Cornwall Council is being taken to court over its decision to press ahead with a controversial road scheme that campaigners say will endanger lives.
The Newham Business Improvement District (BID), which represents businesses on the Newham Industrial Estate in Truro, has instructed solicitors to seek permission from the High Court to judicially review the council’s decision to go ahead with the scheme.
The council has also been put on notice of an intention to seek an interim injunction to prevent the works from continuing, pending the outcome of the judicial review application to the court.
A Truro councillor has said it should never have got to this stage and there were alternative solutions available. Rob Nolan, Lib Dem councillor for Truro Boscawen and Redannick division, believes the council has been “intransigent” over the matter. He said that businesses in Newham were told by Cornwall Council not to speak to local councillors about the scheme.
Cornwall Council contractor CORMAC started work last week (May 2) on a project to narrow a 350-metre section of the busy Newham Road to create a wider footpath for pedestrians and cyclists as part of the Truro Loops scheme to improve greener transport links in the city. The work took place despite objections from more than 45 businesses on the industrial estate and an independent safety study commissioned by Newham BID which concluded the controversial scheme was likely to cause “extreme danger”.
The study, by national transport consultants TPA, said narrowing the only road in and out of the estate would mean two heavy good vehicles would barely be able to pass one other. This could force them to mount the new shared cycle path and footway, “causing extreme danger to any cyclist or pedestrian using the path”, the report said. There are also fears that overhanging wing mirrors could strike footpath users with potentially fatal consequences.
Cornwall Council carried out its own study, which concluded the work was safe to be carried out. Cllr Connor Donnithorne, the council’s portfolio holder for transport, told fellow members last month: “Without the proposed scheme, cyclists would be left to share the road with HGVs. I went to the site at the invitation of the Newham BID and paused the continuation of that scheme until a formal road safety assessment was completed. No further recommendations to change that proposal were made as a result of that assessment and therefore as decision makers one has to go on the evidence. All viewpoints were taken into account and it’s right that we follow the evidence.”
Newham BID, which promotes Newham as a business location, has instructed a barrister (via its parent company Totally Truro Ltd) to go to the High Court and seek a judicial review. If the council fails to halt the works in the meantime, it will seek an injunction next week to force it to do so.
Leigh Ibbotson, chair of Newham BID, said: “We’ve been left with no choice but to take the council to court. The works to narrow the road are already impacting access to the estate and forcing vehicles to straddle the centre line. There simply isn’t room to create a wider footpath and it’s an accident just waiting to happen. We believe this scheme is ill-conceived and a real threat to road users, pedestrians and cyclists in Newham.”
Cllr Nolan added: “Having been involved in both the setting up of the Newham BID and the resurfacing of the Newham Trail, I’m very disappointed that the BID has had to resort to legal action. I support the Truro Loops project but it has to be delivered safely for cyclists and walkers and allow Newham Industrial Estate to operate.
“It’s a shame that the council told Newham businesses they can’t talk to local councillors, preventing any talks that might have led to a solution. Instead we have legal action which will involve the council in ridiculous costs at the taxpayers’ expense.”
Among the many businesses that have objected to the scheme, which includes supermarket giants Tesco and Aldi at the entrance to the Newham estate, is tile business Tile Wise, which fronts Newham Road.
Manager Janet Martin said: “It’s just ridiculous that anyone could think it was a good idea to reduce the width of a busy road on a major industrial estate that is home to a wide range of businesses operating heavy goods vehicles. Now that work has started we can see just how far the new pavement will encroach onto the road and we’re really worried that someone will end up killed. Cornwall councillors really need to come and see for themselves how dangerous this scheme is and call a halt to it now.”
Cornwall Council insists the scheme is safe because it identifies the road as ‘minor’, claiming that the majority of businesses at Newham are classed as B1, which is office use. However, an audit of Newham’s 180 businesses by the BID shows that industrial and distribution businesses outnumber office users three to one by rateable value.
Many of them run fleets of large vehicles including waste trucks, delivery lorries, buses, and mobile cranes. Transport consultants TPA believe it should be classed as a major industrial access road, which would mean under the council’s own guidance it should have a minimum width of 7.3m. Instead the Council is narrowing the road to 6.5m.
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “The proposed scheme to upgrade the existing National Cycle Network route along Newham Road by widening the footway to create a shared pedestrian and cycle path, as part of the community led Truro Loops project to improve healthy transport links, is now the subject of a legal challenge. The council is unable to comment further until that legal challenge has been resolved.”