The lack of road crossings in Wixams is due to decisions made by the former county council and is not down to Bedford Borough planners, a campaigner was told.
In January, an 11-year-old girl was hit by a car travelling on Brooklands Avenue, in Wixams. In a petition to Bedford Borough Council, the girl’s mother said, fortunately, the car wasn’t speeding and the driver was paying attention.
Had they not, she added, then the end outcome could have been much worse than the bruises she sustained.
Leon Staszak, from the Wixams Community Group, presented the petition asking the council to install crossings to improve the safety of pedestrians and to help slow down the traffic to the full council meeting yesterday (16 March).
“For years now, worried parents have been expressing safety concerns or have commented that their child was nearly hit by a car on the way to school,” he said.
“That includes even today when a five-year-old boy was nearly hit by a car on Green Lane.
“Former members of the Wixams Parish Council even highlighted concerns about building the schools in 2017 without a crossing in place.
“Yet so far, no crossings have been installed near any of the schools to protect those children.
“We currently only have one crossing in Wixams, which is on Bedford Road and it was installed only a year ago.
“It’s definitely an important location for a safe crossing point, but there are other areas which should have been prioritised, particularly near to the schools and other routes that children use to get to the schools,” he said.
Mr Staszak said the Wixams Parish Council recently voted to fund crossing feasibility studies at four locations across the parish. But as costs for a crossing start at around £45,000, it can’t afford to pay for them.
“The petitioners are therefore demanding that this council work directly with the parish council and the wider community to determine where crossings are needed and allocate the relatively low funding to pay for them, ” he said.
“We’re asking for only a few £100,000 to improve pedestrian safety, especially for our most vulnerable residents and we’d like action taken before another child is injured or something even worse happens.”
Cllr Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant (Conservative, Great Barford Ward) read out a statement on behalf of ward councillor Graeme Coombes (Conservative, Wilshamstead Ward) who was unable to speak as he was attending the meeting remotely.
In the statement, councillor Coombes said: “I have repeatedly stated an urgent need to address road safety around Wixams and that this needs to be done before someone is seriously injured or worse.
“The growing amount of traffic in and around Wixams, including the seemingly relentless procession of HGVs has turned the simple act of crossing the road into a feat of endurance.
“It must not take a tragedy before this council is forced into action.”
Cllr Charles Royden (LibDems, Brickhill Ward), the portfolio holder for environment, highways and transport, said: “I’m very sorry to hear of the lead petitioner’s daughter being involved in an accident.
“I was pleased to hear that she suffered only bruises, nothing worse, but desperately sorry that a child has been hurt because that is something that we are desperately keen to avoid.
“The petitioners have called for action from the borough council, and I believe they will see that we are taking action to keep residents safe.
“Firstly, I have asked officers to introduce a 20 mile an hour speed limit on Brooklands Road [sic] that will be introduced as part of our 2022 program of works. I’ve also asked for a weight limit to be placed on Brooklands Road [sic] because residents have told me on occasion 40-ton lorries are driving around this road and others and it’s entirely unsuitable for that.
“Secondly, we will be introducing a new zebra crossing on Fisherwood Road to complete a safe walking route from the retirement village into Village One, which we began last year with the introduction of the crossing on Bedford Road.
“Turning to the road, Green Lane, outside the schools. The council’s hands are somewhat tied because the developers have not yet given this section of road to us for adoption.
“Therefore, we don’t have a legal right to install any crossings on this section of road at this time.
“The developers have promised to build a crossing before they give us control of the roads and I can assure you that officers of this council are pressing them to undertake this work at the earliest opportunity.
“Officers have also been pressing for routes across Wixams from Village Four to the schools and for that to be opened up as quickly as possible.
“And once these walking routes are open, parents will no longer need to drive their children to school via long and circuitous routes, easing the congestion on Green Lane.
“These routes will be open at the very latest for the new school year in September, every effort is being made to have them open for Whitsun half term.
“So I can promise the residents of Wixams that actions have already been planned and to address the petitioners’ specific points and those plans will be delivered just as quickly as we’re able to do so,” he said.
Mr Staszak said that he had “every faith” that the councillors in the room would put crossings in key places, such as near to schools if they were designing a new town.
“Yet collectively, this council has failed to protect the best interests of the residents of Wixams and that needs to be addressed,” he said.
“Why is the planning department not making sure crossings are included when the roads are first built by developers,” he asked.
Councillor Royden replied that he thinks the planning department has come in for some undue criticism.
“The more general issue is that we have to address a lack of crossings being included in the original design for the highways across Wixams”, he said.
“Now those designs are nothing to do with the current planning department or indeed this council, those date from the mid-2000s and were agreed by the highways authority at that time, which was the Bedfordshire County Council.
“This borough council has once again been left to pick up those pieces and the decisions made nearly 20 years ago, and we are continuing to do so.
“So it’s not this council, I would assure you of that, and when I speak to our planning department, one of the things that I have reiterated time and time again is that we must plan for these things in the original designs which was something which was not done,” he said.
Councillor Royden proposed that the council notes the actions taken and support him in resolving them as quickly as possible, which was carried.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter