Saturday, February 25, 2006

Should we build next to main roads?

If you want to build a new road in Britain today, you have to go to inordinate lengths to avoid upsetting the existing inhabitants. Urban motorways, which in the 60s and 70s were seen as futuristic and progressive, have long since been consigned to the dustbin, brought down mostly over concerns to the health and well-being of those who are forced to live close by heavy traffic. Even if you want to build a by-pass, there has to be public enquiries carried out to assess the damage likely to be caused to the environment and to the would-be neighbours.

Logically, you would think that having gone to a lot of trouble and expense to avoid routing new roads close to existing houses, you would continue to give the new road a wide berth when it came to allocating land for new housing development.

However, there is little evidence that this is the case. Concerns for the public welfare seem to vanish into thin air once the road is completed and often the new road ends up forming a convenient development boundary for the settlement it was built to relieve.

This process is apparent in many of the small towns around where I live and I am sure it is a development pattern replicated across the country. There is currently a particularly gross example of this sort of development taking place on the northern fringe of Cambridge, to be known in the future as Arbury Park. The site is right next to an elevated section of the A14, which at this point forms the Cambridge Northern by-pass which carries 50-odd thousand vehicle movements every day.

You’d think any regional master planner would have identified this spot as being one to leave well alone. There will be a continual roar of traffic noise and diesel particulates will be present in high number whenever the wind blows from the north or east. But alas no; it was granted planning permission in 2001 for 900 new homes and a primary school. There was no public outcry because no one lives there. And when the time comes for the 2000 or so residents to move in, they will not be able to complain because they can see, hear and smell the place they have chosen to live.

I suppose it’s one way of making private housing more affordable.


Anonymous Jon said...

Who would want to live next to a main road

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