Balcombe Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Initiatives
The Parish Council are frequently asked questions about traffic calming in the village. Hopefully, the following details and timeline will answer some of those questions and function as a point of reference for those interested in what the Parish Council has achieved, attempted to achieve, or is aspiring to achieve.
Background: Funding and Approving Road Improvements
It is worth explaining that roads in the UK are largely managed on a 2-tier system:
- Trunk roads and motorways are the responsibility of Highways England and funded by the Government via the Department for Transport (DFT) by general taxation.
- The remainder of roads are managed by the County Councils, in our case West Sussex County Council Highways department, and are funded from budgets set by the Country Council via income from either from taxes/rates/council taxes or from developer contributions.
West Sussex County Council (WSCC) is also responsible for initiatives like cycleways, footway (pavement) improvements and things like a ‘safe routes to school’ programme.
Other parties like a District, Borough or Parish Councils can be involved in the process of improvements to county roads but only when the County Council agrees and permits the work. Likewise, a land or property developer may be required to alter a highway for a new or improved access to a development and any off site works that are required to mitigate the impact of the development on the existing road network. In each of these cases this is managed by agreements set out in Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (section 278 between the developer and the County Council) and the Highways Act 1980. Developers also have to pay money for infrastructure improvements locally and some of this can be allocated for a very local ‘highways’ improvement (section 106 contribution).
In 2005 Balcombe Parish Council put in the village centre speed cushions under a section 278 agreement with West Sussex County Council (WSCC) partly funded by a ‘safe routes to school’ budget. WSCC then ‘adopted’ the improvements and now maintains them.
All changes to a highway must be accompanied by a Traffic Road Order (TRO) under the Highways Act. A TRO requires a series of steps to be undertaken to safely design the new layout and to adequately advertise the change. TRO notices are posted in papers and on websites or on posters for both temporary changes, such as road repairs, or permanent road layout changes.
Any changes to the road must be in accordance with national highways standards set out by either the DFT (Department for Transport), DMRB (Design Manual for Roads and Bridges) or The Manual for Street Works. A County Council may set out its own standards, although those will be based on the principals of the former standards and relate to the preferences of the County’s Highways department for development in the county.
Some links to standards are below:
Traffic Calming (publishing.service.gov.uk)
New schemes require a series of formal Road Safety Audits (RSA) through the design process to ensure the design is safe. A final RSA is undertaken once the scheme is built to monitor for any problems once the road is in use.
It can be difficult to implement a traffic scheme as the County Council only enacts a relatively small number of TROs each year and getting onto the list to be processed can be challenging. Having a scheme fully designed and a budget available can help, however the County Council prioritise schemes where accidents are frequent and severe (i.e., there has been a loss of life), over others.
The parking and yellow line improvements on Newlands took 3 to 5 years
The graduated speed limits on approach to the village took 8 years.
History of Calming Schemes in Balcombe
Before 1997 and the construction of junction 10a on the M23 at Maidenbower, traffic through Balcombe was much less than we experience today. To access the motorway, drivers went to Handcross or up to junction 10 via Copthorne.
Phase 1: Pre 2000
Pedestrian Refuges and Bollards
The first traffic calming was implemented as part of the junction 10a plan. Pedestrian refuges were added at the Scout Hut, at the Church, at the station and in the centre of the village outside the Half Moon. The mini roundabout at the junction of Mill Lane and Haywards Heath Road was installed. Bollards were added on the Church hill.
Through the next couple of years schemes to further slow speeds through the village were drawn up by the Parish Council. However, opinion on what was the best option was much divided and the County Council did not agree to any of the plans put forward.
Phase 2: 2003 to 2008
Speed cushions – Opposite The School
In 2003 a new Parish Council took heed of a village petition asking them to look at the area around the school as a priority. This proved a more achievable scale and, by entering into a 50/50 shared cost scheme with WSCC, Balcombe Parish Council engaged consultants to design a scheme from the village centre towards the school consisting of the speed cushions and the mini roundabout at the junction of Haywards Heath Road and London Road. The Parish Council entered into a 278 agreement with the County Council and funded half of the construction costs by taking out a (low interest rate) public works loan which was gradually paid back via an increase in the village precept (the small portion of the council tax the Parish Council receives).
