To promote, facilitate and encourage use of sustainable transport within the Parish; and work effectively with the Highways Agency, local authorities, landowners and other relevant stakeholders to support cyclists, pedestrians and other non-motorists in their use of “green” routes within the Parish.
Our transport challenge
As detailed in Sections 6 and 7 of this Plan, Wymondley Parish comprises five small settlements located within a rolling agricultural landscape, characterised by narrow, winding lanes and tall hedgerows. Its individual settlements lie within, or are surrounded by, Green Belt land which acts as a protection against urban sprawl from the neighbouring towns of Letchworth, Stevenage and Hitchin.
Its location and natural environment do not lend themselves to easy travel between the settlements, particularly for non-motorists, so getting around within the Parish is a challenge. This is likely to increase, given the ageing population of the area - and the fact that the Parish has not been planned as an area that people would live and work in, but one which they would commute to and from.
As a result, transport access via all modes is a major constraint to the growth of the economy and population of the Parish in the future, which could increase by around 1000 people if development proposals currently being mooted by NHDC and SBC proceed. Furthermore, development in or near the Parish, (whether domestic or industrial), is likely to add to existing traffic congestion and exacerbate related problems. (Section 11 on Traffic Management refers).
Pressure to accommodate this growth also presents a challenge to protecting the existing natural, economic and social assets of the Parish. In rising to meet this challenge we have considered how we might make best use of the Parish’s natural features to improve internal links between the settlements; as well as between the Parish and its neighbours. As part of this, we want to promote, facilitate and encourage more sustainable modes of transport; and greater use of “green” routes – thereby simultaneously supporting non-motoring residents, workers and visitors.
Transport links in the Wymondley Area
Our parish survey identified transport links as an issue of concern, particularly in relation to the local bus service and the Parish road infrastructure. Improvements to the latter were demanded, to increase safety and improve access. Most people felt there were sufficient footpaths and bridleways, although concern was expressed about their maintenance and comments made about connectivity.
Our rural location means we require good and reliable transport links, to enable non-motoring parishioners to access services and facilities; and to encourage motorists to use alternative means of transport for business, domestic and recreational purposes.
Walking in more rural areas is more ubiquitous than in urban areas, and the benefits of walking and cycling are demonstrated within the Department for Transport’s document “Local Area Walking and Cycling Statistics 2013/14”
A network of public rights of way, including footpaths, green lanes, byways, white roads and bridleways crosses the Parish, connecting the settlements, and the A602 was designed to allow continuity of rights of way where paths have been crossed by it. These routes are frequently used by ramblers/hikers, dog-walkers, joggers, horse-riders and cyclists. In particular, two long distance pathways, i.e. the Hertfordshire Way and Gypsy Lane pass through the Parish – attracting locals and visitors alike.
Increased use of these environmentally-friendly routes, not only for recreational purposes, but for travel to work - and to link urban and rural parts of the Parish, can only benefit the community. Aside from improvements to users’ health and well-being, through increased exercise and decreased stress, the potential knock-on effects of decreasing the number of motorists also benefit the rest of the community. Traffic, noise and pollution levels would be reduced, for example, thereby improving air-quality and road-safety. Easily accessible, safe transport routes between the urban and rural parts of the Parish would also generate more interaction between the settlements – leading to more community cohesion.
Policy TL1: We will support appropriate initiatives to maintain, extend, improve, promote or facilitate use of, these “green” transport routes; and make recommendations to Hertfordshire Highways, (and local landowners), with the intention of improving footpaths and bridleways to facilitate safe walking, riding and cycling within the Parish and reduce motoring, where possible.
Local bus services
Public transport links within the Parish serve the area well with regard to the two largest settlements. Regular connections between the two most popular destinations of Hitchin and Stevenage are frequently used, with the predominance of use being in Little Wymondley.
There are two bus routes serving the Parish, which connect Stevenage and Luton (Arriva UK Number 101); and Centrebus (Beds and Herts) Number 80, connecting Stevenage to Hitchin. Both services operate a regular service, with buses approximately every hour during the day and more frequently at peak travel times.
