Friday, April 15, 2011

Traffic Lights - Nairn's new found fame spreads

A major page three article in the Courier today and an editorial too. The Courier states: "An additional set of lights are also being installed at the new Sainsbury's store at Balmakeith." That information certainly comes as news to this observer. The Courier thinks we are getting 5 new sets of new lights then, taking us up to nine to negotiate through Nairn compared with only 10 others the whole length of the 106 mile A96 trunk road.

The Courier quotes oor Graham:

"The reality is we already have significant problems in Nairn with traffic coming through and this is going to make it a whole lot worse."

In the Editorial the papers quotes some of Nairn's cultural attributes, golf, tourism etc, but then goes on to say:

"But soon it will be forged indelibly into the minds of motorists using the A96 as Traffic Light Town."

We'll link to the article and editorial if they appear on the Courier site later today. Another interesting point in the editorial which will resonate with objectors to the South Nairn proposals:

"What this affair underlines is that Nairn's roads are close to breaking point. If the building of a supermarket necessitates five new sets of lights to keep the town moving, imagine what 300 new homes at Sandown would require."

One wonders if Highland planners would agree with that statement?

UPDATE: article now on the Courier site and a leader too.

UPDATE: P&J article with quotes from John Mackie and David Brownless

with traffic coming through and this is going to make it a whole lot worse.


Spurtle said...

As far as I know, the lights at Balmakeith are for a pedestrian controlled crossing. Roughly opposite the knackered old horse outside Hendersons place.

They were detailed in Transport Scotland's original documents.

So, unless there has been a major change of plan, it's four sets of 'traffic' lights , a pedestrian crossing (with lights) & a roundabout

snails pace said...

There has to have been a systemic failure somewhere with local electives for the whole thing to have got this far before folk have realised the chaos that traffic Scotland are to impose on us.

I am sure someone in high reaches has decreed "how dare Nairn aspire to have a decent supermarket we will make them pay with traffic hell!"

I am sure these details probably were available, but to Joe Public the main concern was the store building ( which I still have no idea what it will look like and cant find the plans).

It makes me wonder – with Fochabers getting a new bypass, is the intention to bottleneck Nairn further in order to force our bypass up the priority list?

Graisg said...

Thanks Nairnbairn but I don't really want to publish anything about "dishonour" in relation to traffic lights.

Spurtle said...

Anyone who bothered their backsides to take an interest in Sainbury's proposals has no excuse when it comes to not knowing about the road issues. They were there in the public domain , before the original planning meeting held in the Court House.

Particularly ironic that some of the folks griping about the traffic lights now are the same ones who jeered the people who opposed the supermarket, or its location at least.

If anything can be taken from this mess , it's that anyone who either supports or opposes any proposed development needs to ensure that they are aware of all the information, or else, like some of those charged with representing our interest in planning matters, you also run the risk of shuffling around uncomfortably when the cuckoo hatches, looking at your feet and feeling a bit of a patsy.

Graisg said...

Yes people should pay more attention, including councillors it seems. Now:

"Anyone who bothered their backsides to take an interest in Sainbury's proposals has no excuse when it comes to not knowing about the road issues. They were there in the public domain , before the original planning meeting held in the Court House. "

Ok Spurtle when were traffic lights first put in the public domain? A link would be nice please.
When was the first time someone shouted from the rooftops to the ordinary punters - "you want a decent supermarket then you have to take five sets of lights!"?
Again a link please or similar.


Snails Pace said...

I may be missing something but were the traffic control requirements not imposed by the Council as part of the conditions of planning approval? therefore did not actually form part of the sought after planning permission - so we never had the opportunity to exercise our opinion on them.

I object to Spurtles stance on this as a regular member of the council tax paying community I have followed this reasonably closely and was taken by surprise by this twist. If it was obvious all along then it would have provided the "NO" campaign with some heavy ammunition to back their cause against this development. The fact that it wasnt mentioned by ANYONE speaks for its self - that includes you Spurtle.

Anonymous said...

