Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Frodsham Air Quality Management Area Consultation

CWaC has finally published its Consultation Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) documentation for the Fluin Lane / A56 junction.  The consultation examines the extent of the traffic pollution problem and considers what could be done to improve the situation.

The entire consultation documentation can be found by clicking here.  

I have ensured that everyone living in the AQMA area has received paper copies of the full report. They will also be invited to consultation events arranged just for them.  There will also be community wide events organised.

The consultation will run until 28 July 2017.

First the good news.  The Air Monitoring Station at Manor House school shows that the quality of air in and around Frodsham is typically very good.   The problems we occasionally have are traffic related.  Cllr Riley and I have ensured that Frodsham has been covered with air monitoring devices over the last decade or so.  It is through that work that we discovered that the air quality at the Fluin Lane / A56 junction can fall beneath acceptable standards. This has led to CWaC declaring an AQMA at this junction. 

The AQMA area is shown by the red line on the map shown below.  There are 18 residential properties within the area that are exposed, at certain times, to poor air quality caused by traffic pollution.  The principal concerns are the various nitrogen oxides (typically referred to as NOx) largely associated with diesel engines.  As we all know there can be extensive queues of traffic along the A56 and on Fluin Lane.  The worst pollution is likely to arise when we have those queues coinciding at the same time as there being little air movement.  The 'canyon like' environment at the bottom of Fluin Lane doesn't help either.

Having identified we have a problem the AQMA consultation documentation then considers what potentially can be done about it.

A number of proposals - all aimed at reducing traffic pollution at the junction have been put forward. The engineers consider that each of these schemes could reduce air pollution.

Right turn lanes on the A56

The sketch below shows two right turn lanes on the A56 - aiding traffic moving into Fluin Lane and St Hilda's Drive whilst potentially maintaining traffic flow along the A56.

My initial view on seeing this suggestion is that whilst it may contribute in some small way to keeping traffic moving along the A56 - traffic behind the occasional vehicle looking to turn right would be able to continue along the A56 it will make the queuing along Fluin Lane worse.  A vehicle looking to turn right out of Fluin Lane (or St Hilda's Drive) could be blocked by a car waiting to turn right on the A56.

Traffic Lights

This proposal builds on the right turn lane suggestion and adds traffic lights.

My thoughts on this are that whilst this could assist at some times of the day - it is unlikely to reduce traffic pollution at peak periods.  If the problem is pollution from slow moving and queuing traffic actually compelling traffic stop at traffic lights and then accelerate away (causing more pollution) may actually make things worse.


It took me quite a while to get my head around the idea of a chicane on Fluin Lane.  The idea is that traffic queuing to exit Fluin Lane would have to wait up hill of the chicane (which would be by the terraced properties) until there was no traffic coming up Fluin Lane and their exit to reach the give way junction was clear.  This suggestion would evidently reduce the number of cars that could queue in front of those houses.

My thoughts on this proposal is that I suspect it may be unworkable in practice and would increase the risks of accidents.  From my experience cars making the left hand turn into Fluin Lane typically come round that bend at 20 mph or more - and they can't be seen until they are negotiating the bend by anyone higher up Fluin Lane.  This suggests to me that there would be very little reaction time for anyone wishing to negotiate the chicane.

This scheme also worries me as it, in effect merely displaces the queuing traffic further up Fluin Lane.  It also strikes me that it would make exiting from Langdale Way onto Fluin Lane more problematic than it already can be.

Mini roundabout 

Of all the schemes suggested this is the one I prefer.  

Instinctively I believe the problem is queuing traffic.  A roundabout gives the greatest chance for cars to keep moving - providing cars do not queue on the roundabout itself.  I believe a significant contributor to traffic problems in Frodsham are the traffic lights at the Bear's Paw.  Certainly the traffic flows into and out of Frodsham ebb and flow with the sequencing of those lights.  Could we have a roundabout there too?  If we did though, how would we manage pedestrian safety?

Normal roundabout

As this drawing shows there isn't enough land available for this proposal.

My concluding thoughts on this AQMA consultation are that we need to have a community wide conversation.  Most of use this junction several times during the week, if not during the day.  We owe it to our friends and neighbours who live in the AQMA or are affected by it to do what we can reasonably to improve their and our air quality.  

I'd like to see a wider review of traffic management in Frodsham.  It would be madness to improve a situation in one location only to exacerbate it elsewhere.  Solving Fluin Lane only to increase pollution on Church Street, as an example, wouldn't be clever. 

Technology can play its part.  There are an increasing number of electric cars on the road. More and more engines have stop/start technology.  When we come to change our cars we can swap away from diesel power.   All this can help - however I don't think those changes can come fast enough.  We have to do something now... but what?

Please get involved and share your thoughts.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Storyhouse Theatre grand opening

My wife and I went to the new Storehouse Theatre for its opening night on Thursday.  If you get the chance - go.  The new facilities are fantastic.  Within the old cinema building there is a theatre, a cinema, Chester's new library as well as bar and restaurant facilities.

This wonderful building was a CWaC Conservative project.  Lynn was very involved in the work that brought this wonderful facility to the Borough.  She's penned the following piece celebrating its formal first night:

'As Storyhouse raises its the new curtain on its first production, there's a considerable amount of 'happy talk' going on right now.  This iconic new venture is not just the talk of the town, it's being celebrated for its national significance with all media covering the 'story.' There is a marked absence of anything that looks or sounds remotely critical and to a person, everyone who has had the chance of a look around has emerged as an ambassador for Storyhouse and all that it can do for the city and the wider Borough.

Inevitably it hasn't always been this way and if a week is a long time in politics, then the 7 year journey that has led to Storyhouse's opening feels like a marathon. 

This marathon started when Chester City's then Labour Council shut the old Gateway Theatre in March 2007.  Since the day those doors closed, the City aspired to opening new ones. When Cheshire West and Chester Council arrived in 2009 we got this message loud and clear.  We set out to dream the dream and put a deliverable plan to the the music of 

'You've got to have a dream, 
if you don't have a dream, 

how you gonna have a dream come true.' 

The One City Plan created for the City, remains the blueprint for Chester.  One of the key chapters, written into that screenplay, is culture - in all its eclectic forms! 

The real achievement is the 7 year relay that brought together and involved so many passionate and committed individuals and groups.  They've all stayed the distance that has lit the beacon of our Storyhouse. 

It's been the opportunity to encourage the environment where those involved in the arts and theatre can play on, whilst we built them a stage. In so many ways, the absence of a theatre since 2007 fanned the cultural flames.  The annual calendar is now packed with innovative productions like the Mystery Plays, the Open Air Theatre, Theatre in the Quarter.  They've all used the City as their stage.

Indeed, for Storehouse  the Oscaresque thank-you speech would have run to hours.  This is largely down to the brave decision at the time to support and ultimately appoint Chester Performs, a local, grassroots theatre company to manage it.

It's been a hard path from the 2010 'vision' to the 2017 'voila,' dogged by vocal local critics along the way. This week I googled the 2013 criticism about the failed  application for Capital of Culture 2017. Today of all days, it feels like we got there in spite of the judges and the City's armchair critics.

As Conservatives, our politics is about getting things done and making a difference.  We are proud of our leading role in bringing about the theatre. This is truly our S Tory house!  

'Men [and women] are sometimes are masters of their fate.'  This quote comes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - which is one of the opening round of productions.  

We seised the opportunity.  We had the vision and confidence to build something great.  Something that will be long lasting.  Not something you see in the current 'Labour's lost' administration.