Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Nairn South appeal hearing – really a crash course taking you to the heart of the Cult of the Traffic Assessment?

And so the proceedings got underway again today with discussion on the appellants original traffic assessment and not the other one that the Community Councils and other objectors had prepared their responses for. There were transport experts among the suits around the tables today and they had much to say about the merits or otherwise of the data relating to the Cawdor Road/Balblair Road junction. There is a school of thought that it all comes down to how the junction and the station brae can cope with increased traffic and given the importance the Reporter is placing on the Traffic Assessment that may indeed be right. Thus anyone walking in off the street would have found the listening to highbrow stuff relating to the assessment that came as part of the South Nairn package.  

So phrases like “headline saturation figure”, “calibrate the model”, “practical reserve capacity” resonated around the main hall of the Community and Arts Centre. It was a crash course in the LinSig and Picady models of traffic assessments (hope they are the correct spellings) and calibrating the models for local conditions. Joan Noble of course was very au fait with a lot of this and her original critique of the appellant’s traffic assessment MK1 came back into the equation. It was heady stuff and sometimes it seemed that even the experts were having trouble following some of it. This observer thought that at times it took some of the experts a bit of time to find the documents that were under discussion, this may have been because the whole exercise had had the goalposts moved or perhaps there was some other reason – but it all looked a bit stressed, laboured and slow at times. 

There was mention of a “magic algorithm” which prompted Community Councillor Brian Stewart to talk of “lifting the lid on the magic black box” and to state “all this magical arithmetic lacks credibility”. Basically this community’s planning future may well boil down to what credibility the Scottish Government’s Reporter Iain Urquhart gives to the elements of traffic assessment science that have been delivered up to this hearing and the critique prepared by citizen Dr Joan Noble who is the community’s formidable self-taught traffic assessment expert. 

When it came to the impact that a road through the potential housing scheme might have on relieving traffic on Balblair Road and Gordon’s Sawmill it became
Scottish Government's Reporter Iain Urquhart
a discussion about the differences between a distributor road or a connection road or a link road and whether the criteria laid out in the Scottish Government’s “Designing Streets” was either the gospel or had been superseded by other mechanisms. It was almost if a document was on trial for its life at one point. 

Well there’s traffic assessment science and there’s real life and somewhere in the ether around King Street today they met for the benefit of Iain Urquhart’s wisdom and considered judgement. It’s democracy in action – or is it? 

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