Report sent to

James Heappey MP,

Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens,

Somerset County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways,

David Fothergill and Director of ECI operations with responsibility for GIS mapping, Alan Jones.

Stratton on the Fosse Road Safety Matters
Stratton on the Fosse Parish Council has been very concerned about the speed of traffic through the Parish, the speed of traffic in the village in particular, the number of accidents and the manner in which they are reported or not as the case may be. Speed data through the village is, after much agitation by the council, measured with Speed Indicators (SIDs) and is reported back to the Parish Council. There is no evidence that this information is acted on by the police. The Parish Council would like to be consulted before works such as the recent drainage works on Nettlebridge Hill take place so that local knowledge can be brought to bear, particularly regarding speeding and accident rates.

The Parish Council does not want to interfere in any one’s responsibilities or to create a burden of work, but it cannot be denied that local knowledge of parishioners can provide an extra layer of information and it is to this end that we appeal for better interchange of information between the various bodies concerned with Road Safety. The view of the Parish Council is that although various systems exist, the relationship between sets of information is not exploited to the full. Rather than put further pressure on the various agencies, it would like to take a much more active roll. This document would like to point out some ways in which the Council think that the situation might be improved to the benefit of all.

Police reporting of accidents.
In general, the relationship with the local police is very good. Our PCSO has been very helpful in many ways, attends Parish Council meetings if able and on duty, and reacts to the Council’s concerns put by phone, letter or email in an efficient manner. Any comment here, therefore is not directed at her personally.

There are concerns about the reporting of accidents to the Parish Council by the Police. By way of illustration details of one such accident are given here.

The author saw the aftermath of what appeared to be a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) in the centre of the village in the summer. He had seen a motorcyclist and bike lying in the road and a damaged car/small van. He did not stop as there were a lot of people and he did not want to cause further congestion in a dangerous place on a narrow road. He wanted the Parish Council to have information about this event and so asked our PCSO by email.

He was informed by her that her ‘Beat Manager … told me that in accordance to the Data Protection Act 1996 we are unable to provide any further details to the Parish Council other than the fact there was a road traffic collision at that junction in Stratton on Fosse.’

Clearly there is a duty to protect the identity and personal details of individuals involved in any accident. This seemed to be a strange reply as the author had not sought personal information but was particularly interested due to the location of the accident and the view that had been expressed about a blind spot near the scene of the accident by some parishioners. There had been three police vehicles at the scene and therefore there must have been some information available from the police system.

The Police Sergeant did not respond to my request for information; neither was the accident reported to the Parish Council in any PCSO’s report to the Council.

The purpose of the above is to illustrate a shortcoming in the system. The above is only outlined in some detail as an example. In this case, there is a pinch-point that many claim is a problem. Councillors would agree that the entrance to South Street is in a blind spot when travelling north. It always was to some extent before the pinch-point, but the pinch-point has exacerbated the problem by forcing traffic into the middle of the road. This is the sort of information where local knowledge is key to understanding the situation. This type of case is one where the Parish Council could take a much more active part in monitoring an issue where multiple agencies are involved, but only if information is available to us.

One wonders whether there is a set procedure concerning the reporting of accidents to Parish / Town Councils. As a casual observer, there seems to be considerable variation in the information that different Councils receive. A lack of information must concern many Councils where speeding and accidents are a problem. It is known that eventually a list of personal injury accidents used to be reported to the County Council and perhaps is still. Again Stratton Parish Council is not party to this or any other similar meaningful information.

The Police report to the Parish Council, when made, tends to give information in just a couple of words, e.g. “accident on Nettlebridge Hill’ which is not very helpful at all. How can this be improved?

Speed Indicators (SID)
The matter of SIDs was raised by the Parish Council as long ago as 2010 when an application was turned down on the basis that Somerset County Council (SCC) ‘only funded critical locations.’ Even a speed count was turned down at that point due to a severe cutback in funding. After much agitation from the Parish Council, in 2012 SCC declared that they would fund a one-off installation. There was considerable delay, but eventually they were installed in early 2015. The one measuring north-moving traffic was put on the right hand side of the road where motorists could not see it. (It should be noted that this was not the place that SCC had agreed with the Parish Chairman.)

