Cranbrook plan: Neighbourhood centre along main road would be a mistake, councillor says

PUBLISHED: 11:45 10 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:45 10 September 2019

Proposed plans for Bluehayes in Cranbrook. Picture: East Devon District Council

Proposed plans for Bluehayes in Cranbrook. Picture: East Devon District Council

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Having 'neighbourhood centres' along the main road in Cranbrook will be a 'mistake' leading to traffic congestion and safety issues.

The town boundrary plan in the Cranbrook Development Plan Document. Picture: Google MapsThe town boundrary plan in the Cranbrook Development Plan Document. Picture: Google Maps

Those are the words of county councillor Ray Bloxham who has given his thoughts on one of the proposed town expansion areas.

The Herald will be looking at the Cranbrook Development Plan Document (DPD) which has now been submitted to a Government inspector who will decide whether the document is sound.

If the document is approved it will shape developments in the town for the next decade and beyond.

This week we will be looking at the Bluehayes Expansion Area, west of the town.

Expansion areas proposed in the Cranbrook Development Plan Document - Bluehayes is blue, Treasbeare is purple, Cobdens is pink and Grange is yellow. Picture: Google MapsExpansion areas proposed in the Cranbrook Development Plan Document - Bluehayes is blue, Treasbeare is purple, Cobdens is pink and Grange is yellow. Picture: Google Maps

The Bluehayes is the least constrained of the all expansion areas and could accommodate around 960 homes, a 420-place primary school and 57-place early years nursery (only in the event that Bluehayes commences ahead of Treasbeare), a play area with facilities for children and youths and allotments.

It also includes a 'mixed-use area' on the main junction with the B3174 London Road - this includes a range of businesses and a community building or meeting space - a neighbourhood centre. It is hoped this area will be a focus of activity.

However, concerns have been raised around a number of mixed-use areas being proposed near the entrance of each of the new neighbourhoods on the London Road, which will be the main route in and out of the town once Cranbrook is complete, accommodating up to 20,000 residents.

Bluehayes is already allocated for strategic development in the East Devon Local Plan.

Cllr Bloxham said: "Development of this area is probably less controversial than some of the more southerly aspects of the DPD.

"We already have an outline planning application validated (but not yet approved) for this part of the town which gives some indication of the proposed principal road layout with further details to come forward later as reserved matters.

"There are some key issues - these include how the development will relate to the existing settlement in Station Road and how it will impact on traffic flows, particularly along Station Road.

"From my perspective I would seek some clear separation between the expansion area and the existing settlement - it has always been my position that there should be a clear aspiration to ensure that existing settlements around Cranbrook retain their independence and identity.

"As for Station Road, there is a real opportunity to deal with the traffic and congestion issues that impact on Station Road now by re-routing the main flow away from Station Road and creating a much improved residential experience at the same time as freeing up traffic flows by improved routes and better access to the B3174."

The main route through Bluehayes will provide a key link to the train station as well as the opportunity more integrated transport links between bus and train - something Cllr Bloxham said he had been pushing for.

He said: "Increased junior school capacity is not only welcomed but essential as the town grows but I do feel that the planning authority has got to re-think the provision of neighbourhood centres.

"They should be what it says on the tin - in neighbourhoods.

"Locating the neighbourhood centre alongside the B3174 and seeking to serve both Bluehayes and Treasbeare is a mistake which will lead to traffic congestion and pedestrian safety concerns as residents try to cross the B3174 to get a newspaper or a bottle of milk.

"The conservation of the existing parkland is very much welcomed and this will add to the offer of open space for everyone to enjoy.

"What is necessary is ensuring that there is an accessible pedestrian link between the existing country park and the parkland so that we have good off-road foot and cycle linkages throughout the town.

"The expansion of Cranbrook is essential if we are to bring forward key infrastructure and a successful town centre but it needs to be dealt with sensitively, maintaining awareness of the needs of the surrounding communities that Cranbrook will serve in the future.

"As we have said many times over, it's not just about building houses, it is about delivering a community which includes the surrounding settlements."

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