in Shaftesbury

Stormont Road and indecisive public consultation

The results of the council’s consultation on traffic control in the Stormont Road area (which in reality is most of the roads between Clapham Common and Lavender Hill) were considered by the council’s transport committee last night.

They were, frankly, more an exercise in showing how consultation often doesn’t help anyone come to a conclusion! Of the 2,700+ consultation forms sent out only 457 were returned (around 1 in 6). And the opinion was not terribly conclusive.

One of the ideas was to ban right turns from Clapham Common Northside into the roads in the area. The purpose behind this is to prevent rat-running from people who want to head north but avoid the one way loop around part of Clapham Common that keeps them on roads better suited for higher traffic volumes. For this, 46% of respondents liked the idea… and 46% of people didn’t like the idea!

The other suggestion was to reverse the one-way flow of Lavender Gardens. While this wasn’t as evenly balanced, it was hardly a conclusive result, 33% opposed it, 23% supported it and 45% expressed no opinion (to be fair the result in Lavender Gardens itself was much more conclusive, with 68% against and 32% in support).

On the basis of the results the council will be progressing the introduction of 24 hour no right turns from Clapham Common Northside into the roads, but looking at alternative means of controlling the traffic in Lavender Gardens.

It is proof that the council does listen to consultations. But also evidence that it’s sometimes very hard to hear what they are saying – the voice of Lavender Gardens was clear, but the result on the right turns couldn’t have been closer, and guarantees that whatever the council does it would make half the people unhappy!

A cynic, however, might suggest that the clearest result of all is that 5 out of 6 people don’t care enough to spend a few minutes completing and sending off a pre-paid form.

The full paper and detailed results along with three appendices can be found on the council’s website.

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  1. The headline result’s fairly balanced – but there are some interesting nuances in the full report, where the responses are broken down according to the road the respondents live on. Those who live on roads that feed from the Common to Lavender Hill are far more likely to have responded, and far more strongly in support (led by a barnstorming 92% support from the residents of Stormont Road itself) – compared with the transverse roads, and the assorted mews and cul-de-sacs, where people mostly didn’t respond or were against the idea.

    No great surprise there – the roads that don’t connect to the Common don’t see much rat-running traffic, and for the residents more turning restrictions are probably just a minor nuisance, albeit not one they care about much.

    There’s what looks like quite a good mandate to proceed in the detailed figures, but as you note the headline figure doesn’t help a lot. I suppose to get any meaningful outcome you have to weight the responses according to who is likely to be most affected by the changes; and factor in the non-responses as ‘don’t cares’ (if you include lots of marginally affected roads, they’re likely to change the overall result – as residents would vote against it ‘just in case’ they ever happen to turn that way). Someone’s put some time into the Council paper, as the breakdown of results is very thorough – quite impressed by the level of thought that has gone into it.

    • Well, I was being a little flippant, but thank-you for the comments about the quality of the paper! As I’m sure you can imagine the council isn’t often complimented on them.

      But there is a wider point in how councils consult and communicate. As you point out there was significant variation between the roads’ responses, but this isn’t the sort of thing that can be introduced in isolation. The effects will be felt in roads some distance away as drivers adapt and change their habits. In six months’ time asking the same question in the same roads may elicit a totally different response as they have seen the effects of the changes.

      The art in this (and I think it is an art, rather than a science) is often as much about how you interpret the answers. You rightly point out that the roads that didn’t respond were mews houses that do not have through traffic and, therefore, don’t have the incentive for change. However, they may have (but not realise they it yet) an incentive to keep the status quo because they use certain routes. As someone cynically commented to me recently, people are very keen in traffic calming on residential roads – just not the residential roads they drive to work on. Working out what to do from a relatively small and not so clear cut response isn’t just about what people say now, but also trying to anticipate the complaints and campaigns that will arise in six months.

  2. As someone who has move to Stormont Road in the last year, I do not think the plan is a success. It attempts to address only one issue: the frequent problem of cars travelling in both directions being unable to pass each other. This still occurs and results in much beeping, shouting and minor road rage. Hopefully this will be reduced when the cameras are fully in force.

    The other key issue which was not addressed was the issue of the speed of cars travelling along this raod. It is clearly not enough to simply have a sign indicating speed. I lived previously in another road off the Northside which was not a rat-run and I am amazed at the recklessness of drivers using Stormont Road. This is a road predominantly occupied by families. The risk to children from straying into the road is great. Even for adults, it is hard to stay in the road to e.g. remove shopping form a car without running the risk of being run over. 

    It cannot be beyond the wit of us to solve the speed issue. I have been told that there were concerns regarding ambulances, etc. which prevented speed bumps being added. This cannot apply to smaller speed bumps surely. And there must be alternative traffic calming measures which could be adopted.

    I hope that it does not take a serious accident or child’s death to make the council take action properly on this.