It was agreed to put a SID at each end of the 30 mph limit. SIDs both indicate and record the speed of each vehicle passing. The SID is positioned facing the oncoming traffic and only measures the vehicles travelling in that direction.

The results of the February 2015 test were quite astounding. For example, over a short period of just 9 days, 736 vehicles travelling north exceeded 50 mph, with another 3022 travelling at between 40 and 50 mph. 858 exceeded 50 mph travelling in a southward direction, with no less than 5243 at between 40 and 50 mph. Median Speeds were north, 42mph i.e 12mph above the speed limit and south 38mph, 8 mph above the speed limit. The 85%ile speed north was 49mph, 13 mph above the intervention limit of 36 mph. The southward figure was 45mph or 9 mph above the intervention level speed. It had taken 5 years or more, but at last we had the proof. As a result of the tests, the Council were asked whether it would like either one or both of these locations to be included in the current SID program in which it would receive a SID on a regular basis.

Due to problem of not being able to put SIDs on Electricity posts, the next test did not take place until April 2016. A southbound test taken for fourteen days from April 14th, found that the median speed had increased by 1 mph to 40 mph and that the 85%ile speed was 46mph, again an increase of 1 mph. No fewer than 2648 vehicles were measured at a speed of greater than 50mph!

Similar Readings were taken in September and October 2016.

Clearly, at last we have proven that there is a speed problem in Stratton Village. In excess of 100 vehicles each day are exceeding the speed limit in each direction, some 220 vehicles a day on average. So what affect have these figures had? None it would appear. No one is aware of any speed enforcement in Stratton and indeed the opinion in Stratton seems to be that ‘we cannot have speed checks as we don’t need them as we have pinch-points.’ (From this it can be seen that a lack of real information can encourage rumours.) No comments have been received from the other recipients of the figures other than from our County Councillor Harvey Siggs.

It has therefore to be for the Parish Council to be proactive in this area of highways control as well.

Highways Improvements, Layout etcetera.
It is again unfortunate that various agencies in some instances consult and then do not act on agreements made or in other instances do not even consult with the Parish Council. One example of this has already been given where there is a blind spot arguably created, but certainly worsened by the positioning of a pinch-point. Another pinch-point, the one to the south of that one, was highlighted as causing problems to pedestrians where heavy lorries are forced up against the pavement, scaring pedestrians passing by. An agreement was made at a meeting between Parish Council members and SCC representatives, whereby the pinch-point would be moved out from the pavement by adding a small island to the east side of the road where the pedestrians walk and reducing the size of the island on the other side of the road. Indeed the SCC official was very concerned when he was nearly knocked off of his feet by the wing mirror of a heavy lorry during the inspection. However, when the work was done, the only change was to move the island on the west of the road, thereby making the gap larger and allowing the speed of the lorries and other vehicles to increase - not the intention at all. The agreement had been altered without either consulting us or even telling us.

A more recent problem has been inside the Parish although outside of the village on Nettlebridge Hill. At this location ice was continually forming from water run-off from the fields. This combined with the severity of the bend further down the hill had resulted in a number of accidents. They were not confined to icy conditions however as was well-known to the Parish Council.

The County Council shut the road and carried out extensive works on the drainage which will hopefully stop the formation of ice on the road from runoff. These improvements are to be welcomed. However the agreement with County Council representatives that chevrons be placed both before the bend and indeed on the bend itself has not happened. On the east side of the approach to the bend there is still just a single normal double bend sign, although this is in fact a single bend which tightens up significantly as you travel round it. At the beginning of the bend there is a small group of bollards which are so dirty and damaged that they are almost impossible to see, then a large gap with no bollards until one is almost around the bend and almost too late there is another set of dirty and damaged bollards. This bend is one that tightens up as it is negotiated and is one of the worst in the area. Similar comments may be applied when travelling north around the bend. The Council was not informed about the detail of work to be done on Nettlebridge Hill and had assumed that better signage would be incorporated into the scheme as promised in consultation. Were the Somerset County Council aware of how many accidents had taken place which could not be attributed to ice? I suspect that they did not even have the meagre information that the Parish Council had been given by the Police.