Speed Cushions – Haywards Heath Road Centre of the Village to Mill Lane
The original scheme included speed cushions from Mill Lane to the village centre, but this was cut from the scheme for 2 reasons:
- There was concern amongst villagers that the long section of speed cushions would mean vehicles would divert via Oldlands/ Newlands.
- The new features would require additional lighting to be installed. The cost of running new cabling and installing new light columns along Haywards Heath Road from the village centre to Mill Lane meant the scheme was unaffordable.
Ripple Print at the 3 Entrances to the Village
Cutting the speed cushions (from Mill Lane to the village centre) from the project meant that the allotted funds could be reallocated to progress a second smaller scheme to the 3 entrances to the village.
Research demonstrates that the best way to affect speed in the built-up area of the village as a whole is to tackle the traffic as it enters the area, but there are limits on how that can be done. In order to start a traffic calmed area it is necessary to start from a defined feature. That could be a road junction like a mini-roundabout or a priority give way, or a raised table gateway. So, for example, road cushions can’t start in the middle of a long clear stretch of road.
The Parish Council asked the traffic consultants they had engaged to look at suggestions for the village entrances and a priority give way on the Haywards Heath Road just south of the tennis courts was suggested. A preliminary design was drawn up, however WSCC would not back this type of feature at the village edges. An alternative feature that was achievable, was the rippleprint red surfacing and this was eventually installed at each of the ‘gateways’, largely within the original overall budget and savings in the interim.
Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS)
The Parish Council followed this up with the speed activated flashing signs, activated when a driver is exceeding the 30mph limit.
In the same period, two 20mph school signs were added, one either side of the school. These run on a timer and flash for the period just before and during school set down and pick up.
Phase 3: 2008
The following year WSCC offered to fund parking and traffic studies in several villages and Balcombe was promised a holistic review of trouble spots. The Parish Council met with WSCC and discussed issues highlighting parking at the station, on Newlands, at the bottom of Deanland Road (by the doctors’ surgery) and in the village centre. The Parish Council also looked at the crossing at the bottom of Bramble Hill and possibilities for a safer crossing at the school. Unfortunately, after a few meetings this service stopped.
Subsequently, in 2008 the Parish Council went back to the traffic consultants and commissioned its own study looking at the village centre, Newlands and the bottom of Deanland Road.
The consultant’s report had 4 options for the village centre, some of which were considered to have too urban a feel for a small village, (pedestrian guard rails, traffic lights) and one was for a radical shared space scheme. None were acceptable to WSCC at that time, and all were unaffordable with the Parish Council funds available.
Newlands Resident Parking improvements
A scheme to limit commuter parking on Newlands and create a passing space on what had been a blind curve on the hill was progressed. The no parking time limits and yellow lines were progressed through design and a TRO. Drop-in sessions in Bramble Hall were held for the village to see the plans. Preliminary design and build cost were borne by the Parish Council and the detailed design and TRO costs by WSCC.
Phase 3: 2008 – 2012
Graduated speed limits to the south on Haywards Heath Road
These were first suggested in 2004 but failed to proceed as both actual road speeds were too high and standards didn’t recommend this solution in such locations where the numbers of houses with access onto the road was low.
By 2007 the actual speeds had decreased due to the installed rippleprint gateways and design standards had changed in respect of the number of houses (frontages). Due to this same standards change, the area to the north of the village also became suitable.
The schemes were pursued separately but largely within the same time period. WSCC funded both design, TRO and installation costs.
Stop sign in the village centre
In 2011 an application was made to WSCC to restore the STOP sign on the Haywards Heath Road outside Threads which, some years before, had been replaced by the present GIVE WAY sign in accordance with the requirements of the DfT Traffic Signs Manual. As this would be contrary to the DfT policy, with the support of WSCC an application was made to DfT for special permission to install a STOP sign at this location. The Secretary of State refused the application on the grounds that the lack of a history of fatal or serious accidents at the junction was such that a departure from the standard signage was not justified.
Phase 4: 2016 – onwards
Having spent some time running a Neighbourhood Plan and dealing with the Lower Stumble oil drilling issue the Parish Council returned to traffic calming.
The Neighbourhood Plan had identified the village centre as the main concern of the village. Concerns were regarding speed, volume of traffic, pedestrian safety and dangerous parking. The Parish Council included a car park for 10 cars (the Parish Council originally requested 20 but this was reduced to 10 in negotiations) in the allocation of a site for housing next to the Rectory, to serve both the school and the village centre.
