Bus gate – background information

Important note

The first, and arguably one of the most important, point that needs to be made is this:

The decision to mandate and implement the bus gate was down to Oxfordshire County Council alone.

St. Modwen have had no part in the decision making process. They are merely implementing it as they have been required to do so as part of the initial planning permission.

Crab Hill Development Forum – 25 January 2024

I did raise the subject of the bus gate at the Crab Hill Development Forum but that meeting is about current and future planning matters, rather than revisiting matters that were decided some time ago, as is the case of the bus gate.

I have been provided some links to information from the county council and, separately, results from a “Freedom of Information” request that a resident raised in late 2022.

It is from these sources that most of the following information comes from.

Questions and answers

Most residents will have several questions that they would like answered. Whilst I am unlikely to provide answers that make people happy, I hope to at least provide answers.

Reasons behind bus gate implementation

The restrictions will help ensure that traffic entering & leaving the new development at the junction is kept to a minimum, helping ensure the safe free flow of traffic on the A417.

Oxfordshire County Council – Statement of reasons (6 January 2022)

The proposals would help facilitate the safe movement of traffic and provide appropriate priority for bus services, increasing their attractiveness in journey time terms over the private car.

Oxfordshire County Council – Delegated decision details (8 September 2022)

Primarily to change travel habits/introduce active travel opportunities to get residents out of private cars by providing a more reliable and convenient bus service.

Ian Marshall, Principal Transport Engineer – South & Vale TDC (7 September 2022) – FOI request results

Results from the latest consultation

The most recent consultation took place in early 2022. This report contains a brief summary and all the responses.

There were 81 responses

  • 61 objections (75%)
  • 5 concerns (6%)
  • 14 supporting (17%)
  • 1 expressing no objection

Relevant Oxfordshire County Council meetings

Deferring the decision of implementation about the bus gate – May 2022

On 26 May 2022, Councillor Andrew Gant (Cabinet Member for Highway Management) discussed the matter of the bus gate, amongst other things. Councillor Jane Hanna gave a presentation, in support of concerns expressed by Wantage Town Council and residents.

Councillor Hanna asked that there be further consultation on the proposals, including how the proposals would accord with wider plans for the area.

He [Councillor Gant] went on to say that there had been a lot of carefully worded and well-argued comments in response to the consultation and that the proposals could have been better timed. Therefore, he agreed with Councillor Hannah [sic] that it would be appropriate to defer implementation of the proposals until such time as further consultation could take place on the proposals within the wider context of plans for the area.

Meeting minutes (26 May 2022)

As a result, the decision was

To defer consideration of the proposals to allow further consideration to be given to how the proposals might be aligned with the wider development issues, including coherent active travel links between the development and the town centre.

Meeting minutes (26 May 2022)

Decision to go forward with the implementation of the bus gate – September 2022

On 8 September 2022, Councillor Andrew Gant (Cabinet Member for Highway Management) again discussed the matter of the bus gate, amongst other things. Wantage Town Council has requested that the bus gate scheme continue to be deferred until the whole of the WELR was finished and in use, thus allowing sufficient actual traffic data to be collected, rather than relying on data modelling. Wantage Town Council felt a large proportion of the traffic would be taken off that section of the A417, negating the need of the bus gate.

Another report was made available but this was broadly the same document as was presented on 26 May 2022. Certainly the results of the 2022 survey were identical.

No extra information about the traffic flow for the WELR & A417 after the completion of the WELR was included, though some modelling work had been done in the interim and showed that

[e]ven with the WELR in place, there will still be a not insignificant level of traffic on the A417 along the frontage of the site heading west into Wantage.

Ian Marshall, Principal Transport Engineer – South & Vale TDC (7 September 2022) – FOI request results

This time, Councillor Gant had a different take on the report containing the same survey results as he read in May 2022.

Cllr Gant commented that this was lengthy report with a number of comments on the proposal and felt that some of those who took part in the consultation may have not understood what was the aim of the proposed bus gate and turning restrictions.

Meeting minutes (8 September 2022)

This seems in stark contrast to there being a lot of carefully worded and well-argued comments in response to the consultation as he had previously described the comments.

Between May 2022 and September 2022

Between the two meetings, based on the FOI request results, there doesn’t seem to have been very much done regarding the bus gate and certainly not any further consultation on the proposals with the wider context of plans for the area as was discussed in May 2022. All the communication that was returned as a result of the FOI request took place in the days immediately prior to the meeting on 8 September 2022, including this extremely interesting comment

If this bus gate is not allowed to be implemented then we are most likely watering down our ability to seek similar links in other new developments across the county, as developers will cite this site as a precedent, which would most likely be upheld by planning committees moving forward.

Cathy Champion, Infrastructure Locality Lead – South & Vale (7th September 2022) – FOI request results

Obviously only Councillor Gant can explain the reasons behind his change of mind and to approve the implementation of the bus gate.

Is the bus gate a “done deal”?

As unpleasant as it may be to hear, I don’t believe that there is much that can be done to reverse the decision to implement the bus gate. Making representation to our county councillors, Jane Hanna and Jenny Hannaby, wouldn’t hurt, though.

Commencement of enforcement

Technically, the legal order is in place so drivers could be subject to enforcement action should they use the bus gate incorrectly. However, it is unlikely that any serious enforcement action would be taken until the cameras are installed. Unfortunately, no one could provide a date for that at the Crab Hill Development Forum. However, St. Modwen strongly advise that residents do not use the bus gate and instead use the roundabout on the WELR.

Additional signage

I did raise the question of additional signage at the Crab Hill Development Forum. hilst the response wasn’t overly enthusiastic, St. Modwen did promise to go away and see what could be done as there were multiple attendees in the meeting that did feel that more could be done, if only in the short term.

Communication from St. Modwen

Although it is extremely frustrating for residents to hear, the reason that St. Modwen didn’t contact residents about the legal order coming into effect is very simple – they were not informed by the County Council themselves. It was agreed at the Development Forum that this could have been avoided and actions will be taken to reduce the likelihood of this happening again.

Other sources of information

All the e-mails will be sent from Kingsgrove Residents <donotreply@wordpress.com> just in case you need to check your “Spam” folder.