Council urged to sort out Staple Hill rat-runs after rap by Ombudsman

Signal Road rwhen the restrictions were in place

South Gloucestershire Council is being urged to sort out problems with rat-running on four roads in Staple Hill after being rapped by the Ombudsman for its handling of a traffic scheme that was ditched.

A spokesman representing residents in Signal Road, Charnell Drive, Whitelodge Road and Charnell Road told the recent full council meeting: “I have been trying for a number of years to get the council to engage with these residents but unfortunately this has proved futile.

“During the pandemic, Signal Road and Charnell Road were closed to traffic. This was an experimental traffic order that was used to reduce rat-running in the area and to make the Signal Road entrance to the Bristol & Bath Railway Path safer for people on bikes and on foot.

“The residents directly affected by the closure, those on Signal Road and Charnell Road, were predominately in favour of the scheme – 100% in favour on Signal Road. After the initial six months’ consultation these residents received letters informing them that the scheme would be made permanent the following year. The decision was then reversed three months later and the council said the letter had been sent out in error.

“A petition was started to try to show the council how strong local support for the scheme was. We collected nearly 300 signatures, mainly from users of the Railway Path entrance, in a six-hour period over one weekend.

“The traffic scheme was removed in February 2022. I complained to the Local Government Ombudsman about how the decision to revoke the scheme was made and he found in my favour. In his report the Ombudsman said: ‘On balance I am not satisfied that the council did enough following the initial six months to allow it to go on and make an informed decision about the future of the scheme. The council claimed it sought opinion all the way through the period until the orders lapsed. It provided no evidence of doing so. I found no engagement during the second or third six-month period. I fail to see therefore how the council complied with Government guidance.

“I consider the council could have done more to engage with the local community about this scheme in the last 12 months of the orders. The failure to do so means I am unable to say it properly considered whether the problems expressed during the initial six-month period remain; nor have I seen evidence showing what the council considered when it decided not to revoke the orders, or when it decided to let them lapse. I have seen no record of either decision setting out the reasoning behind them.”

The resident submitted a proposal for an alternative scheme involving traffic calming and one-way and road closure in Signal Road near the entrance to the Railway Path, and it was placed close to the top of the local transport priority list of schemes to be investigated.

He told councillors that the council carried out traffic monitoring which showed that motorists were routinely driving at speed along these roads.

“On one particular section one in five drivers are breaking the current 30mph speed limit and the highest speed recorded was 80 to 85 miles an hour.” He said he was disappointed that a council officer has confirmed to him that not only has the proposal been rejected but the data collected has not been and will not be analysed.

“It seems to me that the council are continuing to make uninformed decisions on this matter. It is becoming apparent to me that the council are looking to change these roads into a 20mph zone. I am not entirely against this move; however, given the nature of the roads and the speeds people currently drive along them, I fail to see that this will resolve the issues, and I know that many of the local residents agree with me.

“What I would like to see is a range of possible solutions being put to the residents of these roads to allow them to say what they would like to see put in place. The Ombudsman highlighted how ineffective the council’s consultation process was during the last scheme, and many local residents including myself feel let down by the council’s actions.

“Now is the time for the council to show the people on these streets that they want to and can listen to local residents’ views on this matter.”

After the Ombudsman’s decision on this complaint the council was ordered to send a written apology for its failures, start a review and ensure there are proper procedures and checks in place to stop unauthorised letters getting sent to the public.