As with most rural communities, the bus services provide a valuable link to towns (and amenities) further afield. As well as needing to be regular and reliable, the specific bus routes need to be sustained because without them, various sections of the Parish population are disadvantaged.
To our knowledge, there is no intention to reduce the bus services which serve the Parish, which is fortunate as older and/or non-motoring residents depend on the bus services to reach the local hospital and neighbouring towns. They rely heavily on buses as an alternative to costly services such as taxis - and utilise free bus passes where possible.
Section 12 of this Plan specifically mentions the need for a convenient and reliable bus service, and safe and well-maintained footpaths for school pupils to use. It particularly highlights health and safety issues arising in relation to junior school pupils, (and others), due to inadequate footpaths between Great and Little Wymondley; and near St Ippolyts School.
Wymondley JMI School is on (or near to) the Hitchin to Stevenage bus routes through Little Wymondley; and Graveley School is also on a bus route. There are also safety risks to pupils attending St Ippolyts and Kingshott Schools, as neither school is on a direct bus route and nearby roads are very busy. (Road traffic and parking issues relating to our Parish schools are covered in Sections 11 and 12.)
Aside from those attending junior schools which serve the Parish, many secondary school students from the Parish use public transport to get to and from Schools in Hitchin and Stevenage
Policy TL2: We will support initiatives to increase provision of relevant local bus services, which would reduce the need for pupils to be driven to school or walk along unsafe footpaths; thereby also reducing traffic and benefiting the environment and Parish residents.
There is no railway station in the Wymondley area. The nearest railway stations are situated in the larger towns of Stevenage and Hitchin - both of which are approximately 3 miles away. Both stations access the East Coast Main Line and direct routes to Cambridge and beyond.
Car and road Infrastructure
As for the rest of Hertfordshire, reliance on the car within the Parish is above national averages – and likely to increase with any new housing provision, unless public transport services can be improved.
Like most roads in the North Herts District, Wymondley Parish’s road network, was not designed for the volume of traffic now using it. The current road network linking areas within the Parish provides sufficient capacity for regular use of traffic. However, our recent traffic study shows increased pressure on the network makes road use difficult for residents - particularly in Great Wymondley, where there are considerable delays for residents’ vehicles exiting their properties onto the carriageway, especially at peak times.
At peak times the network is characterised by congestion heading in several directions, mainly resulting from traffic trying to circumvent the A1(M) or A602 and using the Parish’s narrow single carriageway roads as “rat-runs”. This impedes accessibility within and between settlements, and causes a number of problems for residents and businesses.
Existing pinch points in Great and Little Wymondley are not adequate enough in reducing speed, which was another issue raised by our survey respondents. (See Section 11 on Traffic Management for further commentary on these and related issues including access, safety, air quality and noise.)
The route from Great Wymondley, along Hitchin Road to join Wymondley Road in Hitchin lacks a footpath (pavement), which makes it very dangerous for pedestrians, even with current traffic volumes. Similarly, there is no dedicated footpath between Little and Great Wymondley. The main footpath linking the two areas ends in both villages at the final properties exiting them. A public right of way exists, but this borders privately owned fields, involves traversing uneven ground - and so not particularly user-friendly in the dark or during bad weather. This situation increases safety risks for pedestrians, particularly children or those taking them to and from school in Little Wymondley. Other sections of the community may also be disadvantaged, for example those who, for various reasons, are less able to cross fields to make the journey between the settlements.
Similar safety issues arise in connection with pedestrians wishing to travel from Titmore Green to Little Wymondley, or cross the A602 or Corey’s Mill roundabout; and responses to our parish survey included several demands for facilities such as subways or footbridges to minimise the risk.
The condition of existing pavements is inconsistent throughout the Parish, with some in a state of deterioration, and there were also calls for better and more regular maintenance of pedestrian walkways (and highways) generally – including weeding, clearing of drains/gutters, trimming of hedges and litter-picking etc.
Policy TL3: As part of our ongoing liaison with the Highways Agency, local authorities and other relevant bodies, we will be proactive in ensuring necessary maintenance work is promptly and satisfactorily undertaken; and support appropriate initiatives to protect the safety of pedestrians within the Parish.