Our charming town Ongar, is facing a significant challenge - an impending surge of 590 new homes being built in the area. As our community anticipates this influx of residents, concerns about traffic congestion have resurfaced, but even more of a threat is the redesignation in 2018 of the A414 as a road within the Major Road Network (MRN) linking the M11 to the A12 as a major economic route. Expected economic growth east of Harlow and at North Weald airport will add to the 2000+ new homes at Latton Priory and North Weald, much of which will use the A414 .
The Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group recently organised a public meeting to discuss road improvements needed for Ongar. The main proposals, however, were a by-pass on the A414 round the north of Shelley and implementing a ban of heavy lorries (HGV) through the High Street. This article aims to explore the various aspects of this issue and determine whether a bypass is the solution to Ongar's traffic woes.
The Need for a Bypass
With the proposed increase in housing developments, Ongar is bracing itself for an influx of approximately 1,200 additional vehicles. This surge in traffic is expected to exacerbate the already congested High Street and A414. The Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group has emphasised the urgent need for improved road junctions and additional pedestrian crossings to alleviate the congestion and create a more pedestrian-friendly town centre.
Mary Dadd, the chairman of the Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group spoke at the meeting, Thursday 23rd November"
"The congestion during peak periods is already deemed unacceptable, posing hazards to pedestrians and creating a sense of isolation for important facilities such as the health centre, The Ongar Academy, and the leisure centre. The situation is further complicated by the lack of employment opportunities and public transportation options, leading to an increased reliance on cars."
Exploring Bypass Options
During the public meeting, several proposals were put forth to address the traffic issues in Ongar. One suggestion was the creation of additional lanes onto the Four Wantz roundabout or the installation of traffic lights. However, concerns were raised that traffic lights might increase traffic queues and cause further delays. Another idea was to convert the 'triangle' at the bottom of the High Street into a roundabout, relocating bus stops and potentially utilising the overgrown former allotments site. For a new bus stop/terminus
Additionally, the Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group supported the upgrading of pedestrian crossings, recommending additional crossings for the A414, High Street, and Greensted Road. They also reinforced the calls to ban heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) between the bottleneck and Sainsbury's, ensuring that deliveries to the supermarket can still be made. (This was approved in principle in a meeting in 2018 with ONPCG and OTC representatives and Essex Highways and Cllr Bentley). Furthermore, the group proposed designating "rat run" roads, including Greensted Road, Blake Hall Road, and Mill Lane, as unsuitable for HGVs, which would remove them from satnav routes.
Assessing the Impact
To fully comprehend the impact of a bypass, it is crucial to consider the potential consequences and benefits it may bring to Ongar. While a bypass could divert traffic away from the town centre, reducing congestion and improving pedestrian safety, it may also have some unintended effects, such as loss of passing trade. However, that has to be weighed against a more pedestrian friendly environment to attract those using local shops and services.
Furthermore, the cost and feasibility of constructing a bypass needs to be supported by a sound case with evidence and benefits to the community, in order to attract Government funding to upgrade the MRN (A414). A comprehensive assessment of environmental impact, land acquisition, would be ranked against other schemes in Essex and England to secure funding. It is essential to balance the immediate benefits of reduced congestion with the long-term implications for the community and the surrounding environment.
Public Opinion and Decision-Making
The Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group emphasise the importance of presenting a compelling case to decision-makers, backed by substantial evidence and community support. Public opinion plays a vital role in influencing the decision-making process. Therefore, it is crucial for the community to actively engage in discussions and voice their concerns, providing valuable input to shape the future of Ongar's infrastructure.
In addition to a bypass, other measures can be explored to mitigate traffic congestion and improve the overall transportation infrastructure in Ongar. Traffic calming initiatives, such as 'gateway' schemes at entry points to Ongar, light up speed tables (with smiley faces when within speed limit), 20mph near school entrances. , can be implemented to create a more harmonious flow of vehicles. These measures should be considered alongside potential HGV bans and road designations to prevent heavy vehicles from using certain routes.
Collaboration between local authorities, transportation experts, and community stakeholders is key to finding effective solutions. Considering alternative modes of transportation, such as enhancing public transportation options and promoting cycling and walking, can also alleviate the strain on Ongar's road network.
The question of whether Ongar needs a bypass on the A414 is a complex issue that requires careful consideration of various factors. While a bypass may offer some relief from traffic congestion, it is crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the associated costs and unintended consequences. Engaging the community, gathering substantial evidence, and exploring alternative measures are essential steps in finding the most suitable solution for Ongar's transportation challenges. By working together, decision-makers and the community can shape a future for Ongar that prioritises safety, accessibility, and sustainable development.
Please have your say in the comments below or email Mary Dadd with your suggestions!