Ref. 13/02655/FUL R – TMAEG Representation (January 2014)
Representation of the Two Mile Ash Environmental Group
The Two Mile Ash Environmental Group (TMAEG) is a growing voluntary organisation that was formally constituted in October 2011. Our underlying aim is to safeguard and enhance the environment of Two Mile Ash and we seek to achieve this through, among other things, commenting on and influencing proposed developments, raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting pride in this area through, for example, our Open Gardens scheme. Moreover, TMAEG volunteers have carried out numerous environmental projects across Two Mile Ash and these have received many favourable comments from our members and others.
We came into being through a growing realisation that the design structure and environment of TMA, carefully conceived by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation, was becoming eroded through piecemeal changes and general neglect. But our particular concern was the village centre, arising from the loss of trees and the taking up of green spaces to make way for traffic and the associated parking. As long standing residents and people who work here have observed, traffic levels within the centre of TMA and on the roads leading to the surrounding grid have grown steadily and there is now considerable school related congestion at arrival and leaving times; associated with this, local environmental conditions have deteriorated markedly.
Our representation on the present planning application is a development of the statement that we made in the spring of 2013 on the basis of the original consultation http://www.tmaeg.org/position-statements/two-mile-ash-school-consultation-on-the-proposed-expansion/ In considering the application at its meeting this January, the TMAEG’s committee considered that the concerns raised in its consultation response had not been answered and its decision was to lodge this objection.
TMAEG’s Grounds of Objection
Traffic and Parking We are very concerned about the traffic implications of the proposal. While we welcome the provision on site of additional staff car parking spaces we believe that overall traffic conditions in the TMA village centre would be likely to worsen significantly. With 180 more children attending the school, most of whom would be from outside TMA, and reliant on being brought to school by a parent, we foresee many more vehicle movements, and associated increased congestion and other conflicts.
Those ‘other conflicts’ include those arising from additional school generated traffic on the surrounding grid roads, especially H4, and the extra turning movements in and out of TMA which bring with them the increased risk of collisions. Moreover, if the proposed sports halls are to be opened up for public or club use outside school hours, their potential to generate traffic needs to be taken into account.
While the proposed enlarged staff car parking area on the site might free up additional spaces on the street, we are doubtful whether the freed up spaces would be sufficient in numerical terms to meet the likely overall demand. Moreover, manoeuvring into an individual car parking space and reversing in or out requires considerable care and can take several minutes. But there would be hundreds of such movements overall at school arrival and leaving times, each with the potential to cause congestion and delays.
Pedestrian Safety We need also to remember the security of the children who are being delivered to school and then collected. In a situation where there would be many moving cars, we believe that the proposed new entrants, the 4-7 year olds would be particularly vulnerable. While one would expect that the utmost care will be taken by most drivers, the school run is often part of a parent’s journey to work at a stressful time in the day, and this is a time when accidents can occur. Just one accident affecting a child is one accident too many.
Emergency Services We are already concerned about the potential for school related congestion to block access for emergency services vehicles. This risk would seem likely to worsen were the proposed expansion to go ahead.
Lack of a public transport alternative The previous expansions to Two Mile Ash School led to a decision to re-route the No 4 bus during the arrival and collection periods. This has greatly inconvenienced many TMA residents who wish to use the bus to get to the City Centre for work or for other purposes. But it also means that the No.4 service would be of no use to the proposed new pupils, the 4-7 year olds because buses would be following a different route at the critical times. So the car would be the likely form of transport for most of the new children, certainly from those coming from outside Two Mile Ash.
Environmental impact It seems almost to have been forgotten that the High Street and Clay Hill where most of the parking is to be found are predominantly residential streets. Their occupants have suffered most from the removal of trees and other greenery to make way for parking and they are affected now by increasing levels of noise and air pollution associated with the growing levels of school associated traffic and parking. The present proposals would undoubtedly worsen the situation.
We also wonder whether our area is the right one to take such a large part of the predicted borough wide shortfall in places for 4 year olds? As a principle, we think that the emphasis should be on providing school places locally so that our youngest children can be educated within their own local communities placing them within walking distance of school. That was one important principle enshrined in the original planning of Milton Keynes which was seen as fundamental to the building of communities.
We have no argument about the quality of our existing school provision in Two Mile Ash. Indeed it has been recognised as outstanding. But that undoubted success should not be the reason to impose additional school growth on our area to the detriment of local residents, safety and the environment. We think that the advantages of the proposal to TMA would be minimal and far outweighed by the significant disadvantages. Because of its significant adverse impact and effect on the well being of the local community, and on safety, the development would be contrary to the aims and objectives of the Milton Keynes Core Strategy (2013). In particular, it would fail to represent the sustainable development that is called for in that document and in the National Planning Policy Framework (2012). The planning application should therefore be rejected by the planning authority and planning permission should not be granted.
We understand that a further document, a Transport Assessment, is to be put forward in respect of this application and that it will be made available for public consultation. We would like to view this document once it is available and we may wish to issue a further statement based upon it.
We would also like to record TMAEG’s wish to address the Council’s Planning Committee when this application comes to be considered.