Nexus Junction 25 proposals
Our submission to the consultation on the Nexus Junction 25 proposals
Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC) was formed in October 2016 and part of our remit is to work with the local authorities to improve the cycling and walking environment. We believe that more walking and cycling will help address Taunton’s traffic problems and provide public health and environmental benefits. TACC now has over 100 supporters. We have concerns about the following aspects of the proposed ‘Nexus 25’ development:
- The public consultation document makes reference to a ‘potential’ bridge over the M5 for pedestrians and cyclists linking the Taunton side of the motorway to this development, but there is no firm commitment to this. Given that the plans for redevelopment of Junction 25 currently do not include a bridge either, and instead require cyclists to navigate a convoluted and potentially dangerous route including seven road crossings, there would effectively be no reasonable access to the site by sustainable transport from Taunton. This is therefore contrary to the principles of sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Specifically in the NPPF:
- Para 30 states “In preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities should therefore support a pattern of development which, where reasonable to do so, facilitates the use of sustainable modes of transport.”
- Para 34 states “Plans and decisions should ensure developments that generate significant movement are located where the need to travel will be minimised and the use of sustainable transport modes can be maximised.”
- Para 35 states “Plans should protect and exploit opportunities for the use of sustainable transport modes for the movement of goods or people. Therefore, developments should be located and designed where practical to:
- give priority to pedestrian and cycle movements, and have access to high quality public transport facilities;
- create safe and secure layouts which minimise conflicts between traffic and cyclists or pedestrians…”
The Department for Transport’s Walking & Cycling Investment Strategy (March 2016) has the aim: “We want to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey” and the “long term goal up to 2040 is that walking and cycling should be a normal part of everyday life, and the natural choice for shorter journeys such as the commute to school, college, work or leisure trips. We want to create a nation where cycling and walking are the norm for all people whatever their background or characteristics.”
Without a guarantee of provision of cycle and pedestrian bridge of minimum width of 4 m these policy objectives will not be achieved.
- The evidence cited in the report produced on behalf of Taunton Deane Borough Council by Peter Brett Associates for the demand for a site of this nature appears largely anecdotal or based on out-of-date and unrepresentative samples e.g. a survey of businesses in 2004 which had only a 10% response rate. Development of a site of this type is said to be meeting a ‘qualitative’ need (as it is admitted e.g. by one of the consultees, Summerfield Developments, that ‘at present the demand may not appear quantifiable’), for example, to attract science and technology business types and reduce the area’s dependency on public sector employers. However, the major employers cited in the report as potential investors are mostly public sector e.g. NHS, Hydrographic Office, although the report acknowledges that the NHS is reducing its building stock as part of current cost-cutting measures and that the Hydrographic Office has no plans to move and falling employee numbers. The approach therefore appears to be one of undertaking the development ‘on spec’ in order to avoid missing out should a ‘major occupier’ come forward, despite an acknowledgement that at present there is little evidence of other demand.
- Should the development fail to attract the type of investment being sought there is the potential for the site to revert to ‘mixed use’, including retail and car dealerships, and indeed this is acknowledged as an option by some of the consultees in the report by Peter Brett Associates. Given the plethora of unattractive and environmentally unsound out of town developments already blighting Taunton (e.g. Hankridge), this would be highly undesirable.
- In either of the above cases the site will inevitably bring heavy volumes of additional motorised traffic which are likely to create congestion, planned improvements to the M5 junction notwithstanding. The report produced on behalf of Taunton Deane Borough Council by Peter Brett Associates acknowledges that 86% of traffic generated by the site will come via Junction 25, and found that 75% of staff at the existing Blackbrook Business Park travel to work in single-user cars.
- If the decision is made to release this site, it is imperative that the use of walking and cycling is maximised with:
- provision of the cycle and pedestrian bridge
- an internal layout based on Design Manual for Streets principles as far as possible given the context , giving priority to walking and cycling
- provision of secure and under cover cycle parking close to entrances to all buildings.
- well lit and overlooked paths particularly where paths run through open spaces
- consideration to maximum car parking standards with an emphasis on prioritisation of workplace spaces for car sharing
In summary, TACC considers that the case for this development has yet to be made and that the currently proposed provision for sustainable transport is inadequate.