Local developer, Chippenham Riverside, has been forced into commissioning a £21,000 traffic study to prove the council’s favoured route for a link road to support new housebuilding will make congestion in Chippenham worse.
The study, paid for by the developer and carried out by Wiltshire Council’s own highways consultant Atkins, shows rush hour congestion at four major junctions in Chippenham could be cut by up to 1,000 fewer vehicle movements an hour by a new link road around the east of the town instead of the council’s favoured southern option.
The council’s 30-year plan for the town, called Future Chippenham, originally envisioned 7,500 new homes being built, which was later halved after public disquiet. To help the town’s overloaded road network cope with the extra homes, it proposed an eastern distributor road (EDR) running from the A350 Morrisons roundabout around Birds Marsh, over the railway line at Rawlings Green and then running around the east of the town to the A4 near Stanley Park. The circle around the town would be completed by a link to the A350 at Lackham via a Southern Distributor Road (SDR) running south of Pewsham.
The first section of the EDR around the 750 new homes at Birds Marsh has been completed, with the second due to start when 650 homes are built at Rawlings Green.
In 2019 the government, via its housing arm Homes England, approved the council’s plans and awarded £75m to pay for the rest of the road in order to support more housebuilding. Last year the council abandoned plans to build the final section of the EDR from Rawlings Green to the A4 in favour of building the southern section around Pewsham.
However this new plan has yet to win government approval and there is concern the £75m funding could be withdrawn, leaving the project in limbo.
Chippenham Riverside, formerly Chippenham 2020, hopes to build homes at New Leaze adjacent to Rawlings Green and has campaigned for an eastern link road instead of the southern route. It commissioned the traffic study from the council and Atkins in October to confirm which option would be better at easing town centre congestion. Previous council studies show the eastern route would be more effective.
The study compared the potential impact of the two routes, each supporting 4,200 new homes, on rush hour traffic at four major junctions – the Little George signals at Malmesbury/Langley Road; the Bridge Centre roundabout; the Station Hill/New Road signals south of the railway arches and the Marshfield Road/New Road signals north of the arches.
The traffic study showed that at peak rush hour – between 7 and 10am and 3 and 7pm – the Little George would see 598 fewer vehicles an hour in the morning and a reduction of 584 in the evening if the link road goes to the east rather than the south.
The experts’ modelling showed an eastern road would generate 138 vehicles fewer an hour at the Bridge Centre roundabout in the morning and 102 in the evening. The Station Hill/New Road signals would have to cope with 105 and 93 fewer vehicles an hour in the morning and evening rush hours, while 218 fewer vehicles in the morning and 310 in the evening would queue at the Marshfield Road/New Road signals.
Edward Heard, Director of Chippenham Riverside, remarked that the most significant impact highlighted by the report is the potential reduction of traffic at the Little George signals. He said, “This major route is already extremely busy at rush hour. Reducing congestion there by up to 600 vehicle movements an hour would have a hugely beneficial effect on the town centre as a whole.
“The results of the study suggest the council is missing a golden opportunity to reduce traffic jams in Chippenham by abandoning plans to finish the eastern route.”
Wiltshire Council leader Cllr Richard Clewer would not comment on the study but a press office statement on his behalf said, “The council and Homes England continue to have positive discussions. It is not appropriate to comment further whilst these discussions are taking place. At present we intend to report to cabinet at their December 2022 meeting.”
Chippenham Councillor Howard Greenman added, “It doesn’t alter what I have always believed – that an eastern relief road would make the traffic flow through the town a lot easier. It would take traffic from the northern edge of the town to the southern end rather than forcing it through the town centre and, as the survey points out, through the Bridge Centre and Avenue La Fleche, which is just going to create a logjam. I always thought the eastern route had far more flow to it and was more cohesive and nothing has changed that.”
Pictured above : Traffic queuing at rush hour in Chippenham