PLANS to close a busy road in a Moorlands town for ten weeks have been put on hold after the scheduling provoked uproar with residents, community leaders and commuters. The A521 highway which runs from Froghall to Blythe Bridge before joining up to the A50 is a road that is used daily by thousands of commuters every day and plans were put in place to completely shut the dual carriageway both ways for several months so housing development works could be carried out. However, following a backlash from members of the community and councillors, the works have been suspended with no confirmation as to when they will officially commence.
At a Forsbrook Parish Council meeting on Monday (September, 16), Staffordshire County Councillor and Staffordshire Moorlands District Councillor (SMDC) Keith Flunder revealed he had met with the Staffordshire County Council Highways team in regards to the road closure.
He stated they admitted that “someone had dropped the ball” by not giving due notice to parish and district councils or businesses in the area that the work would be taking place.
Mr Flunder also stated the work did not commence on the re-scheduled date on Monday, September 16 after work was previously being set to start on Monday, September 2.
A spokesperson from St Mowden Homes Ltd, the housing developers who are carrying out the development on Blythe Fields, told the Times and Echo that the company has requested this road closure because of the “highway improvement works at Blythe Fields in Blythe Bridge which the county is executing for the benefit of the local community by permanently reducing the speed limit and improving visibility to increase safety.”
They added: “St Modwen Homes Ltd has been granted detailed planning permission by Staffordshire Moorlands District for the development of 118 dwellings on the land south east of the A521 and A50 Blythe Bridge Bypass, Staffordshire.
“The works involve the realignment of existing carriageways and the formation of a new three-way signalised junction incorporating pedestrian crossing facilities into the development.
“As you can imagine these works are extensive with all of this section of existing carriageway being improved.
“In consultation with Staffordshire County Council Highways, Highways England and all Statutory Undertakers we looked at all possible options in carrying out these works including alternatives such as single lane running.
“However, the alternative options resulted in a significantly longer duration – 52 weeks – and extensive disruption to the local community.
“It also exposed the workforce to unnecessary risks, working next to a live carriageway.
“Only after careful consideration the resolution to close the A521, in both directions, between the A50 roundabout and the Uttoxeter Road has been deemed the safest and least disruptive option for the workforce and road users alike and will allow the works to be completed as expediently as possible.
“The housing development is due to be completed by 2023.”
In a letter to residents, Modwen Homes stated that the work would be carried out “around the clock” which have caused concern with residents.
The spokesperson for St Modwen Homes said of such concerns: “Out of hours operations will be kept to a minimum and limited to light works only (loading out, top soiling with no digging, no deliveries).
“The works will comply with the noise and vibration levels set out for the relevant time of day.”
Helen Fisher, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport at Staffordshire County Council told the Times and Echo: “The road improvements are part of the new housing development and include a new entrance road for the estate, new pavements and pedestrian crossing along with the usual installation of utility services.
“We are working closely with the developer to ensure the work can be carried out safely and with as little disruption to people as possible, however the start date has been put back whilst further consideration is given to the scheme.”
Cllr Flunder told Forsbrook Parish council that a public meeting has been mooted, although the date of this has not been confirmed. He added that the County Highways team suggested they wanted discussions to proceed so the road is closed on September 30 with the aim of “finishing before Christmas.”
Cllr Flunder also told the Forsbrook Parish Council meeting: “Myself and others think the situation is absolutely appalling and the whole thing has not been thought out at all.
“We will keep plugging away at this but the more information and ammunition from the public we’ve got for them not to do it, the better.
“All options need to be understood by Staffordshire County Council and district councillors as well as parish councils.
“I don’t think they fully understand the impact this will have. The whole thing is a bit of a mess.”
In a packed public gallery, members of the surrounding community voiced their concerns about the proposed closure.
One resident raised the issue of the noise of the work disrupting the day-to-day patterns of civilians in the area.
They said: “It’s all good that no work is being done at night but not everyone works during the day, some work night shifts – what about them?”
Another concurred with this, adding: “I’m concerned about the noise of the building.
“We hear everything, every single noise.
“Can we make them aware of this as I don’t think they realise because we have a big embankment with trees in front of where we live and they think we live in Narnia – we don’t.
“It would be nice if they could notify Blythe Bridge residents when this does happen.”
Another resident, who said that he has had roadworks in close proximity to his house for over five weeks, said: “I’m very confused if they are going to close the carriageway and if so, when will this be? I’m hearing nothing.
“As householders, we see the thing as a complete mess.”
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