RESIDENTS in Whitley, Coventry, have warned of “sheer traffic chaos” if three planning applications for more than 300 homes and resubmitted plans for a McDonalds drive-thru go ahead.
Doug Lowe, chair of Whitley Residents & Neighbourhood Watch Association’s Focus Group, said residents in the area have become increasingly disillusioned with “erroneous” information provided by city planning officials, a lack of adequate consultation and ultimately feel their concerns over public safety are falling onto deaf ears.
It comes after Coventry City Council’s planning committee granted permission for a huge regional Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Whitley, in January following protests from residents that it will bring a steady flow of 26-ton articulated trucks and recycling lorries from across the West Midlands and Warwickshire to an already congested London Road.
Three active planning applications for new housing developments include 195 homes on land known as Whitley Pumping Station by Homes England, the government’s housing, land and regeneration agency; an application by Coventry City Council on land at Allard Way for up to 125 dwellings and up to 24 dwellings within a large property at 401 London Road, Whitley.
And an earlier plan for a McDonald’s drive- thru in the car park of the Asda store, just off London Road at Abbey Park, is soon to be the subject of an appeal for planning permission.
Mr Lowe said residents’ concerns were a “combination of everything”, with the safety of cyclists and pedestrians a key priority as London Road has only one safe crossing point for pedestrians, near the Asda store, and a known speeding trap. It regularly tops the list of roads in the West Midlands where motorists are caught speeding.
Mr Lowe, a retired driving instructor, said: “Planning officers say there are adequate cycle routes – which there are not.
“The moment permission for the Materials Recycling plant in Whitley was passed more councils wanted to use the facility meaning it is at capacity. There are 86 large lorries a day coming out onto London Road. There is only one pedestrian crossing on that road, which the council describe as a safe crossing.
“Every day 1,000 pupils come out from the nearby secondary school and many of them use that crossing. I have stood and watched and seen them jostling. There was a national survey of pedestrian crossings and that particular crossing was named as the most dangerous nationally.
“We have invited officers to come and show us where these cycle routes are and said ‘please come and have a look at this crossing’ but they have never accepted the offer. Two of our local councillors are excellent, they still co-operate and talk.
“If these three applications and the McDonalds drive-through are granted permission it’s going to be sheer chaos – there have already been fatalities in recent years including a pregnant lady and a football goalkeeper. It’s a matter of life and death.
“One concession has been to reduce the speed limit on parts of London Road from 40 to 30.
“The city has gone building crazy but there’s an absolute groundswell against the council over larger developments across the city.”
Local Whitley resident Andrea Aitken-Paige, who is part of the residents’ Focus group said: “Part of the Focus group was set up to tackle the numerous applications on a less than mile stretch of the London Road.
“I raised a petition objecting to the planning applications at Whitley Pumping Station in December as the original entrance/exit is virtually opposite where I live. It was signed by 300 people in lockdown and people still keep coming to me upset about the loss of wildlife – there’s even a rare brown magpie.
“The exit for the development leads down to the Abbey Road junctions which is one of the major hotspots. A pregnant lady was killed there in November 2013.
“I regularly sit in a queue of 18 cars at 5.30pm – and with a McDonald’s drive-thru the traffic is only going to get worse! It can take me 15 minutes to get out of the city.”
Environmental campaigners from Coventry and Warwickshire’s Keep Our Greenbelt Green campaign (KOGG) have also voiced concern at the level of developments planned in Whitley.
KOGG’s Peter Maddock said: “McDonald’s application was turned down by the Planning Committee in June 2020 on the basis of councillors’ local knowledge of the traffic issues, as well as concerns about the proximity of local schools.
“Yet planners are saying that the impact of additional traffic arising from the recycling centre, new housing developments and McDonald’s planned drive-in restaurant will be negligible.
“Moreover, air quality on London Road is poor and set to get worse if more traffic is generated by all the proposed developments.
“Local residents say the situation is compounded by developers submitting transport assessments which deliberately under-estimate the likely traffic to be generated, figures which they believe are not being scrutinized or challenged by the council’s highways officials, despite unstinting support by the ward councillors Roger Bailey and Richard Brown.”
Coun Roger Bailey said: “Residents have serious concerns regarding the increased traffic generated by the developments being built or planned along the London Road and the impact on air quality and safety.
“But I was sad to hear of McDonalds attack Coventry City Council Planning Committee and its claim that local knowledge should not be taken into consideration. Maybe they care about making money than serious issues raised by local residents which they so quickly dismiss.
“There are two housing developments close to the ADDA Island being proposed and one further down the London Road. But not as yet received any planning application from them.”
Coun Richard Broms, cabinet member for strategic finance and resources said he echoed Coun Bailey’s comments.
” London Road has always been a main arterial route for traffic and the dangers it poses has been recognised for a long time.
“This led to it having one of the first installations of Average Seed Cameras in the city.
“Despite this, residents have seen the developments at Charterhouse, the MRF, Whitley South, a new 50m swimming pool at Alan Higgs, a Drive-thru at McDonalds Asda site and now across the road three separate housing applications for double the housing stated in the Local Plan.
“All this on top of the overdevelopment at the Airport Retail Park.
“It is important to stress that residents are opposed to the cumulative effect on highways, air quality and safety by the above and not necessarily the individual developments.
“They feel that there is insufficient resource allocated to mitigate these concerns from a holistic perspective despite continual assurance that this would be so.
“On reading the submissions in the McDonalds appeal it is extremely disappointing to see the arrogance displayed as they totally disrespect the local input from residents and councillors. Should they be successful in their appeal it does not bode well for any aspiration that they will prove corporate good neighbours.”
A McDonald’s spokesperson said: “When we first submitted our application for this site, we carried out a consultation process where we spoke about our plans and invited local residents’ to share any concerns.
“We have taken these on board and are hopeful that our appeal will be approved, as we believe the restaurant will bring significant investment to the local community, as well as creating at least 65 new full and part time jobs.”
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