens Society organise a number of interesting walks which are detailed in their website.

The following walks are being organised over the next few months:

  • Saturday 8th August 2015 “Do you know your woodland trees?”
  • Saturday 22nd August 2015 “Bat Watching at Stanborough Lakes”
  • Saturday 19th September 2015 “Fungal Foray”

Please note that some of these walks allow only limited numbers and it is important to go to the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens website to get full details and, where needed, pre-book.