Dear Graisg and others I write to highlight important points: 1) Highland Council officials recommended refusal; 2) the A96 is a trunk road and Transport Scotland manages it for the Scottish Government; 3) part of the public inquiry process involves a stage where possible planning conditions and legal agreements are discussed; 4) the Reporter recommended refusal of the application; 5) Scottish Ministers overruled the Reporter.
I have not seen the Transport Assessment submitted by the developers Consultant but I assume there is a significant amount of new traffic on the A96. Without the signals and crossing pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers in the side roads would not be able to cross or join the trunk road safely.

Graisg said...

@ Snail's pace as the document linked to on the Gurn states.
" Prior to the occupation of any part of the development hereby granted the following improvements to the road network shall be implemented to the satisfaction of the Council, in consultation with Transport Scotland, in accordance with the details submitted to and approved in writing by the Council;"

Now it is a question of how much say Transport Scotland had in that - a pretty big powerful one it seems. Maybe any gurnites really interested in getting to the bottom of this might want to send a few FOI requests in for a bit more documentation. At the end of the day though, just how much do we want to play the Blame Game?
If time permits today we will publish links to a series of documents found online by one of our regular Gurnites.

Graisg said...

And spot on Snail's Pace. Those opposing Sainsbury's would have presented this as the headline objection.
Very good point indeed!

Graisg said...

Thanks anon (10.07)more good points.

I think our local politicians and the high heid yin down at Holyrood, perhaps had no choice but to reflect the settled will of the people of Nairn for a supermarket fit for the new millennium. Again, at the end of the day maybe we brought it upon ourselves but as previous commentators on this blog have pointed out traffic has been growing steadily on the A96 for several years. Some of it no doubt due to the hundreds of Nairnites who regularly head out of town for their weekly shop.

Anonymous said...

Dear Graisg after a bit of research the reference to Transport Scotland is in the report by Janet McNair reference NA/HLD/045.

In particulat paragraph 3.49:
The applicant is also content with conditions (3)-(7) recommended by TRANSPORT SCOTLAND. These require signals at the Moss-side Road/A96 junction at the western end of Nairn; at the Seabank Road/A96junction and the Albert Street/A96 junctions near the town centre; and at the A939; the incorporation of MOVA - (Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Actuation) or an alternative approved means of dynamic control and queue detection mechanism in the signals; and that the signals
are linked. Drawings 132461-SK-01/04, to which the conditions refer, are in SSL 19.
MOVA, where signal timings are not fixed but adjust to demand, could improve the performance of the junctions reported in SSL 38 by up to 15%.

nairnbairn said...

The slightly tetchy exchange between Snails Pace and Spurtle risks confusing two issues. It should have been possible to have a Sainsburys without having all the extra lights.

Sainsburys themselves had no reason to undertake and pay for any trunk road works other than what was required in the immediate vicinity to provide good, safe and easy access to their new store.

It was the Highland Council who insisted that - if the planning application was approved - Sainsburys would have to deliver all the other A96 "modifications" (lights etc) as recommended by Transport Scotland.

So it would have been perfectly possible for Council officials, or elected members, or the local Community Council, to support the building of a new supermarket but to challenge (or suggest some alternative to) the daft requirement for all the extra traffic lights.

The suspicion is that all these folk were so mesmerised by the idea of getting a Sainsburys that they failed to look at the conditions which the local authorities proposed should be attached to the grant of planning permission.

Just proves how unwise it is to rely on the recommendations of so-called experts and consultants.

wombat said...

As an interested but normally passive observer of Gurn matters , for the first time I find myself inclined to put pen to paper, or whatever the modern version is.

It seems that Spurtle takes an interest in town matters and somehow knew about the traffic lights, whereas most people generally don't much care about planning, except where it directly affects them or when something big and potentially useful like a supermarket comes along.

There are some people in this case though who did take an interest but didn't realise the traffic lights came as part of the package as, has been pointed out, it wasn't made clear at any stage in the process.

The Councillors and officials have to accept responsibility in this case. They have no excuses for not knowing or not telling ( you can understand Sainsburys not wanting to shout about it)

Hopefully it will act as a prompt to bring the bypass forward so some good may come of it. In the meanwhile though I can't help but feel that some of the replies seem to be trying to try to pin the blame for the mess on those who orginally objected to the superstore, and that is a bit off.

Some people may have been worried about the effect on their homes or perhaps businesses but I can't see how that makes them to blame for not letting everyone else know about traffic lights.

nairnbairn said...

