Usk Civic Society Newsletter
June 2020 – UskCivicSociety-newsheet 25.6.20
Proposed Usk One Way System –
Letter to Monmouthshire County Council
Dear Councillor Greenland,
I write on behalf of Usk Civic Society to protest in the strongest terms against the imposition on Usk of a one way system which you claim to be both unavoidable and necessary in order to facilitate the relaxing of lockdown restrictions. You, and those who advise you, have clearly chosen to ignore the implacable opposition of Usk Town Council, the residents of the town and this Society to the virtually identical scheme which featured in the Arup master plan. We rejected it then and we reject it now. In our view a one way system is not even the best way to promote the economic revival of Usk.
The high-handed way, with minimal consultation or dialogue, in which every alternative solution, including the former traffic light system and refinements to it, has been rejected out of hand, and the one way system imposed, reflects very badly on Monmouthshire County Council and the way it claims to serve its population.
MCC’s actions have left the residents of Usk with the distinct impression that no solution other than the one way system has been seriously considered, driven, it seems, by your Highways engineers. Theirs is a narrow focus, on keeping traffic moving. They have no interest in the effect their schemes have on the environment for residents or any sense of how their route, which is entirely within the Usk Conservation Area, will affect its buildings and its built environment.
Others, we know, have mentioned air pollution, the effect of heavy traffic on old buildings, the danger to pedestrians and to houses with no front garden. Tourists, as well as shoppers, are important to Usk’s economy. Their experience will be diminished by the continuous flow of traffic through formerly fairly quiet streets.
The advocates of a one way system cannot, in the view of those of us who know the town, have properly considered the practicalities of the route. It is not clear to us whether Old Market Street is to be included as an option for westbound traffic. It is narrow and has houses with no front garden on either side, as well as sheltered housing, and residents park on the street. It is unthinkable for cars, let alone HGVs, to use it as a short cut. It must surely be made access only.
There are several tight junctions on the route, some right-angled and narrow, for instance those at either end of Mill Lane, which is narrow and has no pavement. How will large timber lorries from Wentwood enter Mill Lane? It is therefore likely, whatever Highways says, that an HGV or a large tractor and trailer will get stuck, causing gridlock. Emergency vehicles could be blocked (were the local emergency services consulted?).
You have claimed that the one way system is a trial and is temporary, but you define neither term. If it must stay till social distancing ends, that could mean all over the winter. Apart from the tightness of the turn into Mill Street, have the proponents of the one way system noticed that the town ditch floods over the road at the bridge and sometimes a good way up the street? We understand that the weight limit at the Mill Street bridge will be enforced – how, and where are those vehicles, not least those with business in the town, to go?
How, without any provision for pedestrian crossings, is the relatively elderly population of Usk to cross the streets (including Bridge Street, which has only one pelican crossing) in safety? It is not clear whether restrictions on on-street parking would be imposed as part of the one way system. If it were, residents’ cars would be displaced to the car parks, leaving no capacity for cars from out of town. Usk Town Council, the residents and this Society deserve proper consideration and consultation on all these matters before there can be any question of implementing this ill-considered scheme.
Like many people in Usk, the Society is not convinced that the scale of the alleged problem is such as to require such a drastic solution. The Welsh Government’s guidance on safer public spaces is just that, guidance, and it is supposed to be applied in the light of local circumstances. Usk has managed perfectly well during lockdown without any change to the normal arrangements. It is sad but true that there are now relatively few “non-essential” shops in Bridge Street, so that queuing, if needed, would not be a major problem. Has anybody checked how many of these businesses intend to reopen at this stage?
We understand that a one way system for pedestrians in Bridge Street was suggested and rejected by yourselves. Yet a similar solution appears to be working in Ross-on-Wye, which is a larger and more bustling town centre than Usk. We have already commented that the pavement space freed up for pubs and cafés to expand outdoors will not be sufficiently extensive or attractive, with a stream of eastbound traffic passing at close quarters, to justify making the lives of the residents on the one way route a misery. We see social distancing markers on the pavement by the One Stop shop, but they are already impossible to obey at present levels of traffic round a blind corner. With all the westbound traffic which currently uses Bridge Street, stepping out into the road would be suicidal.
If the one way system is indeed imposed on Usk, it will be against the will of virtually the whole town. Many believe that this “temporary” “trial” is a devious scheme to foist a permanent one way system on us, and MCC’s actions have done nothing to dispel our fears. Usk’s traffic is a serious and unique problem, yet it seems that only the cheapest and most brutal “solutions” are to be considered. This is an ancient town and a vibrant community. We want to preserve these qualities, which also (think Usk in Bloom) do much to enhance our economic value. We are not prepared to become known as the location of a one way system on the A472.
Anyone wishing voice their concerns can do so directly to MCC by visiting https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/feedback/ or email email@example.com or using the ‘direct message’ button on the Monmouthshire Facebook page.
Secretary, Usk Civic Society