Raleigh Hall’s new access approved

Spaghetti junction? The future road layout at Catshill Cross
Spaghetti junction? The future road layout at Catshill Cross

 

“I am bitterly disappointed that 108 objections have been ignored to allow a spaghetti junction on the A519,” Cllr Pert

On September 9th, approval for Raleigh Hall Industrial estate’s new access road to the A519 at Catshill Cross near Eccleshall was narrowly carried by five votes to four. Voting numbers were low with two planning committee members stepping down because of personal links to an objector.

Introducing the scheme, Borough Council planners recommended acceptance. From a right-angled junction with the A519, the new road will give HGV access to the Estate via an undeveloped 4-hectare area on its western boundary. At the junction, a dedicated lane will assist vehicles leaving the estate to turn right onto the A519.

On the Estate’s southern boundary, Sturbridge Lane will be blocked off in two places where the new access road supersedes it. Ankerton Lane and Brocton Lane will have remodelled junctions with the new access road and the A519 respectively. Adjoining properties will be given new private drives and a property on the corner of the new access road and the A519 will be screened by close-boarded fencing.

The new road layout lies mainly within existing highway boundaries and had it been initiated by the Highways Authority, would not have required planning permission, planners stated. They were satisfied that the agricultural vehicles which mainly use Sturbridge Lane would be able to negotiate its new layout.

Requiring the demolition of one Estate building, the new A519 access road will supersede, though not replace its existing Swynnerton Road access. Speaking in favour of the application, a representative of the Edwards family who own Raleigh Hall, stressed that the Estate has no immediate plan for expansion, though this is allowed for in the Borough Plan.

Objections were based on misunderstandings of the scheme details, he continued. The road would not in itself generate new traffic movements and recent revisions had minimised the impact on trees.

But John Leather, one of 108 residents who had submitted letters of objection, argued that the new access would indeed enable the expansion of Raleigh Hall, leading to more HGV traffic through Eccleshall.

“A T-junction access instead of a roundabout is a substandard scheme, designed to avoid making ransom payments,”

he objected, noting that in 2003, the Highways Authority had rejected a similar access proposal for the Estate’s biomass power station.
Also contesting the proposal, Borough and Ward Councillor Jeremy Pert, not a member of the Planning Committee, stressed his road safety concerns about HGVs joining the A519 on the brow of a hill where traffic builds up to speeds of up to 60 mph.

“This new access creates as many problems at it is trying to solve,” he added. “Four residents living within 170 metres of the scheme will also be severely impacted.”

Planning Committee members’ discussions turned on the ‘unneighbourliness’ of the proposed new access, vibration experienced by Cresswell residents from increased HGV traffic flows on the Estate’s southern link route to the M6 and concerns over a inadequate biodiversity survey.
Ultimately, however, the majority were swayed by the consideration that, even if they rejected the proposal, because it was supported both by planning officers and the Highways Authority, a rejection would be overturned on appeal.

“I am bitterly disappointed that 108 objections have been ignored to allow a spaghetti junction on the A519,” Cllr Pert told the Gazette. “Yes, we do need more local businesses, but we must hold Raleigh Hall to account that if and when they expand the estate, their tenants will not generate extra HGV traffic. But the fundamental problem is that the road network around Eccleshall cannot cope with this degree of commercial and industrial use.”

NOMOREHGVs spokesperson Gail Potts questioned the legality of the decision on environmental grounds.

“As part of the ecological searches under the National Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, a bat survey should have been carried out before planning permission was granted,” she stated. “We are writing to the Chief Planning officer as in our opinion planning consent was awarded outside of the law.”

Speaking on behalf of the Edwards family who have owned and run Raleigh Hall since 1979, Amanda Gray was relieved that permission had finally been granted for a proposal dating back 15-20 years.

“The new access road will create a safer and more direct access onto an A road instead of the current subsidiary road,” she said. A start date for work commencement is still to be announced.