Gurn - your latest post (dated Sun 17th April) contains a quote that is dynamite....!

"At Transport Scotland’s request, the applicant treated a 550 house proposal at Sandown on the west side of Nairn, which was the subject of a planning application at that time, as “committed development”.... However, the Sandown scheme should not have been treated as “committed” because it did not have planning permission..... In any event, the Sandown application has been refused. If it had not been included, Transport Scotland would probably not have required additional signals."

What this makes clear is that Transport Scotland's requirement for the provision of additional traffic lights as part of the Sainsburys deal did not arise from an assessment of the needs or consequences of building the supermarket at Balmakeith.

Transport Scotland appear to have sought to get Sainsburys to pay for the cost of measures designed to cope with the future contingency of a massive (550 houses) development at Sandown.

That would explain why the lights are being put on the Seabank Road and Albert Street junctions - to manage the presumed increase in traffic (from Sandown) trying to get through the West End streets on to the A96.

In effect Ms McNair's report indicates that the Transport Scotland requirement for all these lights was inappropriate and unjustified.

Not only does this suggest that Transport Scotland and the Highland Council were bending the Section 75 planning rules a bit to get Sainsburys to contribute to measures to deal with problems which were not directly attributable to their development. It also indirectly confirms what Transport Scotland and the Council denied at the Sandown enquiry - that a large housing development there would result in a major ratrunning problem through the residential zone of Nairn's West End!

This whole story has an increasingly bad smell about it....

Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter how many traffic lights Nairn is going to get - traffic management is a joke in Nairn.
30MPH speed limit on the Cawdor Road out to Broadley - why is that needed?
And yet an area of the A96 where there have been previous fatalities still has a 40MPH limit and it runs through an area where there will always be a lot of children crossing the road - unlike the Cawdor Road where you might have the odd old codger on their mobility scooter trying to get across the road from Firhill!

Graisg said...

@Nairnbairn - obviously the Reporter's decision has to be read in its entirety.
That wifie had to try and make sense of it all and frankly to this observer that would have been a very demanding job.
Perhaps yourself and other gurnites on this thread might like to pop over to the Courier article and contribute your thoughts there for the benefit of the Invercentric world too?

Anonymous said...

As a relative newcomer to the area and recent inhabitant of the beautiful town of Nairn, I thought that I ought to put finger to keypad and request more information on the current state of play of the A96 traffic light situation.

Now, I do not have an issue with traffic lights per se – and I fully understand that there have been traffic lights at one or two of the intersections and junctions over the years (I remember the permanent lights under the old railway bridge on the east edge of the town prior to the new bridge being installed), however there does seem to be a plethora of traffic lights these days, including the ones approaching the bus station, etc. Seriously – 3 sets of lights within a few hundred yards? What on earth was the Highland Council thinking? Are these supposed to help or hinder motorists?

One thing that I have been introduced to since moving here is how the Scots are a ‘canny’ bunch and how they like to keep their eyes open for potential bargains. It seems to me that there was obviously a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offer on traffic lights at the time and it seemed a good idea to get a few extra sets while they could – however I do genuinely feel that maybe a few too many were installed on this occasion?

I have heard it said that the new ‘Sainsburys’ store had something to do with the light situation, however if this was indeed the case just exactly what was the relevance? If indeed traffic lights should be installed at every junction (all out of sync with each other, I might add) may I point out to the Highland Council that they have missed at least 4 other junctions along the A96 through Nairn? Okay, one of them is a footpath, but hey – let’s do this thing properly!

Finally, just an observation – if Highland Council did actually ‘acquire’ all these extra sets of traffic lights as so many are suggesting via a ‘bulk-buy’ website or similar, why then did they not use them all in Nairn but have them installed on the roundabout at the base of the Kessock Bridge? Someone should explain to the Roads Department that roundabouts are built to alleviate the traffic light problem not add to it... But that’s for another day.

Graisg said...

Sainsbury's simply had their arm twisted to provide the cash - "planning gain" I think is the term. Now who wanted the lights? this has been examined in some detail by some of the usual suspects and if this observer remembers correctly it lies somewhere in the mists between Transport Scotland and Highland Council.