It is requested that when agreements are made which are to be carried out by Somerset County Council that they are noted in a brief email to the clerk so that people that met can verify work to be done. Afterwards it may be very difficult to rectify things that have been done differently.

A while ago, after discussion at Parish Council, as we are desperate to control speeding in the village in particular, a number of suggestions were made to SCC which the Council thought might help with the speeding situation in Stratton on the Fosse. We suggested among other things 30 mph roundels, 40mph buffer limits, Gateway features and the painting of curbs at pinch-points so that they could be better seen in poor weather conditions.

We were told for example that 30 mph roundels ‘are not permitted with a system of street lights, with the exception of the entrance and alongside the terminal signs of a 30mph speed limit.’ If this is true then a lot of Highway authorities are breaking the law as they are frequently to be seen even in the local area. None of the other suggestions were acceptable to SCC, although they are not uncommon elsewhere. Could and indeed should the views of the Police have been sought on the matters above?

Deterioration of the Pinch-point system.
Presumably the various markings, reflectors etc. that were included were considered necessary to maintain road safety when the system was first installed, a very long time ago now. As a positive it must be recognised that worn out bollards have been replaced. However, much of the road furniture of the original pinch-point installation has either been covered up with tarmac or partially obscured. In places where local road works have been carried out by contractors, reflectors are missing and lines have not been reinstated.

Road markings are almost unrecognisable in places, particularly near the site of the accident referred to above. Some Keep Clear signs are almost rubbed out.

A full report about the pinch points was written for the Parish Council on 19th February 2016 and was subsequently given to a SCC official at a site meeting with our Parish Chairman. Little response was forthcoming.

Are such matters of concern to the Police or is it just not their responsibility?

Deterioration of the general road system.
Continuing the theme of Parish Council concerns regarding our road, the A367, Councillor Fosdike wrote a paper about the condition of A367 through Stratton on the Fosse. Councillor Fosdike was, in past working life, a Chartered Surveyor. The main thrust of his report and accompanying letter concerned the alarming increase of HGVs and trailer traffic through the village and the resultant vibration and noise levels that are affecting houses and people of the village. Much of this is caused by the poor state of the road, specifically by percussive impact via the many dropped inspection chambers, dropped service boxes and sinking service trenches. The state of the road causes concern to the Parish Council particularly in regard to the danger to cyclists and perhaps motorcyclists. Some improvements have been made, but many problems still exist.

Again are such matters of concern to the Police from a safety point of view or do they just see it as not their responsibility?

Defined Responsibilities
There are well-defined responsibilities of the various bodies concerned with keeping our roads safe. There are, however, less well defined things as well. The desire of the Parish Council is to enhance the various systems with well thought-out contributions. Communication is a defining factor in how good any system is and therefore it would be advantageous to know of contacts that can streamline communication. Various different people are responsible for attending accidents, speeding enforcement, reporting of accidents on behalf of the police. The local press seem to have no difficulty in getting information from the Police and yet the Parish Council do. We would like contact details please. Somerset County Council have some well-defined contacts, especially concerning potholes and the like, but who deals with roads with speeding issues, deciding whether roundels are allowed and the like?

Parish Council Responsibilities
The Parish Council would like to draw up a detailed map of the features of the Parish using a GIS mapping system. The Council is licensed to do this through the Parish Online mapping system. Often communication with outside agencies is hampered by not knowing exactly where something is or where something took place. Such a detailed map would be of benefit to all. The Parish Council would appeal for access to GIS mapping systems used by Police, County and District Councils even if these had to be hand copied onto the Parish Online mapping system. Clearly confidential information must be respected and some cannot be used, but much of it is in the public domain, purely by physical observation.

Councillor Malcolm Daniels, January 16th 2017