Village Centre Enhancement
Having got that policy adopted, the Parish Council then revisited the original study for the village centre done in 2008 and pulled together a scoping document for a village centre enhancement and pedestrian safety scheme. It took some time to find a consultant and obtain sufficient funds, but the Parish Council saved reserves for the study and allocated developer funding from the developments in the Neighbourhood Plan we were then in a position to fund both consultants, design, TRO and, in part, construction costs.
In 2018, the Parish Council worked with the consultants who put forward 4 options, 3 of which were acceptable to WSCC. The plans were also displayed at the village fete which was held in July of 2019. In November 2019, a drop-in session was held in Bramble Hall with experts from the traffic consultants on hand to answer questions and explain the options. The plans were posted on the village websites. The response from people told us that although one option was a favourite a second option was also acceptable to villagers.
In 2020, a Road Safety Audit raised a number of issues with the preferred option and so the second option was the one eventually progressed to a fuller design, passing a second RSA. This plan was distributed via door-to-door flyer in December 2020, with face-to-face consultations not being possible due to covid restrictions.
Funding for this scheme is from several sources, Parish Council saved funds, a developer contribution from the Barnfield development (originally set to be used by WSCC for a cycle scheme largely outside the Parish) and a public works loan.
This project is still ongoing.
Phase 5 – 2019 onwards
Haywards Heath Road, South of Oldlands
Part of the Neighbourhood Plan was a traffic calming scheme on the southern end of Haywards Heath Road, beyond the tennis court. It was added to both the infrastructure plan lodged at Mid Sussex Council and also included in the Neighbourhood Plan policy for the Barnfield site. The planning inspector required the wording of the policy to suggest a traffic calming scheme as a possible requirement rather than as mandatory. Thus, although the policy included a calming scheme it was not enforceable unless WSCC required it in order to allow the housing development to safely access Haywards Heath Road, which they did not. The Parish Council tried really hard to get this including questioning speed data and the visibility standards used, but to no avail.
Nevertheless, there is a sum of money coming to the Parish Council from that development which can be spent as we wish (approx. £12k), and we are currently pursuing a number of smaller scale solutions which can in part improve the situation at this location:
Improved Traffic Signage and Markings
A review of the traffic signage on the Haywards Heath Road was carried by the Parish Council with representatives from WSCC Highways at the end of 2020. In this meeting WSCC advised that there is no statutory requirement for additional 30mph signs to be installed on the road.
Following this meeting and a review by WSCC the following items have now been agreed and scheduled:
- New road sign to be installed both northbound and southbound to indicate the staggered junction at Oldlands Avenue and the new Barnfield site. These will be installed on completion of the site development.
- New road sign to be installed by Combers to highlight the approaching roundabout at Mill Lane junction.
- White lines will be installed at the junction of Oldlands Avenue and Haywards Heath Road, the existing white line road markings will be re-painted.
The Parish Council also discussed the possible installation of boundary gateways on Haywards Heath Road at the village entrance northbound. WSCC have accepted this in principle and await conformation from the Parish Council of our proposal. This is under discussion and will require a public consultation to gain approval before work can be progressed.
Balcombe Parish Council have purchased an initial 100 self-adhesive 30mph signs for wheelie bins and have made these available to residents on the Haywards Heath Road.
Other Successful Initiatives
Speed Indicator Device share (SID)
In mid-2016 Balcombe joined with other parishes in our cluster group of Mid Sussex villages to purchase and share a SID on rotation. We get to place it in various locations around the village for a month at a time, approximately 3 to 4 times per year. We also get to share one by rotation from WSCC. We know that the nature of the ‘pop up’ SID works to slow traffic, and we are able to download data, which has given us valuable information regarding volumes and speeds of traffic through Balcombe. The only downside we have in the village is that siting of the device is severely constrained by the lack of safe and usable posts at the side of our roads.
APL (Advice Protection Lines)
In 2018, Balcombe Parish Council paid for white lines (APL) to be painted on various corners in the village to dissuade drivers from parking too close to junctions; these were done with the approval of WSCC Highways Authority (these do not require a TRO). The locations included Bramble Hill and the village centre around Stockcroft Road, Deanland Road (opposite the surgery) and opposite the school.